Since the 1990s Jens Haaning has produced a body of conceptual artworks, which – when seen together – offers an acute reflection of a complex and changing society in the West. The exhibition acts as an insight into some of the complexities relating to Danish culture and how the Danes view and present themselves to the outside world.
‘33 Page 9 Girls – an ethnographical document about the Danes and their relationship to the female body’ are clippings of pin-girls, which have been featured on page 9 of the Danish tabloid newspaper, Ekstra Bladet since 1976. The clippings are from a period of 33 days in the fall of 2008 when the newspaper decided to present the women in a more empathic way by adding interviews, which describe their wishes, dreams and hobbies. The project was originally conceived for an exhibition in Budapest, Hungary presenting Danish contemporary art and culture and have since been shown in Toronto, Canada and Lagos, Nigeria as well as in Gothenburg, Sweden. For each location the interviews were translated into the local language, making this very particular Danish phenomenon accessible to a broader audience.
Similarly raising questions about inclusion and exclusion in relation to national identity, the 13 collages, ‘Blondes – clippings from Danish newspapers, published between the 1st and the 7th of April 2008’, are made from clippings of images of blond people, which appeared in Danish newspapers over a period of one week.
The work ‘Kabul Time (gold edition)’ is a clock set to show the local time in Kabul in Afghanistan, where Denmark has been firmly engaged in war since 2002. The viewer experiences a sense of displacement and confusion when realising that the time is 2,5 hours ahead. The clock speaks of the invisible connection between the Danes and the Afghans, as respectively the occupier and the occupied. Regardless as to whether you are for or against the war this relation is present.
Denmark has long been characterized as having a passion for equality. Yet the Danish self-understanding, as explored in Haaning’s works, hints to a constricted mentality and inflexibility towards other cultures, economies, religions and philosophies.