If anyone had come to believe that Hotel Pro Forma (HPF) with the beautiful requiem AMDUAT had written its own epilogue, they should immediately pay a visit to the National Gallery of Denmark (SMK) and witness the work ELECTRICITY. For here Kirsten Dehlholm and Hotel Pro Forma demonstrate why they are unrivalled as Denmark’s leading exponents of performance theatre – and still absolutely alive and kickin’.
For three years, HPF has been studying, developing, gathering together and creating ELECTRICITY which, with human limited capacities and sporadic touches of genius as its starting point – in relation to the phenomenon of electricity – has taken over SMK’s interiors with works from the Danish Golden Age. For precisely the golden-age 19th century mind-set with regard to electricity in all its manifestations has, through Dehlholm’s intervention, become historiography and art to the nth degree.
In the SMK exhibition of Danish and Nordic art 1750-1900, Hotel Pro Forma has collected and installed showcases and historical objects which go into a direct clinch with the works already on display, and with HPF’s performers in constant motion among the works, nothing is as before in SMK’s rooms.
Nothing is left to chance. The texture of the work and a profusion of graphic material provide insight into the process of concept art and the great variety of elements that are made use of in order to take observers on a journey into seminal areas of the history of art and science. ELECTRICITY makes room for a free rein in the realm of ideas – although there is a thread throughout that links lyrical word-power and evocative artistic space with eloquent sculptures and paintings, electrical artefacts and scenic elements: compositions of light, sound and music.
All 18 rooms are bathed in sounds from the experiments, from the performers the movement of the observers and various vibrating sounds from electrical artefacts that can be heard via various loudspeaker systems. The sounds also weave in and out of each other and envelop the observer. Sensuously in many ways, and also challengingly at times. But all of it is meaningful and also thought-stimulating.
In the same way, Loré Lixenberg’s soprano voice is particularly inviting and embracing. What an impressive register she has and what sonorous figures she produces. It feels like a truly live experiment of H.C. Ørsted’s aesthetic theory of the acoustics of notes and visual sound images as sensual proof of the scientific basis of art.
With the large-scale performance-cum-exhibition ELECTRICITY, Hotel Pro Forma latches onto an everyday mystery which all of us make use of and are surrounded by every second of our sleeping and waking hours. For we live in a world of rising electricity prices, climate crisis, a war close to the Danish border in which everything seems to be profoundly influenced by the electrical legacy passed on by the remarkable, eugenic and
Euro-centric Tesla via his research into and invention of alternating current, which came to ensure all wireless communication and wireless current in our own age. The work of dramatic art is a reflection on the way of the world, and the influence of electricity on the fashion in which we dress, the culture we cultivate, the music we listen to, the light we switch on in order to read, etc. In a way the work of dramatic art is important, since it connects the spirit of science with that of art, where each is an integral part of the other. It is a dualistic image of how scientific subjects, including physics, can be experienced as art and, conversely, how much art can be generated out of science.
ELECTRICITY produces knowledge about science and creates ideas in the observer. In addition, the work causes us to turn out towards the world and raises the level of the dialogue about both our own age and our common history.
‘Electricity’ rapidly gives rise to an infinite number of questions where, as an uninformed person within natural science one is hard put to find answers to everything.
Perhaps, though, it is more a question of feeling. With this performance and installation in 18 rooms, SMK has for the next month received a gift. For the works on the walls become alive in a different way when placed in relation to scientific apparatuses and, in particular, when exposed to a fascinating and sensual lighting design.