This article was published in Numéro SS21 Issue SEXXX
Prior to corona, the clubbing industry in Berlin was a billion euro tourist market attracting over 3 million guests per year. Along with all the money comes a fixed set of rules, of dos and don’ts, a hardcore door and high eyebrow fashion policy. All over the world, nightclubs have many faces and many rules. Going out has become a highly nuanced event, complex in its site-specific experiences of space, light and sound, drinks and drugs, with its urban culture and mythology, creating a subtext with refined social practices and rituals. These rules, hierarchies and authorities are interesting to Danish artist Esben Weile Kjær. In his recent works, he has brought the nightclub into a museum. His staged club performances simulate a clubbing experience and raises questions about what it means to go out: how we dress up, how we perform on the dance floor, how we get high, how we flirt, how we seduce and how we are being seduced.
In Weile Kjær’s videos, installation and performances, we learn that the hierarchies and the authorities of everyday life are being turned upside down and inside out. The night owls, the artists and the freaks rule the clubs, a safe space to misbehave and a re-organization of social norms, an aesthetic mode that Mikhail Bakhtin has named the carnivalesque. This subversion of power relations and redefinition of “freedom” is at the center of Weile Kjær’s site-specific pieces “Hardcore Freedom” and “Power Play,” recently presented at GL Strand in Copenhagen, where the artist is based. These two immersive presentations show the influence of club culture on the fine art and pop cultural spheres. Ironically, “Power Play” opened during corona, the longest period of club closure in recent times.
Words ROBERT GRUNENBERG