Feb - March 1996
Dr. Tvaergade 6A, Copenhagen - Denmark
In Turbinehallerne, art, technology and subculture exist side by side. The mega-project Update show characteristic traits of the young art scene and of the 90s.
These days, the gap between Statens Museum for Kunst and Turbinehallerne is extra wide. Even if the museum this year holds its' special Sundays mixing art, literature and music, the only thing the two exhibitions have in common is probably the fact that they both have an admission fee.
100 artists participate in the month long mega-project Update arranged by a society by the same name consisting of visual artists and people from the medias, fashion and music. An event which will probably give rise to surprise, confusion, rejection and enthusiasm.
It is characteristic of Update, that the arrangement allows more than one story line and mode of experience to be available at the same time. You find them on a number of different 'islands' around the two exhibition halls. Update is the ascetics' nightmare: everything takes place under the same roof—the pulsating music and subculture from the techno platform, lectures on AIDS, projects on Moroccan culture or forbidden drugs. The newest technology is also there—you can surfe on the internet, do business with a homeless in New York life via a connection to satellite TV. You can knit pot holders, teach an american artist how to speak Danish. You can study background material on Update and the participating artists in a special library, and you can experience installation art, happenings and video production by a large number of artists.
As a whole, the two halls are meant to be the center of a stream of foreign and Danish artists, musicians and dj's—and of course the audience "who can have a total experience which can be used by everybody". So says the organizers in the programme.
Update is in other words a project trying to demonstrate globalization in a local setting. In Update, art and subculture almost melts together, art and scenography, multiculturalism and information technology. At night, Update is an orgie of techno and light. The day after, it almost reminds you of an after-school centre or an exploratorium to set up the greatest contrasts.
Until now, particular the music seems to make the running and it is excactly the numerous techno raves and ambient events that might set Update apart—the light show by Rotations 96's being an extra plus. Or perhaps it will be the packed performance days on April 3-4.
What about visual art in this big event? In Update, the artist's production are anything else than priviliged objects displayed on a neutral background. On the contrary, Update dissolves the borders between art, art work, beholder and space: instead, the art is an event (performance, happening), it often times becomes a function in the overall context (e.g. Andreas Schlaegel's bar design), it becomes explicit and communicative (lectures, debate).
And on an overall level, the art becomes scenographic in that every happening og installation art are transformed into an (unstabel) background for the remaining activities.
But how valuable is then each event in itself? It quickly becomes a series of passing events whose concept and weight almost immediately is washed away—a series of events for the sake of the stream because "the total experience" seems to have been prioritized.
In a certain way, you can say that Update on this point only mimicks the acceleration and immensity of the media maschinery in which genre, projects and positions also are mixed; in which information and entertainment also has to be accesible whenever and wherever—and in which especially the alternative scene, the underground, in these years are absorbed and exposed in record time.
The question remains, what does Update lead to—an event which claims to put forth 'all-alternative-strategies-assembled-on-one-spot' as an alternative act? Another overexposition of 'the Other' only in its' totality or perhaps something completely different?
What is interesting about Update is that the project might create a structure known from the internet—a parallel world still with an open, accessible network of information. In this way, Update presents an organizing form which no longer can be labeled alternative in an oppositional sense—neither 'over' nor 'under' but more likely 'parallel'. Therefore, it is going to be interesting to see if Update like the techo scene is trying to do something new—to create an alternative next to the established institutions instead of creating an opposition.
Therefore, it is surprising that one of the organizers apparently has not realized— or perhaps do not wish to realize—that words like 'anarchistic', 'alternative', 'radical' and 'underground' do not carry the same meaning as they did only a few years back. That is why it is not Update but outdate when Burn Out-artist Jes Brinch in an interview in Det Fri Aktuelt says that: "Actually, it is not a problem if Update turns out to as a fiasco—that in itself would show that we weren't playing safe games". Already, these words are a disarming of a possible critique of the project. Any rejection or negative press is already doomed to be conservative with no finger on the pulse. Why is it that Brinch is in such a rush? Perhaps because Update only can become cult if the establishment proclaim it to be a failure.
Actually, it is a paradox that a fiasco can make Update a succes even for the financial backing, the City of Culture 96 who wants to 'cut across' and who would like to add 'akward and different' to the image. The same goes for the big sponsor Carlsberg who might act on idealistic grounds but on the same time also acknowledges that if anything can market a product today it is the underground and the alternative scene.
But there is nothing strange or particular about that. Perhaps it is a token of a general ambivalent attitude characteristic of the 90s.
Following the disintegrated form of Update is a lack of center, focus. Or perhaps this should rather be conceived as a new possible structure?
It will be interesting to follow if the attitude suggested here leads to a new attitude within art as such. Perhaps it gives a hint of a situation where the art will dissolve into other practices as is the tendency on Update—or if the art ends up having its' own homepage, accessible to anyone interested.