18th September - 18th December, Thessaloniki
Born (1971) in Aalborg, Denmark. He lives and works in London. He studied sculpture at the Chelsea College of Art and Design of London, and fine art media (MA) at the Slade School of Fine Art, London. Selected solo exhibitions: Do Not Use, Revolver Galeria, Lima, Peru (2010); Contes de la périphérie, Maison du Danemark, Paris, France (2010); Control Wanted, Galerie Vanessa Quang, Paris, France (2008); Rising Floating Falling, Kunsten-Museum of Modern Art, Aalborg, Denmark (2004). Selected group exhibitions: Changing Stakes: Contemporary Art Dialogues With Dubai, Mercer Union, Toronto, Canada (2011); Folkstone Triennial 2011, Folkestone, England (2011); Sharjah Biennial 9, Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah, UAE (2009); The Jerusalem Show, Al-Ma'mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, Jerusalem (2007); Distant Relations, Museum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde, Denmark (2007); Une vision du monde, La Maison Rouge, Paris, France (2006). Danish artist and film-maker Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen’s work is rooted in real life issues. For years he has been working on the theme of migration, which is also the theme of his site specific installation; Ode to the Perished commissioned by the 3rd Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art.
“Research conducted on migration patterns by a group of journalists has revealed that more than 34,000 illegal immigrants drowned in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas between 1988 and 2009. For many people who left their countries in search of a better life, their journeys ended in tragedy”.
Ömer Oruç, Today’s Zaman, 23 February 2010, Smyrna
Having worked with notions of immigration for a number of years, Danish artist and film-maker, Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen has portrayed the lives, hopes and yearnings of immigrants and realized how a combination of necessity and a utopian vision of their destination fuels their desire to keep going during their long and dangerous journeys to better lands and better lives.
Larsen’s work prompts questions about the role and responsibilities of artists in a global context, and the contribution of art as an alternative to that of the constant flow of mass media reportage.
Every year, thousands of immigrants cross the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece. These crossings are operated by human trafficking mafias who fill the vessels -often beyond capacity- with immigrants willing to risk everything to reach the shores of the European Union. Often, the immigrants’ journeys end in peril and many drown in the sea.
The suspended shapes in Ode to the Perished are made of concrete canvas™, a material that has a range of applications in both civil and military sectors as emergency key infrastructure for disaster relief and for frontline operations. Thus its use relates to the very reasons why so many people have to flee their war-torn homes in search for a new safe place to live. The finished shapes were immersed in the Aegean Sea for months in order to develop the same patina of algae, as objects floating in the sea over long periods of time do. The cocoon-like shapes are also reminiscent of large chrysalis and hold the promise of potential future life.
In the context of the wider thematic of this work, this promise has been frozen in time as the cocoons ascend towards the heavenly dome of the Yeni Djami. Ode to the Perished pays homage to the multitudes of bereaved immigrants in their often fatal quest for a better life for them, for their families and their communities.
“If you come from Afghanistan, you speak with someone who arranges the whole journey. You travel by truck and from Turkey to Greece by speedboat. Sometimes the speedboat crashes. Six months ago twenty-four Afghan guys were killed in a boat crash. People are also killed in trucks. They can put up to eighty boys in one truck.”
Kamron, 19 years old. Afghani immigrant in Calais, France. Quote from the three-screen video installation, Promised Land (2011) by Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen.