Slingshots, bolts and steel bearings, empty champagne bottles converted to Molotov cocktails, burner phones, balaclavas, cobblestones, spray cans, Keffiyeh scarfs, Dr. Martens boots, knuckle dusters, barbed wire, working gloves, an assortment of bats, pepper spray, a police scanner, a selection of folding knives, a crowbar, gasmask, lemons, busts of Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg, plyers, bolt cutters, a megaphone, flyers, the S.C.U.M Manifest, The Anarchist Cook book, The Process by Franz Kafka, poetry books by Michael Strunge, vinyl records from Rage Against The Machine, Iggy Pop and Nina Hagen Band, Boys Don’t Cry and Never Mind the Bollocks on cassette tapes. Tools for resistance and revolution, all created in clay for Rose Eken’s immersive new exhibition Resistance.
In the first gallery room a large black ceramic chandelier (Ceramic Chandelier, 2018, glazed paper clay, variable dimensions) has smashed into ground, surrounded by champagne bottles scattered around the floor. On the walls five large tinsel paintings of battle jackets – jackets worn by hard core metal and punk fans, covered in band and statement patches. The room has a melancholic air of the aftermath of a party, a celebration gone wrong, a relic, a tribute to something lost.
In the second gallery room hundreds of ceramic objects of resistance, revolution and counter culture are presented in a sober line up akin to an evidence room. The fragile nature of the ceramic artefacts corresponds to the often frail structure of rebellion. The David and Goliath outcome is often reserved for biblical fiction and real resistance is often crushed or quietly pulverised.
Rose Eken’s point of departure for the exhibition is her own past involvement in the activist milieu around the former youth house on Jagtvej 69 in Copenhagen. The house served as “a free house” for various youth cultures, punks, feminists, anarchists and young people in general that felt capitalist society had too little to offer. After years of demonstrations and battles, the users were violently evicted and the house was demolished in 2007. Many of the objects in the exhibition are created from memories of the legendary house. From the lemons used as an antidote for teargas, to the various foods consumed before and after concerts and demonstrations, flyers, helmets and protest gear. Other ceramic artefacts in Resistance are inspired by Eken’s extensive research into past and current counter cultures around the world, from the Danish BZ movement to Occupy Wall Street.
After research is done, Eken works from memory. Sculpting, burning, glazing, burning objects to recollect her ideas.
Sculpting in clay is a messy process filled with human imperfections and as a result Eken’s works are often closer to our idea of an object, than the actual object. Her artworks are imbued with a subtle humanity that instantly connects.
Resistance is not an overtly political exhibition. It is not a sad song for a lost time and revolution. It raises questions concerning our current post truth neoliberal era. The dilemma of gradually accepting status quo and the comfort of lukewarm social media quicksand. It is a poetic reminder, that resistance may be fragile, but never futile. Sometimes it just takes one bolt and a slingshot.