Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition 2022: Meet the Award Winners

Still from Solo Award winner Sergei Prokofiev's Fireworks on the Swamp (2020)
Still from Solo Award winner Sergei Prokofiev’s Fireworks on the Swamp (2020), video work. Courtesy of the artist.

By Adam Hencz

As an annual tradition since 1857, Kunsthal Charlottenborg opened its gates to this year’s edition of one of the most important open-submission, censored exhibitions in Northern Europe: the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition. Every year, an international jury selects works from an open call to artists from all over the world, working within the genres of visual art, architecture, crafts, and design. A record number of 832 artists and artist groups have applied to be admitted to this year’s Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition and the field has now been whittled down to 38 artists and groups representing established as well as emerging talents from Denmark, Sweden, Mexico, Australia, Russia, and a handful of other nations.

Over the years, the exhibition has become a significant opportunity for artists to present new works in the form of a large group exhibition and to make the next step on the path of a professional artistic career. In addition to selecting the works for the exhibition, the jury has awarded three prizes: The Deep Forest Art Land Award, the Talent Award, and the Solo Award in collaboration with Politikens Forhal. Read on to learn more about the artistic practices of the artists who have been awarded the prizes this year and jump at the chance to take a 3D tour of the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition 2022.

Meet the Artists: Eugenia Lim, Eva Rocco Kenell & Sergei Prokofiev

We are delighted to present you the three award winners and their works revolving around sleeplessness, social tension, and resistance.

Winner of the Deep Forest Art Land Award: Eugenia Lim (AU)

The lockdown in Melbourne – the longest in the world – had a huge effect on the practice of this year’s winner of the Deep Forest Art Land award, Eugenia Lim. The Australian artist of Chinese–Singaporean descent has always had a collaborative practice and would engage with other artists to realize her projects across video, performance, and installation. “I missed the ability to move and be mobile, and take inspiration from elsewhere,” shared Lim. “In this instance, for the pieces in the show in Charlottenborg, I had to rethink how I worked entirely because – due to local Covid-19 restrictions – I could only meet my collaborators outside; in carparks or on the street. It was a very much confined period.”

Lim’s practice explores how national identities cut, divide and bond our globalized world, and for the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition, she brought sculptural works that point towards a new direction: the financialization of time and exploring sleep as the final frontier of late capitalism. “I started to shift my focus and think about the global supply chains I rely on as an artist and as an international citizen,” explained Lim. “The fact that the materials I order to make my works come to me through a globalized logistics system brought home to me how many invisible hands are involved in helping me make my work. Delivery drivers, postal and freight couriers, people who move objects and consumables around the world. All the anonymous workers play such an important part in my collaborative network but are also part of a very unequal system in terms of pay, working conditions, and racial inequality. A system that dominates our world economy – exploitation that is built into our ‘convenience’.”

“We tend to spend time scrolling through social media or we try to stay awake longer through all the means of caffeinated drinks or medications. We spend so much time between the state of being asleep and awake; that it is the space where we exist now.”

Eugenia Lim

But the world-ecology of Amazon also augments productivity to the point where even sleep is a zone that is now no longer sacred. Olfactory, (2021) a pyramid of diffusers purifies the gallery air with uppers and downers like Red Bull and dissolved Amazon Sleep Aid tablets. “Sleeping today is the final frontier of capitalism,” said Lim, pointing to the troubling conditions that affect our ability to sleep. ”We tend to spend time scrolling through social media or we try to stay awake longer through all the means of caffeinated drinks or medications. We spend so much time between the state of being asleep and awake; that it is the space where we exist now. The pieces in the exhibition are about the erosion of time and sleep and come from a space that I also exist within: an ‘always-on’ and ‘never-off’ sleeplessness. I hope these works bring  these conundrums of contemporary time and existence to the audience.”

Olfactory, a sculpture by Eugenia Lim, winner of the Deep Forest Art Land Award at the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition.
Eugenia Lim, Olfactory, 2021.

