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Exhibitions   /   Niels Bonde 2014

Niels Bonde 2014

Niels Bonde
Tin Foil Helmet
26.09.14 - 20.10.14

What is happening to the right to privacy? This question – highly relevant today – has been the theme for the Danish artist Niels Bonde in drawing up the exhibition, which works with and comments on the issue in a variety of media: LED screens, models and sculptures. Today’s mediascape is constantly shifting the boundaries between the private and public sphere. TV programmes trumpet forth private matters; sur¬veil¬lance and bugging have become the order of the day, while we ourselves, on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, enthusiastically let others share our private lives. Niels Bonde has visualized a protest in a series of sculptural tin foil helmets, the last poetic defences of the mentally disturbed. The tin foil helmets are placed on tall stands, like the evil-averting statues of antiquity, the herms, and have been produced with a quotation from Joseph Heller’s novel Catch 22 in mind: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you”.

Private space can be manifested in many different ways. In this exhibition private space is modelled up and literally hidden away in the wall. So as a viewer you have to adopt a voyeuristic role and peep in through small holes that have been cut into the wall if you want to experience the small intimate spaces. “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull,” wrote the English author George Orwell in his dystopian novel 1984 from 1949, which describes the crushing oppression of a totalitarian regime exerted through surveillance and thought control. As we know, the novel launched the concept “Big Brother is Watching You”. By participating as a viewer in this game, by standing and peeping in, in the same way as when you see Duchamp’s Étant Donnés, you also implicitly participate on the ‘wrong’ side.

The last and most up-to-date reference to the borderland between private and public space in the digital age is shown on the pixellated LED screens whose films refer to whistleblowers as heroes, the American system administrator Edward Snowden, the soldier Bradley Manning and the author George Orwell, who issues a last warning from his death bed – not to permit total control. Even as ordinary users of the digital sphere we become victims of systematic tracking of our movements on the Internet, so that our actions, comments and purchases are stored without our actual acceptance, which is commented on in the work Nem ID (Easy ID), where a logging-in to the artist’s own account is shown – here, too, highly pixellated.

As a device from the artist’s side, all the media used are created in lo-fi (low fidelity), a principle borrowed from the world of music, where a deliberately chosen low quality produces a more authentic effect and greater artistic freedom. At the same time the greatly pixellated screen images have an aesthetic expression with art-historical references to Mondrian’s abstract formal idiom in Broadway Boogie Woogie, the disco floor from Saturday Night Fever, where John Travolta wore out his dancing shoes, as well as the GIF animations of the very earliest Internet.

Niels Bonde (b. 1961) trained at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main – today known as a pioneer of digital art. His output spans sculpture, carpets / hangings, paintings, video, installation and digital media.

Follow the link below to read an interview with Niels bonde from Kopenhagen magazine
"Paranoia, satire og voyeurisme - Interview med Niels Bonde"