What has sex got to do with it?
In a country that boasts practical equality among genders in terms of social mobility, distribution of income, educational opportunities, political clout, discursive impact and the domestic division of labour (most sociologists agree that whatever imbalances still persist can be attributed to those biological differences that – try some countries as they may – cannot simply be obliterated by attitude or discourse) it is baffling to behold the extent to which the realm of visual arts remains patriarchal, archaic and even chauvinist at times.
Even though political measures are constantly taken and curatorial attitudes increasingly try to favour ‘the feminine perspective’, the Danish art scene is still by and large a man’s world. As numerous lists and statistics continue to demonstrate, men are heavily overrepresented at the top of the food chain – as artists, benefactors, collectors, directors, editors etc. – and so the notion of a masculine stronghold soldiers on. – And consequently, the idea that the visual arts is an arena more aptly ambulated, infiltrated or even orchestrated by the heterogametic sex, prevails.
Simply judging by numbers, one could easily come to the conclusion that cultural production in general and the visual arts in particular seem to speak in a slow, hypnotic baritone.
But does it actually make sense to address the visual arts in a rhetoric of gender? Is it fair to judge a piece of art chiefly by the distribution of chromosomes in its creator? Will affirmative action really level the playing field? Or does it only help to upset it even further?
In our presentation for CODE 2016, we wish to address the paradox of masculinity versus femininity in the visual arts – not by showcasing an all-female roster or insisting on meeting a quota, but by allowing a handful of the most significant male artists from four different generations, to demonstrate their diversity, their fragility, their masculine shortcomings and – ultimately – their feminine strengths; thereby hopefully effacing the myth that such an unequivocal dichotomy holds true in the slightest today.
From the raw and visceral, sexually charged sculptures of Danish arts grand old man, Jørgen Haugen Sørensen, and the diabolical charcoal studies and marbled landscapes of behemoth, Christian Lemmerz; through the delicate still lifes and steel plates of artistically omnipresent, Erik A. Frandsen; to the subdued crayon multiverses of the quiet thinker, Morten Schelde, we wish to challenge a reductionist approach to visual language as something that can simply be measured and understood in terms of biology.
The underlying credo is unambiguous: Art is (has been, and should continue to be) a transcendental practice unfettered by social stereotypes or means of reproduction. Inequality is an issue – perhaps even a problem – that should be addressed and dealt with, but by categorizing artists as ‘male’ or ‘female’, art itself is stripped of its depth and complexity and reduced to a cursor of the hand that moves it. By insisting to articulate gender, we deny art its potential to transcend it.
Oxymoronic as it may seem to advocate a presentation that polemicizes the notion of a male domination of the visual arts by exclusively showcasing men, we, however, find it both honest and viable. The artists we represent are predominantly male – not because we eschew female artists, but because those who truly thrive in the Danish scene, present themselves and meet our criteria are few and far between. We prefer to address the issue, rather than ignore it, but we can only do this in a language we know, and from the position we happen to hold.