Lost in Perception, Danish Cultural Center, Beijing, China
Introduction by the Danish Cultural Center in Beijing
Art history is a source which belongs to us all. For as long as we can remember, the use of fragments and figures from the familiar realm and even from the entire known world has been an integral part of the artists' tool kit. The early European modernists deliberately appropriated other cultures; Picasso and the Cubists were inspired by African art, Van Gogh and the Impressionists by Japanese woodcuts, Matisse by Islamic art etc... In today's global art scene everyone seems to be inspired by everyone. For the most times, it is not a simulacrum. On the contrary, it's an illustration of the profound understanding of how important it is for our perception as human beings to share imaginary and concepts across cultures.
Since coming to Beijing 16 years ago, Bjørn Nørgaard has visited the Dongyue Temple on Chaowai several times. From day one, this Dao temple with its grotesque tableaux of spirits, demons, judges and various deceased persons awaiting their final verdict, reminded him of European medieval figurines of saints, angels, Virgin Mary and Christ, not seldom arranged in a similar vain. Still, how similar they seemed to appear in terms of formal representation and vocabulary, he soon realized that the images conveyed entirely different meanings. The many years in China have given him an insight into how much East and West share the same desires and hopes, yet also how radically different the traditions that shape us remain.
The centerpiece of this exhibition consists of twelve zodiac figures. Together and individually, they constitute an artistic, hybrid interpretation of the Dongyue characters into the modern realm. The resulting apparent chaos of imaginary and meanings is however not a collage of visual appearances locked into materiality. Nor does the autonomy of the individual elements succumb to the overall idea. Instead, the sculptures should be seen as an attempt to articulate a new alphabet of forms and shapes, consisting of both new and old, from which each of us can write our own sculptural sentences.
The choice of female characters is a tribute to Lao Zi: "In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. But for attacking things that are firm and strong there is nothing that can take precedence of it".