Surf’s Up. The First ten Years with Stalke Out Of Space
”I´m getting´´bugged driving up and down the same old trip
I gotta finda new place where the kids are hip.”
Brian Wilson, ”I Get Around”
A closed stand on one of the leading art fairs, billboards placed around Copenhagen and its suburbs, a trevelling exhibition of experimental art made in collaboration with twelve giants in the Danish buisness world, exhibitions in the Spaces of others galleries and next year a trasmission from the most isolated gallery in the world- Kambur in Iceland – directly to the cosmopolitan art fair, Art Forum in Berlin.
Not exacly conventional gallery activityes back in the beginning and the middle of the 90s when Stalke Out Of Space – Sam jedig – probably does not mee the expections most people have of a gallery owner either. In a picture on the front page of a newspaper from 1993 you see him surfing, hanging loosly in the trapez with the wind in his hair as it if were the opening sequence of a Danish version of Miami Vice. And in the interviews indside the paper – with the headline ”Out of the Gallery Space” – you can read that Sam Jedig mainly deals with art with intention to ”hopefully soon drive around Europe with my surf board on the top of the car and do projects.
But what use are conventions and expectations when we are talking about art ans especially the art of the decade that is still present in our minds? Is the most importen function and quality of art not to break down cenventions that are so ingrown that we no longer pay attention to them, to challenge our expectations, expand our horizon in order to explore new territory in both a literal metaphoricial sense And if that is the way art works why shouldn´t the gallery do the same.
This has been the line of thought from day one in Stalke Out Of Space when Sam Jedig & Co. Started to show and make project with mainly the up-and-coming generations of Danish artist. And during its first ten years Stalke Out Of Space has made its mark as both aan experimental and ambititius (do not mistaking about that!)
Alternative to the type of gallery that had ruled the scene since 50s from the philosophy that art equalled money. From project to project the cordial point and the source of energy for Stalke Out Of Space have thus been realized with a shared wish to make somthing outside the public higway or at least outside Bredgade (the street where most of the fine art gallerien in Copenhagen are located), a place where you could not necssarily touch the bottom but felt that you had hit the wawe its most potent peak, the happening place. The spirit has given Stalke Out Of Space a both cenceptually and pracitically spasiusness and mobility that other galleries either envy or fear. There have been clears hit, sensational scandal, a few strikes – not all the project have been realised – but first and for most Stalke Out Of Soace has shown a unique insistence on trying to redefine the dos and don´ts of the gallery. Instead of becomming satisfied and settle down it has continued to seek out new places and spaces, always with the surf board on the top of the car.
Such were 90s
In 1991 when Stalke Out of Space launched its first project the Copenhagen art scene experienced the beginning of a general shift concerning both the gallery activities and artistic tendencies. The ”young and wild” of the 80s were not that young and the wild anymore. Actually most of them were represented by established institutions and galleries which guaranteed frequent shows and a steady income. The underground art scene was in other words ready to be taken by the next generation.
This generation, which had its natural orgin in the enviroment around the Acdemy of Art in Copenhagen, did not show any interest in creating beautiful – or deleberately ugly – commercial objects. Instead they turned towards aan investigation of the relation between art and sourrounding society with all its richly facetted cultural expressions, tecnological possibilities, personal stories and social power structure. This new orientation stemmed from a genuine wish to get out of the tight jacket of modernism, - aka ”the white”cube – breathe fresh air and find new more up-to-date spaces tha were in tune with their artistic practices and ways of communication. A wide spread anti-institutional and to some extent also antiaesthetic attude was notable among the artist of the generation. The traditional media such painting and schulpture were rejected in favor of video art, (snap shot) photography, performance, installation and varios events. If they used painting and sculpture it was the spirit: at one and the same time art belonged nowhere and everywere (espect in the traditional galleries of course). Principally – and practically this meant the artixtic expressions had no limits; it might as well take place on a square in the middle of the city, in an african village, in a coffe shop, in a privat apartment or in the basement of a hip concert hall.
At the same time the gallery markets was becoming exhauted after the exorbitant 80s where the prices sky-rocketed and spreads a gold fever-like atmosphere in the art world. A lot of people had become extremly rich, artist as well as gallery owners, but just as many had to close down. Out of this tight but also stimulating situation 8in the aforementioned interviews Sam Jedig is quoted for saying: ”The crises it good, because it cleanses.”) Arose a number or more or less alternative gallery projects in the 90s. These project broke with the traditional gallery structure where the gallery owner was charge and economically responsible while the artist of them were temporary galleries that came about on the initiatives of the artist themselves who also ran them with simple means an an invincible will to be independent and create suitable context for their work. The galleries (if this si at all an approiate term) were located in worn down houses where the rent was cheap and the man on the street probably would not stop by unless he knew that art was being exhibited. The public interest was thus resstricted to an inner circle of freiends, sollangues and few iniated critics and this was probably just as well because the artist were allowed to exhibit the way the wanted, unpretentiously, energetically and experimentally..
To make and show are were no longer two separate things. The two activities were becoming still more integreted in that they shared an objective to expaand the borders of the gallery as well as the artistic practice. Both sprang from a self-unders tanding that combined ceeoceptual strategies with intervention, thought with action. The exhibition context which used to be a conserving and sanctioning institution was now regarded as an opportunity, a creative potential, that could contribute somthing positive, expand its field instead it inside clinical cubes. Context no longer meant having all sorts of external obligation but rather actively being able to shape the structures of an exhibition wether art political communicative or aesthetic.
