Sonja Lillebæk Christensen


09. Apr 05. Jun 2011

In this extensive solo exhibition, Lillebæk Christensen presents a series of installations, several of which were specifically created for the characteristic premises of Overgaden.

In an unguarded corner of a psychiatric hospital, patients have for decades scratched signatures and dates into the yellow brick facade: small, unregarded testimonies to forgotten stories and destinies. In her slide installation from 2011, Rygerum, Oringe Sindssygehospital, Vordingborg, Danmark (1907-1996) (Smoking Room, Oringe Psychiatric Hospital, Vordingborg, Denmark (1907-1996)), Sonja Lillebæk Christensen zooms in on these enigmatic signs. Enlarged in format, they demand our attention like unresolved stories that stimulate our urge to invent narratives about the hospital’s residents and their lives.

With images in a huge scale insistently occupying the space, the viewer is drawn into works of widely differing character in terms of narrative and form. Using slides, photo wallpaper, HD video and YouTube clips, leaps are created between a shipwrecked Portuguese sailor, a fictional crime scene and a sampled male universe with roaring truck engines and heavy metal.

Despite the absence of a clear theme, a context nonetheless arises. All of the works confront us with a wondering, observing gaze, which creates uncertainty about what is seen. In documentary form, Lillebæk Christensen highlights things that are normally overlooked or considered ‘uninteresting’.  As she explains it herself: “Through my work, I emphasise aspects of the world that are not otherwise given much attention, either because they are insufficiently smart, exciting or winner-like. My stubbornness urges me to tell stories that do not just echo society’s existing norms.”

In an intimate and sometimes quirky and humorous visual language, Lillebæk Christensen opens up the possibility of re-reading our stereotypical ideas about our fellow human beings and our surroundings. An example is the video work Gerningssted II ( Crime Scene II) from 2009, in which she recycles classic detective story elements to puncture the media-created criminal mythology surrounding the South Harbour area of Copenhagen. Reality and fiction are woven into one another in a tension-filled suspense that never culminates in a dramatic climax, but instead progressively undermines the premises of the action itself.

In the exhibition, Sonja Lillebæk Christensen raises questions about the nature of narrative. What is required to create a story? What do we expect from it? And what stories can be constructed at all? Through these issues, she touches on society’s dominant perceptions and power relationships – but without identifying and criticising these from a biased and comfortable position.

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