Another sculpture titled Sleep No More, cast from aluminum, Red Bull cans, and Ritalin (a prescription medication used to treat ADHD and sleep disorder) marks another new direction for Lim, as it also addresses questions around migration and diaspora, tapping into her Southeast Asian and ancestral history. “The white-crowned sparrow travels thousands of kilometers between Alaska and Mexico, going without sleep for up to seven days at a time. While Lim treats the sparrow “as an icon of the contemporary condition of sleeplessness, moving forward, I am very interested in the idea of migration. Birds are much more nimble and much less bound to geographic and national borders, and it is something we need to learn as humans to do much better.”

Along with the recognition that comes with the award, Eugenia received the opportunity to develop and create a site-specific solo presentation as well. “It is impossible to overstate how incredible it is to me to have received this award, especially after the last couple of years feeling so confined to my specific geography, being enclosed within borders. It feels amazing to even just step into the doors of Charlottenborg, a venerated institution with a contemporary art program that I greatly admire.”

Sleep no more, a sculpture by Eugenia Lim at the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition.
Eugenia Lim, Sleep No More, 2021-2022.

Winner of the Talent Award: Eva Rocco Kenell (SE)

The jury has chosen to award this year’s Talent Award to Eva Rocco Kenell for the video work titled Territo Reell (2021), which according to the curator duo Hesselholdt & Mejlvang, meets between a violent expression and an emotional song. “As a starting point, I was asked to create a solo show in Haninge Konsthall just by Stockholm, a work that was connected to that immediate area,” said Kenell about the inception of her meditative and nostalgic piece. “I already started my research project around this future show, and it is based on several locations within the same historic time frame. I found two events from the beginning of the 1980s that hooked my interest.”

“The first event drives us back to 1982 when the Swedish Armed Forces discovered sonar sounds from what they thought were foreign underwater vehicles in Hårsfjärden in Haninge municipality. The military dropped depth charges and sank bombs at the alleged submarines, of which there was never any proof of. The efforts were lavish and numerous. Around the time of these alleged border violations, young people gathered in an old punk villa that they borrowed from the municipality, where they had a lot of concerts and shows. I was listening to live recordings and different setups from past events they had in this villa, and one of them was the now legendary band Tant Strul playing their first show there, beginning their concert with the song Hjärtan Slå. And this song is what I examine in Territo Reell, that was the departure. These seemingly unrelated events are strongly connected by area and in time as well as through an absent resistance,” concluded Kenell.

The video examines the absence of physical resistance with the performer’s sets of movements, investigating the sinking bombs without collision as well as moshing without clash. To create the work between documentary and storytelling, Kenell collaborated with Swedish-Norwegian artist and composer Katharina Nuttall to interpret the song Hjärtan Slå. “She has such a wide range of professionalism that I knew it was needed how I communicated these stories. The aim was to reinterpret and create an emotionally slowed-down version of the original song and she has done an amazing job orchestrating it. Then while I was filming this scene I was listening to the new version of the song, and the dancer, Mariê Mazer was listening to a hardcore song with a tempo, if slowed down, was matching the tempo in the new song. I wanted to work with a professional performer who could physically relate to these movements I wanted to extract from punk culture, and I have to say that Mariê is an amazing dancer and performer.”

Still from Eva Rocco Kenell's video work, Territo Reell, 2021
Still from Eva Rocco Kenell’s video work, Territo Reell, 2021.

In September 2022, Kenell will present a solo show at Haninge Konsthall, a body of work that Territo Reell marks the beginning of. “There will be a multi screened installation, and I am working on the other scene that I am filming now, that will have a similar investigation of the absence of resistance, with a group of women rugby players. This video will mark the continuation of the extraction of movements.” Kenell’s work in Charlotteborg already evoked a wide spectum of feelings in spectators. “I am really happy, it is an amazing feeling. It also means a lot to me to see the reactions my work brings forth. The layers of sadness, nostalgia but also hope and happiness. I think it is an impact I have always wanted from seeing art, and now, if I can produce that for other people, it is a force that makes me go forward and makes me feel content.”

