This exhibition features two major works by Simon Starling (born in England in 1967, based in Copenhagen). Starling is one of the most significant European artists of his generation, and a master story-teller of a very contemporary kind. The jurors who awarded Starling the Turner Prize in 2005 singled out his ‘unique ability to create poetics, drawing together a wide range of cultural, political and historical narratives.’
Both of the major works in the exhibition explore the notion of performance and one - which has been newly commissioned by Charlottenborg - involves a very special puppet play. The latter is a piece of theatre, The Expedition (2011), written by the artist and staged with the help of people from the Marionet Teatret in Copenhagen’s ‘Kings Garden’. To stage the performance Starling has built a replica of the marionette theatre and ‘teleported’ it into Charlottenborg. The Expedition is the latest in a group of works in which Starling has transplanted buildings and environments in order to play with space and time. It also reflects the artist’s interest in re-presenting and transforming his own works, and acts as a kind of miniature retrospective - but one that is subject to hilarious distortions, and which is also highly suitable for children. For more details see next page.
The exhibition also features an installation, Project for a Masquerade (Hiroshima) (2010-11), which centres on a group of carved Japanese Noh masks that represent the characters in a play. The scenario is based on an ancient Japanese story, Eboshi-ori, but Starling has peopled this tale with figures from a Cold War saga based around the British sculptor Henry Moore and his real and fictional contemporaries - including art collectors, historians and spies. The piece invokes the story of a sculpture, Nuclear Energy (1963’65), that Moore was commissioned to make in Chicago to mark the site of some of the earliest nuclear experiments. The commission was beset by political pressure - Moore even agreed to change its title - and when later another version of the sculpture found a home in Hiroshima it attracted its own controversies.
Starling’s installation weaves together the stories of Moore’s sculpture, and of this curious meeting of English, American and Japanese cultures. The group of masks faces a mirrored screen - evoking the ‘mirror room’, the dressing room in which Noh actors ritually assume their characters. On the reverse of this screen a film is projected that documents the making of the masks by a Japanese craftsman, interwoven with the stories of Eboshi-ori and of Moore’s monument. All of the elements in this complex work demonstrate Starling’s interest in the notion of shifting identities and material transformation, and reflect his sense of the inter-connectedness of past and present, and of the links that characterise our globalised world.
The exhibition is curated by Mark Sladen, Charlottenborg’s director. It is supported by The Danish Arts Council (Committee for Visual Arts), Grosserer L.F. Foghts Fond and Neugerriemschneider (Berlin). Additional thanks to the National Workshops for Arts and Crafts (Copenhagen) and the Rennie Collection(Vancouver).