O—Overgaden is one of the leading non-profit art institutions in Denmark with an irreverent program of emerging local and international voices in contemporary art, displaying around eight grand-scale exhibitions each year from its position in the heart of Copenhagen.
  • Tuesday, Wednesday: 13 – 18h
  • Thursday: 13 – 20h
  • Friday: 13 – 18h
  • Saturday, Sunday: 11 – 18h

Marie Kølbæk Iversen: Histories of Predation
27 Aug – 23 Oct 2022
opening: 26 Aug 2022, 17:00

Hand of Marie Kølbæk Iversen, Autumn Equinox Celebration at PS/Y and LUX, London, GB, 2017. Photo by Christa Holka.

Marie Kølbæk Iversen’s exhibition at O – Overgaden interlaces East Atlantic folktales of merpeople, the history of capitalism, and new marine biological research in the extremely long-lived grey shark.

Histories of Predation is an exhibition project by Marie Kølbæk Iversen located at the intersection between mythology, art, and science. Kølbæk Iversen investigates how non-modern forms of knowledge may contribute to reflections about historical and current cultural conflicts in the North Atlantic region.

The exhibition is rooted in the juxtaposition of East Atlantic folk songs about merpeople, and the extremely long-lived grey shark, also known as Greenland shark or gurry shark. The shark’s transit zones stretch from Northeastern North America, Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard, across the White Sea, and, towards the south, the Faroe Islands, the British Isles, Norway, and Skagerrak. Across the Nordic-Germanic languages, the grey shark has traditionally been designated as a ‘merperson’: In Icelandic and Danish as ‘merman’—‘hákarl’/‘havkal’—and in Norwegian and Swedish as ‘mermaid’—‘håkjerringa’/‘håkjäring.’ Through the geographic and linguistic trajectories of the grey shark, Marie Kølbæk Iversen activates mythological axes of the Atlantic Ocean by including folklore from her East Atlantic home region in Western Jutland that features merpeople as dissident Others in relation to the Danish state and its authorities.

The exhibition at O – Overgaden is anchored in a video installation based on microscopic video recordings from within the eye lenses of the grey shark. Through carbon-14 dating of its eye lens nuclei, recent marine biological research from the University of Copenhagen has shown that the shark may live to become as old as 272 to 512 years, which opens up a perspective of more-than-human ‘eye witnessing’ that far exceeds the human life span: if we direct our gaze towards humanity’s cultural history from the shark’s place in time, the life of a single shark may span the development of capitalism, the foundation of modern science, the industrial revolution, the development of consumer society, historical and current colonialisms, and the Anthropocene era. The project thus invites us to imagine different realities across diverging temporal and spatial scales: the historical past, which travels to the present through the shark’s gaze, and the distant future, which we may imagine ourselves beholding with the eyes of newborn sharks. Just as the Heathlands’ songs about merpeople, the grey shark–the ‘havkal’—becomes an embodied mythical figure in Marie Kølbæk Iversen’s work, connecting the modern Western world with its outsides.

Rovhistorier | Histories of Predation also features the release of the music album Donnimaar. O Tilli. The album is part of Kølbæk Iversen’s ongoing investigations into the artistic and commons-based heritages of the West Jutlandic Heathlands, and is a sonic exploration of the ways and doings of merpeople at the edge of modernity.

Marie Kølbæk Iversen (b. 1981, DK) lives and works between Copenhagen and Oslo. She holds an MFA from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (2008) and in 2022 completes her practice-based artistic research project between the Oslo National Academy of the Arts and Aarhus University, in which she has investigated active mythic thinking and the transformative potentiality of fright between modern and non-modern worlds. Kølbæk Iversen has exhibited and performed in Denmark as well as internationally, among other places at SMK—the Danish National Gallery (Copenhagen, Denmark, 2020-21), Kai Art Centre (Tallinn, Estonia, 2019), Henie Onstad Art Centre (Høvikodden, Norway, 2018-19), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Humlebæk, Denmark, 2018), PS/Y and LUX (London, UK, 2017), PARMER (New York, USA, 2017), the 11th Gwangju Biennial: The Eighth Climate (What Does Art Do?) (Gwangju, South Korea, 2016), and BIM—Biennale de l’image en mouvement (Geneva, Switzerland, and Hobart, Australia).

Recordings through microscope by Marie Kølbæk Iversen, DaMBIC, SDU, Odense, DK, 2020.
Recordings through microscope by Marie Kølbæk Iversen, DaMBIC, SDU, Odense, DK, 2020.