Expanding the Cultural Ecosystem in Aarhus

by Josephine Boesen

On Friday the 7th, ARoS opened the first part of the The ARoS Triennial The Garden – End of Times; Beginning of times, titled The Past, which is one of the four mega events in the store for Aarhus in 2017 as this year’s European Capital of Culture.

Exhibition map. The Garden – End of Times; Beginning of Times. Illustration, ARoS.

The ARoS Triennial consists of three simultaneous events: The Past, The Present and the Future, the two last-mentioned will take place outside the museum institution. The Present will be laid out in the city center of Aarhus, still in reach of the colorful rays of the iconic permanent installation Your rainbow panorama by Olafur Eliasson, which sits like a crown on top up the museum building. The Future on the other hand will extend from the outskirts of the city center, Tangkrogen, to the tip of the coastal area in Aarhus, Ballehage, a path very similar to that of Sculpture by the Sea. The Present and the Future will open on June 3rd 2017. The ARoS Triennial The Garden – End of Times; Beginning of times is standing on the shoulders of the super popular biennial Sculpture by the Sea, which ARoS also was the prime mover behind from 2009 – 2015.

The Present: Fujiko Nakaya, Installation, Site: ARoS' Rooftop, 2017

The Past is going to start off this network of exhibitions. The Past is the only part of the exhibition program that will take place inside the museum institution and is also the part that the public will be able to enjoy for the longest period of time, since it will run for a period of six months. The rest of the triennial will be open for the public during June and July. The triennial is thought of as an institution in itself, or more accurately put, as a self-standing entity within the museum institution. As museum director Erlend G. Høyersten elaborates, the triennial will function as an expansion of the cultural ecosystem in Aarhus and in Denmark, because, as he puts it, “There is room for more”. To present art works in three different settings: the museum, the city, and alongside the coastal line where it will interact with the sea and the forest, will create food for thought with the audience and a new entrance point to the works of art.

The Past roots the ARoS Triennial in the museum, as museum director Erlend G. Høyersten wants to keep benefitting from the Triennial as a part of the future vision for ARoS as a museum institution. The newfound relations and the new ways of looking and approaching the art works will continue to grow and live on within the museum but also with the users.

The future: Meg Webster, Concave room for bees, Installation, Site: Tangkrogen-Ballehage, 2017.

The exhibition The Past, now exhibited within ARoS, unfolds on two levels within the spiraling insides of the museum, level 5 and level 1. The exhibition starts at level 5 where the users are thoroughly introduced to the concept of The ARoS Triennial The Garden – End of Times; Beginning of times as a whole. This part of the exhibition is curated as a historic run-through, which features 400 years of art history, with special attention to the continuing power struggle between the wild landscape and the cultivated ideals of The Garden. A historic offset is not what one would automatically relate to the triennial/biennial as exhibition format, the typical focus of this type of exhibition being purely on contemporary art. The curators of the ARoS Triennial The Garden – End of Times; Beginning of times; Erlend G. Høyersten (museum director), Lise Pennington (head curator), and Jakob Vengberg Sevel (curator), have thought otherwise. Based on a vision to change the traditional perception of a triennial/biennial, the primary focus of the ARoS Triennial is “narrating history with great gesticulations” (Erlend G. Høyersten).

Helen Mayer Harrison, Newton Harrison, Hog Pasture Surival Piece #1, Installation, 1970-71.

In The Past, the art works are looked upon from a narrative point of view that entails art history as well as the history of ideas. The users are met with a view of the contemporary aesthetic ideals but also the socio economic and political context of the time that the artists most certainly also took part in. Landscape painting and landscape architecture are excellent examples of how humans have tried to conform nature to humanity’s own ideal perception of the world.

The exhibition on level 5 entails examples of baroque, rococo, neoclassicism, colonialism, a scientific approach through the era of the enlightenment, examples of wild and cultured nature, romanticism, expressionism, symbolism, surrealism, cobra, early modernity and so on. There is an interesting connection between the political backdrop in the baroque gardens, the English garden, and the urban park, which today creates a breathing space in modern cities very similar to the frivolous play that went on in the past.

Olafur Eliasson, Beauty, Installation, 1993.

Level 1 on the other hand is dedicated to the Antropocene era, the era of man. This part of the exhibition is dedicated to installation art and has a dominantly contemporary view of the nature vs. culture agenda. These are strong relational works of art, therefore I will leave the rest to the users’ own experience and make the works speak for themselves.

Mark Dion, The Phantom Museum (Wonder Workshop), Installation, 2015.
Yinka Shonibare, MBE, The Swing (after Fragonard), installation, 2001. Photo: Anders Sune Berg
Meg Webster, Solar Grow Room, Installation, 2016.
Pamela Rosenkranz
The Past Installation. Photo: Anders Sune Berg
The Past Installation. Photo: Anders Sune Berg
The Past Installation. Photo: Anders Sune Berg
The Past Installation. Photo: Anders Sune Berg