For his solo exhibition “In Limbo” in Portugal, Danish Artist, Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen brings us his film production Quicksand along with new prints from his ongoing work The Floating Series to Galeria Presença. Opening on the 21th April 2018 at 4PM, the exhibition runs until 2nd June 2018.
For over a decade, Larsen’s work has explored different facets of migration. Through film, photography and sculpture, he continues to represent various aspects of the global refugee crisis.
In Quicksand (recently shown in Tension and Conflict at MAAT, Lisbon) we hear about Jason, a man fighting for his life in the Mediterranean Sea. The year is 2033, the EU is dissolved, Europe is being run by extreme right-wing governments. Jason, a husband and father, has chosen to join a mass exodus escaping Europe. Jason’s journey ends in a capsized boat with him and the other European migrants trying desperately to survive.
The film can be seen as an “amplification” of present-day Europe. Larsen uses a reverse version of what we see happening now with people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, Yemen to seek refuge only to be met by hostility when they reach the borders of the countries they are trying to enter.
For The Floating Series (part of the Tunisian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2017), Larsen chose the Parisian neighbourhood of Stalingrad. In late 2016 there were at least two thousand migrants living in the streets. For two months Larsen would speak to these people, documenting their “desperate” situations.
From there he took a series of portraits of the migrants wrapped in blankets. Imagining those fleeting moments where the migrants could sleep. During these brief moments of slumber, they could “metaphorically float away” from their tragic circumstances where their minds and bodies are exhausted. They can momentarily find an escape.
The patterns, words or symbols that adorn the blankets contribute their own narrative to each piece perhaps reflecting the story of the person covered in the blanket.
“A person is sleeping under a Union Jack flag hinting at a desire to get to Britain, two people sharing a Spiderman sleeping bag making the western superhero appear deflated and deconstructed. A person’s blanket looks like a leaping tiger… ”.
Every day, in every city, we walk past these people. We become immune to the sight of them. Here the prints have been retouched to amplify the textures in a “chiaroscuro” like effect. The pair of shoes protruding from the mass of blanket reminds us that there is a person underneath.