Absalon Kirkeby (b. 1983) studied at Goldsmiths College in London in 2010 and graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in 2014. He works with two kind of images: one "purely" aesthetic and one where there is a certain narrative cue in reality. He manipulates the digital image freely, and the degree of manipulation depends on the underlying strategy. The "pure" images have been typified by dynamic colours and forms, whereas the contemplative is a recurrent theme in the more reality-oriented pictures. He regards the photobook as an important medium and has already produced several. Kirkeby lives and works in Germany and Denmark.
Notes on the text
(1) Paraphrased from Etel Adnan’s poem, “The morning after / my death”, in The Spring Flowers Own & The Manifestations of the Voyage (The Post-Apollo Press, 1990).
Image captions
(Cover) Urhane Dalen, 2015
(1) Maskin, 2015
(2) Pil, 2015
(3-6) Absalon Kirkeby's studio, April 2016
(7) Landskab, 2012
(8-11) Lobster Lobster, Andersens Contemporary, 2015 (installation view).jpg
(12) Road, 2012
(13) Untitled, from the book Feriemodel, 2013
(14-15) Installations views, Måløv Bygning 333, 2015. Photo by Malle Madsen

Angels eating lemons (1)

When I look at Absalon Kirkeby’s photographs, I catch sight of their architectural origins, their ruin, their trails of past activities. Art can convince us to move past systems and institutions. In Kirkeby’s work, this is precisely what is at play – with intensity, with presence, and with acceleration. In Kirkeby’s artistic oeuvre, the photographs move around between the exhibition and the archives. The works open themselves up to the viewer’s personal appropriation and experience.

Stories run like intimated traces through the pictures and become woven into a visual, textural presence. They collect and reflect people, places, things, animals and buildings before they disappear – into a complex organic narrative, within which immaterial processes like darkness, sunlight, electric illumination and collective memory find their place.

Erasures and insertions put the photographs in connection with that which has vanished and with that which will turn up. Literature is also in play, somewhere in the background of the pictures. The pictures induce a reciprocal action between abstraction and narrative. The abstraction makes room for visual associations and memories, while the narratives build up relationships and sequences within a familiar and concrete reality. The works generate a vision of a reality that is undergoing dissolution, where transformation and travel are necessary. Objects and places appear to be palpitating; colors and forms are intuitive and direct. The work of art is beautiful and monstrous. It is a condensed series of images, where you can feel the body that leaves fragrances, a body that senses – a body of sensuality, possessing a multiplicity of meanings.

The artwork is like a secrecy strategy, which transforms transitoriness into something staged and exchanges the actions of waking life with that of the dream. It exhibits before us reality’s mask and delay, the disappearance’s suddenness, and the frailness of what we see. The underlying message of the work is the domineering that separates us from ourselves and from others: the loss of meaning wherein the person and the existence are brought to ruin.

Inside a situation colored by international political commotion, economic stagnation and impending collapse exist conditions of diaspora, forced migration, refugees trying to cross over borders, and migrants having to seek work elsewhere. Are we living in a time where forgetfulness is being cultivated? Or are we bound, with our identities being firmly fixed, to the digital world’s continuous surfeit of information and viscous memories?

We are living in a time where the answers to these questions depend on identities’ positions. Kirkeby’s work reflects photography as a medium through which people, commodities, and identities have been migrating: a place for genesis and crossing over. Digital technology separates sensory perception from identity, and the pictures reflect the power of the ghost that comes to haunt us. Ours is a time where identity is being intensified and being rendered particulate. With elegance, Kirkeby dives down toward that which conjoins identities, toward the human foundation, while remaining attentive to fabricated as well as to natural objects.

Our world of beauty, terror, life, planetary problems, civilization and war: how does this correspond with the artist’s world when it comes to the edification of an ethos? In Kirkeby’s praxis, the attitude springs forth from an experience where being human is synonymous with being multitudinous. There is no single cause for things: the form crystallizes; we are plentiful, we are not either-or, we are neither male nor female. Identity is mobile. We find ourselves standing within the rhythm of a life.

The motive gets broken down, retrieved and recapitulated. The pictures are ingresses into other pictures: those that you see in the current exhibition and those that remain in the archives. An alphabet is under construction. Concomitant to this, questions are raised about when this alphabet should be tossed aside, and about when the artwork should once again be released from the system that is crystallizing en route to its genesis.

Kirkeby makes use of digital technology in order to delete portions of the photograph or to close off the intimate spaces, so that they remain private. In certain parts of the work, manipulations get the pictures to lose all connection to photography and abstraction reaches the end of the line, while other pictures are allowed to remain in the documentary field. The mellow and poetic are correlated with the hard, the coarse, the existing.

I feel the images seeping through my skin, and even the blue colors are vibrating with intensity and will.

text by 
Sidsel Carré
translated by
Dan A. Marmorstein