Of such exhibition initiatives connected with Stalke Out Of Space in spirit one can mention Baghuset, Globe, udstillingstedet, Max mundus, Saga Basement, Xart, North, Kvinde på værtshus and Kørners kontor. But the gallery project closest to Stalke Out Of Space is probably OTTO – which the curator of this show was one of the originators to OTTO – was both a group and an exhibitions space whose fundamental idea is never to have a permenent adress and instead move around and exhibit in all sort of spaces, Until now (OTTO) has among other places taken temporary tesidence in a basement, the late Soyakagefabrik, a coffee shop by the lakes surrounding the center of Copenhagen and a ground floor apartment on Sønderboulevard plus has had exhibitions with Danish as well as foreingn artist.
The strenghts of OTTO has been its abillity to think the gallery space as a flexiblle and transformative structure partner in the shape of concrete place or a concrete situations – rather different from the abstract and cormmercial ideologies af the White cube.
Many more of these artist driven ”galleries” could be mentioned but the have wait until their history hopefully soon is written, becaause it it really waiting to be.
The Tennage Years Lie Ahead
That Stalke Out Of Space has maintained this level of initiative and willpower for a decade is an achievment in itself. ”They must have had a great time” you cannot help thinking. At the same time, they have challenged the limits of what a gallery is and creaated a useful aand inclusive platform for the manifold, artistic expressions of the 90s. From William Anastasi´s political commentary of the Gulf War and Per Bak Jensen nature photographs to Jes Brinch´s installation on the hallucinatory being of the All, Olafur Eliasson´s bilboard for ventilationenergy and Frans Jacobi´s camping tent, they have presented a varied and colorful group of artist. However when you look back they nevertheless constitute some kind of entity, not the homogenous kind, but still a whole. The projects have never been under an obligation to any tight strategy, but have each time been created through improvising in an open spirit. That is why there is somthing very natural about the projects according to which it si not a problem to experience very different artist in the same show, On the contrary it seems to be the broad framework that allows the works to create connections – to interact – on their oww, across generes and temperament. And this is one of Stalke Out Of Space´s finest achievements.
They have also shown the way for the new forms of exhibition that the art world han experienced throughhout the 90s. If you look arround aat current shows you will notice that many of them are trying to stimulate an integreted collaboration between the institution and the work – which is exactly one of the fundamental ideas of Stalke Out Of Space. And both nationally and internationally they were some of the first to pursue whole heartedly this way of exhibiting.
The world changes, art changes, the art world changes in order not to end on the retrospective and nolstalgic a note (because even though we are now celebrating the first ten years Stalke Out Of Space does not stick to the past) one can take time to think about where they will go surfing in the future. The internet seems to be an obivios territory to explore. The both geographically and communicative limitlessness of the medium is in any case related to the nature of Stalke Out Of Space. And hey. People go surfing on the internet! But before we – and they, perhaps – are lost in virtuality two concrete project projects to be realized within the next year should be mentioned. The firs on is a two-person show with Albert Mertz and lawrence Weiner at Kambur Gallery in iceland aand the secund a transmission from another show at kambur directly to a big international art fair.
Organisation- and ambitions-wise the two projects are some of the most extensive in the history of Stalke Out Of space, but they also stand out because they so clearly capture what Stalke of Of Space stands for and where they stand: they have an art historical consciousness and and eye for quality, they are present at the center of event and the same time way out of space, insisting not to be engulfed by the system. One can hear voices saying that one foot in each camp is unfocused and inconsistens but that is not the way of thinking in Stalke Out Of Space. For them the consistent is exactly not to regard things one-sidedly and commit oneself to one sphere. That kind of consistency created a spaciousness that is able to keep up with the change of the time and the art. Stalke Out Of Space has provide that it is possible in its first ten years and the tennage years lis ahead! Not exactly a time of boredom and fear of trying new things.
Sam Jedig at Liste, Basel 2000
Stalke Out Of Space
Stalke Out Of is an unique construction on the danish art scene. The concept for Stalke out Of Space was created as a rupture with traditional, rigid way of exhibition and represented by the galleries. A way art generally has to submit to.
The concept came into exitence as the result of one man’s – Sam jedig’s vision but also a natural link in a process that fulfilled to the damands of the time to change role of art in society.
A number of tendencies have intersecet and amplifild each other: Since the breakthrough of modernism in the middle of the 19th century – mith Eduard Manet as the leading figure – progressive art has more or less deliberately turnd its back on its audience. And to a growing extend it become an elite art for an elite audience. You do not make art for an ”external audience” but for yourself and each other. However, the loss of its pricely employees and its bourgeois audience has made art proletarian. As a consequence, almost no artist in Denmark caan make a living from their art alone, at least not art that requires an exhibition. The artist make living from decoration assignments, teaching or night job at the post office. However, this situation gives the artist a new creative freedom: when he or she cannot sell his or her work and do not have to make a living from it then there is no reason to make objects intended for sale or to exhibit in an a commercial gallery.
In a society of material surplus where advertising agencies and turist bruchures cultivate beautiful and perfect motives such as sunsets, splendid landscapes, idyl nature,beaautiful bodies become almost reprehensible: they are regarded as picture postcard-like and slushy. The traditional aesthetice are replaced by a partiality for what was ealier considered ugly and poor, the worn out and overlooked: an aesthetic of decay. This tendency is amplifield by the proltarian status of the artist and a s a consequence much of the most important progressive art today is creted an exhibited in emty warehouses or condemned property: necessity become a virtue.
The decommercialisation, the new artistic freedom and new aesthetics have created new communicative needs different from the ones in the traditional gallery context. Which is why many artist have been left to themselves in spreading the word about their works.
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