Jeannette Ehlers interweaves the spiritual, rebellious and poetic in her largest solo show to date
In recent years, Jeannette Ehlers has taken on a key role in the Danish art world by raising awareness of Denmark’s past as a colonial power. She is particularly known as the co-creator of the monument I Am Queen Mary in the Port of Copenhagen. Over the summer, Kunsthal Charlottenborg’s visitors can explore her insistently powerful works, in which she points to connections that reach across continents, oceans, and human destinies.
In this summer’s major solo show at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Jeannette Ehlers forges a spiritual and meditative space that sheds light on Afro-Caribbean relations through large and new installations as well as existing works that combine film, performance and photography. Highlights include a new and central video work based on the mythical figure Moko Jumbie. According to folklores, Moko crossed the Atlantic from West Africa to the Caribbean to protect care of its people. In this exhibition, the figure is brought to Denmark to bring healing and care, and shine light unto the shadows of Copenhagen’s history.
The experiences in store for visitors include black and brown braids penetrating the walls of the art gallery; the story of how enslaved women of African descent in South America and the Caribbean used braiding styles such as cornrows to map escape routes; excerpts from novelist Hans Christian Andersen’s The Mulatto from 1840, and a handwritten transcribed fictional dialogue between rappers Kendrick Lamar and Tupac about rebellion and insurrection.
As evident from the exhibition title Archives in the Tongue: A Litany of Freedoms highlights oral traditions, which have laid grounds for the survival of Caribbean cultures. Drawing on this Ehlers centres the textures and fabric of the sensorial and bodily connections that constitute the journeying of the Black diaspora. She interweaves the historical, the collective and the rebellious with the familiar, the joins, and the poetic.
Through the years, Jeannette Ehlers’ practice has given careful attention to Danish colonial history, collectivity and the activist potential of art. Central themes include the representations and boundaries of Blackness, as well as in-depth reflections on kinship, solidarity, and colonial afterlives. Her works fuse different narratives and legacies, forging links between the personal, the historical, and wider socio-political temporalities. Accordingly, this exhibition will point to trans-geographical connections and counter-histories that still need to find their place in our collective memories to uniting the past and future.
Jeannette Ehlers (b. 1973) graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ Schools of Visual Arts in 2006. In 2010 she received the Danish Arts Foundation three-year work grant and in 2022 she received the Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl- Nielsen Grant. Among other things, she could be experienced in the solo presentations SAY IT LOUD in Nikolaj Kunsthal (2014), Whip it good: Spinning from History’s filthy mind at Autograph ABP in London (2015), Take Root at MOCAD in Detroit (2021), and in the newly opened exhibition EVERY MONUMENT IS A CITIZEN together with La Vaughn Belle at Pública in Puerto Rico (2022). Furthermore, Ehlers has contributed with works to COOL, CALM AND COLLECTED at ARoS (2017) and in group shows all over the world. This winter she participated in Kunsthal Charlottenborg’s biennial all over Denmark entitled Poet Slash Artist curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Lemn Sissay (2021). Jeannette Ehlers is widely known for the monument I Am Queen Mary (2018), the first Danish memorial to Denmark’s colonial history, and was shortlisted for The Windrush Generation Monument at Waterloo Station in London (2021). Today, Jeannette Ehlers is also the Committee Leader for The Danish Arts Foundation’s Committee for Visual Arts.
Archives in the Tongue: A Litany of Freedoms is curated by Awa Konaté and Lotte Løvholm.
The exhibition is supported by the Augustinus Foundation, the Axel Muusfeldt Foundation, the Beckett Foundation, the Danish Art Workshops (SVFK), the Lemvigh-Müller Foundation, the Obel Family Foundation, the Danish Arts Foundation and the William Demant Foundation.