Winner of the Solo Award: Sergei Prokofiev (RU)

Imagine standing in the middle of a forest, looking over a swamp just before the sky gets completely dark. The wind gently whistles around the pine trees and birds intermittently sing in the distance. And then BAAAM! A firework explodes with deafening noise, breaking the silence and tranquility of the forest with an enormous force. The intensity of what comes after is so high that our consciousness does not have time to deconstruct the image of the event. Once the smoke dissipates, we can talk about its interpretation.

This year’s winner of the Solo Award, Sergei Prokofiev shows the wild Russian nature in stark contrast to the turmoil that lurks beneath the fabric of Russian society. Prokofiev, who primarily works with light installations and lighting objects, brought two video works to the Spring Exhibition, a project that has long been planned by the artist. “There was so much energy in late-2011 Moscow,” reminisced Prokofiev. “It marked the beginning of the Snow Revolution, a series of protests against the Russian election results. As an artist, I used that energy to fuel for my practice.”

“The political climate was very bitter, and a lot of people started to think about artists as the last gatekeepers of freedom.”

Sergei Prokofiev

“At that time, I learned that fireworks were used by the Russian state power since the time of the Empire to communicate with the citizens, the people of Russia. You can imagine the grandiose fireworks of state celebrations, fireworks loaded in military cannons, that would also be used during war times. I decided to work with fireworks to invert this state language and use it for my own purposes to activate it in different landscapes to metaphorically liberate them from the Russian state’s power.”

But politics in Russia is a perilous topic to work with. “During my last year at the Institute of Contemporary Art, I made a decision that my art practice will end with this project involving fireworks. There are times when you find a topic that is essential and meaningful for you, but no one inside or outside the art system cares about it. I was feeling the pressure that was put on the shoulder of all the artists in Russia, especially after the restrictive laws of Putin’s reelection in the early 2010s. The political climate was very bitter, and a lot of people started to think about artists as the last gatekeepers of freedom.”

Sergei Prokofiev, Fireworks on the Swamp, 2020.

“Years passed and I started to realize that it is okay to feel frustrated during my practice, so I continued working and now I overcame these frustrations,” explained Prokoviev. “Since 2013 my firework pieces took up newer and newer layers and meaning as time passed and my methods changed. Now, you can see the social tensions and the suffocating political situation reflected in Fireworks on the Swamp (2020). From another point of view, you can interpret them as the footprints of human life, with all its excitements, traumas, and different events that all of a sudden stop happening, and start to disappear like a memory.”

Prokoviev’s other video awarded for the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition is Fan of the Land (2021), a work that reflects on the field of expectations about ultras. “Another group that uses such pyrotechnics are football ultras and hooligans. Young people in good physical shape, who are not afraid to fight with cops, and a lot of people expect them to start a revolution for our freedom. They use this language of military pyrotechnics, smoke bombs, pyrostrobes, stroboscopes powered by fire. But there is frightening tension about it since nobody knows what is going to happen once they all march to the street, feel their power, and don’t want to leave.”

Sergei Prokofiev, Fan of the Land, 2021.

The Solo Award is accompanied by an invitation to present a solo exhibition at Politikens Forhal in 2023. However, before preparing for this future show in Copenhagen, Prokoviev has solid plans for a future project. “My current focus is an ethnographic project called Rocket, that involves the Yakutsk and Arkhangelsk regions, where the Russian state has been launching rockets as part of the space program. Oftentimes parts of these rockets fall and scatter across the region and are collected by locals since the 1980s. They sometimes would construct boats and combine these new materials with thousands of years of tradition in relying on local rivers when it comes to traveling around the area. Now I want to find a local craftsman who I can build a boat I can travel with and eventually offer to the local museum to mark this phenomenon in local history.”

Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition 2022.
Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition 2022.

Relevant sources to learn more

See more works by Eugenia Lim, Eve Rocco Kenell and Sergei Prokofiev.

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