When all women are widows
When all men are dead
When house and farm are deserted
When we see white ravens
When we see black swans
When we see feathers sinking
When we see stones floating
When we see oceans burning
When we see the end of the world
With the black swan as a starting point, the exhibition NÅR (the Danish word for ‘when') focuses on apocalypse as transhistorical motif. In the book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable from 2007, the mathematical philosopher and probability theorist Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains how history has never been predictable, but is instead consistently driven forward by what Taleb with the ancient Roman poet Juvenal refers to as 'black swans:' positive or negative events that are considered highly improbable before they occur, but which are nonetheless realized with far-reaching consequences in turn. The COVID-19 crisis is a classic black swan.
Similarly, an old Danish folk song employs the black swan as a portent of apocalypse. The young man, Svend of Rosengård, must go into exile after having killed his brother. When his mother asks when he will return home, Svend answers: When all women are widows / When all men are dead / When house and farm are deserted / When we see white ravens / When we see black swans / When we see feathers sinking / When we see stones floating / When we see oceans burning / When we see the end of the world.
Referencing Taleb's theory as well as the song about Svend of Rosengård, the video work Portents is based on footage of white swans in the Danish lake Damhussøen and black swans in Parque Ibirapuera in São Paulo. The respective shots appear negative—the white swans black, the black swans white—while the background assumes a psychedelic character.
Additionally, the exhibition features a series of ink drawings and serigraphic UV prints that stretch the image surface beyond the color spectrum visible to the human eye. The work series borrows its circle of motifs from art historical depictions of dead men as well as recent ecological disasters and collapses, including satellite and drone footage of 2020's Arctic wildfires. As for the arrival at the end of the world, the question is not if, but when.
Marie Kølbæk Iversen
Marie Kølbæk Iversen (f.1981, DK) lives and works in Copenhagen. Since 2017, she has been an artistic research fellow at the Academy of Fine Arts in Oslo and Institute for Anthropology at Aarhus Universitet. She is a graduate from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, 2008. Marie Kølbæk Iversen has solo exhibited, among others, at Overgaden (DK), Parmer (US), Annual Reportt (DK), Gether Contemporary (DK), Officin (DK), ARIEL (DK) and she has participated in group exhibitions at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (DK), Statens museum for kunst (DK), Den Frie (DK), Heine Onstad (NO), Kunsthall Trondheim (NO), Cisternerne (DK), Kai Art Centre (LT), Tensta Konsthall (SE), 11th Gwangju Biennial (CN), Arken Museum of Modern Art (DK), Röda Sten Konsthall, (SE), Fotografisk Center (DK), The MONA Museum (AUS), Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneve (CH), KUMU Museum (LT), Kunsthal Charlottenborg (DK), Kunsthallen Brandts (DK). The works of Marie Kølbæk Iversen can be experienced in the collections at Statens Museum for Kunst (DK), Arken Museum of Modern Art (DK), Malmø Kunstmuseum (SE) and Statens Kunstfond (DK).