Claus Haxholm

Af natmørkt hav

Claus Haxholm. Installationsfoto fra udstillingen Af natmørkt hav. Ebeltoft Kunsthal 2022.
Foto: Kasper Palsnov @kasperpalsnov

Claus Haxholm’s solo exhibition Of The Sea as Dark as Night, deals with the coast as a changeable place, where the sea becomes land, where what is fluid becomes solid. The exhibition is a total installation, where sound, video, works of fabric, graphics and text form a mutated landscape collage. Basically, there is something gentle and low-key in Claus Haxholm’s exhibition, although the basic tone is dark and gives a disturbing, dark atmosphere to the room. Based on the coastal landscape, as both an actual place and as a metaphor, the exhibition works with a multitude of different transformations, something that changes, something that moves from one place to another, something that loses its meaning or takes on a new one. Of The Sea as Dark as Night, is a calm space, an open landscape and work that provides space for the viewer, to listen to and develop his own voice – perhaps a meditative work.

The video installation, which consists of nine screens placed in large heaps of gravel, shows various coastlines, simple silent footage or pans across a landscape. The coastal landscape is precisely characterized by being in a state of flux because it is both fluid and solid. A meadow by the beach, for example, that one day is under water and the next is dry land. The screens move the landscape, unprocessed, into the exhibition, as a form of appropriation: the moving of an object from one place to another. For Haxholm, the screens stand like shiny, alienated, technological monoliths in heaps of gravel lifted directly out of a geological layer in the ground, created 10-15,000 years ago. There is something strangely hypnotic and mediative about the landscape films in their simplicity and rendering. The nine videos have varying lengths, so the composition in the room is never the same.

The exhibition’s five works of fabric contain similar repetitions and patterns. They are roughly formed, appear primitive and grotesque in their spirit and execution. The grotesque is often a space of change, where things are turned upside down, where fixed frames of meaning are broken, and new possibilities emerge. The works are sewn from old, used and worn out, towels and scraps of fabric and appear almost out of place as misunderstood punk versions of patchwork rugs. The cloths and towels are worn and now unusable or excess material like the used screens in the heaps of gravel. But in their original pristine use they again also represent the transformative, an intermediate position where our wet hands are made dry, or the dirty surface is made clean. The cloth and the towel are the household’s underdogs, but necessary, and here in the tapestries a superposition occurs between their utility and decoration, their original use for cleaning and now their inability to do so.

There is an unobtrusive poetry in Claus Haxholm’s exhibition when, for example, he works with materials that are often taken for granted. The poetry continues in the last component of the exhibition, which is a piece of fiction consisting of prose and a variety of visual poetry, where the familiar again turns out to be something else. The exhibition includes a handed down text (part of a larger novel), written in Blicher’s time, which takes place on the southern shores of Djursland in a dark and fictionalized version. Here, nature tries to call man back to a closer, symbiotic relationship. But as in Blicher’s natural mythologies or as with the work of the American horror writer H.P. Lovercraft, this often goes more or less wrong when nature calls. So too with Haxholm. An area changes, a civilization, more or less perishes, people begin to take root and become trees. Along the way, nature communicates through a writing that first appears with a black pitch on the white wall of the village church. The text is similar to our written language, but seems in a state of flux, without syntax, a visual or audio language that can be combined in vastly different ways and should be experienced by their repetitive patterns and sounds rather than read for its content. The characteristic of all the components in Claus Haxholm’s exhibition is that they work with something useless and immediate. Of The Sea as Dark as Night, is not a direct climate-critical exhibition, but it challenges a range of thinking from the development of our society in recent centuries, where the exploitation of everything we encounter, which just stands, has been a central perspective. Be it everything from the small wetland, which is drained and used for farming, to the private home rented out through Airbnb while the usual occupants are on holiday. A utilitarian thinking that has also led to great scientific and technological advances, but also a lot of comfort and consumption, where it can be difficult to distinguish between the necessary and the unnecessary. Claus Haxholm’s exhibition is full of friction, a riddle not to be solved, but to be seen. The work is an open statement, a contradiction and a friction we must indulge in, rather than try to master. We must accept the superposition of perception and thinking, make room for and develop our own voices and be touched by others. A meditation on re-entering the world and being taken along by the sea as dark as night.

Claus Haxholm is a graduate of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (2014) in Copenhagen. He has a background in visual arts and as a musician. In particular, the historical and philosophical aspects of art, language and music occupy him as well as the fascination with how the great world of music can inspire and open up an understanding of what it means to be human here on earth.

Claus Haxholm is a graduate of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (2014) in Copenhagen. He has a background in visual arts and as a musician. In particular, the historical and philosophical aspects of art, language and music occupy him as well as the fascination with how the great world of music can inspire and open up an understanding of what it means to be human here on earth.