VAULT by BENEDIKTE BJERRE at  O—OVERGADEN [from 20230218 to 20230430]

[Photos: Laura Stamer]

The dire inequality of Western contemporary life—cooked to a swirling speed on gas, sugar, and coffee, demanding ever more futuristic, transitory living conditions, delivered 24/7 by exhausted bodies—sits at the core of Danish artist Benedikte Bjerre’s (b. 1987) practice. Whether washing machines, diapers from newborns, coffee makers, human-scaled transport cases, or helium balloon chickens, her works build on our most recognizable everyday objects. With a cunning and witty touch, she pinpoints the absurdities of our societal circulations and infrastructure.

At O—Overgaden, for Bjerre’s first grand-scale institutional solo show in her native Denmark, a new piece, Day to Day, takes center stage. Six monumental human-sized silvery containers—shaped like arches cut in the middle almost like two halves of a brain—are placed, serially, in the central nave of the exhibition space. The pieces are modeled on FedEx air cargo containers, produced to fit the main body of an airplane and maximize transport space, thus assuring the delivery of selected items to you from anywhere on the globe within hours or, as the title indicates, from Day to Day.

Installed in Christianshavn, an old shipping harbor of Copenhagen, the mirrored blank aluminum bodies of the containers—entirely enclosed by industrial rivets and serene in their sequential, almost ceremonial placement—force the visitor to move around or squeeze between them. Minimal and sealed, the monolithic vaults thus physically indicate the commercial logic of access for some and inaccessibility for the many when it comes to entering the space odyssey of our contemporary condition: who can and cannot benefit from its sci-fi portals of today’s overnight delivery?

Alongside Day to Day, Bjerre presents Starry Night, a series of bronzes cast from slices of Lidl bread that has been baked (in the molding process). Visually, the golden “baked” surface of the bronzes comes eerily close to the surface of the original loaves. As unique pieces modeled on the most basic nourishment one can find, the works emphasize the capitalist reality of our everyday grind: bread on the table comes only if you pay up. Whether using bronze or your Mastercard, bread is only there if you can muster an economy, as we all know. Meanwhile the title, Starry Night, borrowed from Van Gogh’s infamously expensive blockbuster painting, connects the circulation of fundamental and super cheap bread to how the unaffordable modernist painting is today circulated in endless copies as poster art. Stuck on the walls and ceiling of the exhibition space —a former canteen for the factory workers next door— as if a centrifugal power had propelled the realistic remakes onto the building, the Starry Night bronze series nods to Van Gogh and transforms the interior of the institutional vault into Bjerre’s canvas.

The exhibition, titled Vault—repeat it aloud and it phonetically sounds like the DK delivery service “Wolt”—underscores what we already know: we are living in a sci-fi-like reality where cheap bread provides stellar lifelines for some, while the 24-hour air freight industry beams gourmet butter to others.

Benedikte Bjerre (b. 1987, Copenhagen) is a graduate of the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main (2015) and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (2016). Her work has been shown at venues including Kunstverein Göttingen (2021), SMK The National Gallery of Denmark (2020), ARKEN Museum for Modern Art (2019), and De Ateliers (2018).

[Text: O—Overgaden]

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