Can art be judged objectively according to legal criteria? And what happens to the law when it clashes with art?
These are just some of the questions raised by the artist duo Mathias & Mathias via the videos, text and sculptures in their exhibition Kære, where they turn the first floor of Overgaden into a courtroom for the cross-examination of the meaning of evidence and witness accounts when two irreconcilable worldviews collide.
The exhibition is based on Mathias & Mathias’ investigation of cases where art crosses swords with the law and becomes the subject of legal proceedings. One of these is the story of the American artist J. S. G. Boggs, who was arrested and charged with counterfeiting during an exhibition in London where he painted banknotes and used them as cash to get the public to question the value of money. In court Boggs’ defence called a series of art professionals to the stand, turning the trial into an art history lesson. Boggs was acquitted by a unanimous jury.
Whereas Boggs’ defence turned the courtroom into an art space, Mathias & Mathias have converted Overgaden into a courtroom installation. Visitors are led here by walls with coloured glass fronts offering different views of the exhibition space. In the centre are two video works based on the human relations during a trial. The set design in the videos extends into the physical space at Overgaden. In the exhibition the physical props – court furniture and equipment – used in the videos become independent sculptural elements covered with evidence of various kinds – text and images, fictional and real. In conjunction with the videos these create an overwhelming accumulation of proof and information that is difficult to absorb.
With inspiration from the archetypes and improvisation within pre-defined scenarios of Commedia dell’arte, the viewer is taken from the video room into a theatrical set. Here a row of wooden sculptures symbolise the archetypes of the witness and accused in a court case. With these identifiable figures the sculptures seem to make sense, yet their context and purpose remain ambiguous.
From the respective perspectives of the accused, the jury, and the eye witness the artists put concepts of objectivity, justice and truth on trial, exposing aesthetic judgements not solely as the preserve of art, but as a key parameter of a society based on the rule of law.
The artist duo Mathias & Mathias consists of Mathias Toubro (b. 1986) and Mathias Dyhr (b. 1991). They both graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2016 and have worked together since 2012. Mathias & Mathias have exhibited extensively at art institutions and galleries, including Tranen Contemporary Art Centre, Ringsted Galleriet, The Exhibition Space Q, Last Resort Gallery, Sculpture by the Sea, Skulptur Odense, Heart Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as Museo National de Art in Mexico.