Hanne Nielsen and Birgit Johnsen: Particles
In their new two-channel video installation Particles, Hanne Nielsen and Birgit Johnsen perform as bird-like figures beamed down from somewhere in the universe. Together, they wander through Tarkovsky-inspired scenes – an abandoned fun park, a ravaged industrial site, overgrown castle ruins, a rocky landscape, burning fields. They are female clones of the plague doctor and the future scientist, equipped with all kinds of measuring tools. Drones are deployed to provide the vertical perspective they need to travel through time and space, unfolding a machine-vision, flying in abrupt movements, watching, searching, monitoring, and disappearing into the sky.
Crosscut with archival TV footage, the installation presents a range of different ‘reflection rooms’ where clips of historical events are intertwined with personal and mythical interpretations through the plague doctor’s crystal ball. While particles in the form of dirt, smoke, or fog may refer to climate change, pollution, poverty, war, or even a lack of transparency in antidemocratic processes, particles in the sense of aeolian dust are also the precondition for existence. The doctor and the scientist mediate seemingly chaotic conditions and continue their journey seeking signs of life and measuring the state of our planet.
Hanne Nielsen (b. 1959) and Birgit Johnsen (b. 1958) have an international reputation for artistic excellence and are recipients of numerous awards, including the new Carlsberg Foundation Art Award, the Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen Award, and the prestigious Eckersberg Medal. Their investigative and experimental approach to video has given them pioneer status on the Danish art scene.
The artists’ work spans from modest single screens to major filmic productions, studio recordings, and documentary explorations presented in immersive installations. Nielsen and Johnsen have collaborated since 1993 and have exhibited widely in Denmark and abroad, as well as participating in film festivals around the world. They have depicted the world we live in with visual poetry, with humour, and with a persistent commitment to feminist political issues. In 2021, they received a lifetime achievement award from the Danish Arts Council.
Particles is kindly supported by the Arts Council of Ireland, the Danish Arts Foundation, and Aarhus Kulturudviklingspulje. The exhibition is curated by Mary Conlon.