Pia Arke, Krabbe 1906/Jensen 1947, 2005. Courtesy private collection. © Pia Arke Estate
Pia Arke: Silences and Stories
Feb 10 – May 11, 2024
John Hansard Gallery
Southampton, UK

In February 2024, John Hansard Gallery, in collaboration with KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, presents the first major survey of Danish-Greenlandic artist Pia Arke (1958–2007) to be shown outside of Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), and the Nordic countries. Seldom exhibited outside the Scandinavian context, this exhibition of Arke’s work is both timely and long overdue. It will clearly assert Pia Arke as a significant international figure within both artistic practice and post-colonial discourse. Pia Arke: Silences and Stories is curated by Ros Carter, Head of Programme (Senior Curator) at John Hansard Gallery. The partner exhibition, Pia Arke: Arctic Hysteria, will be shown at KW in Summer 2024, curated by Sofie Krogh Christensen, Associate Curator at KW.

Pia Arke made work that strove to make visible the colonial and complex relationship between Denmark and Greenland, and to address significant questions of identity and representation. Born in Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) to a Greenlandic mother and a Danish father, Arke spoke of an identity that sat outside of being defined as either Danish or Greenlandic; a ‘third place’ that allowed for hybridity and resisted polarisation. Tragically, Arke died before she could experience the growing importance and interest in her work, with her now recognised as one of the Nordic region’s most important postcolonial voices. By working closely with the Pia Arke Estate, John Hansard Gallery is mounting a major survey of her work, including photography, film, sculpture, performance, writing, and rare archival material, amassed from a range of key collections, archives and individuals throughout Scandinavia. We will also re-create Arke’s famous life-size camera obscura, which she used to create her seminal pinhole camera photographs. The original has long since disappeared, but some original elements remain, which will be incorporated into the re-creation.

What makes Arke’s work of such current significance is how it resonates so strongly with today’s globally important issues. Colonial histories, nationhood, Indigenous identity and female representation, are all highlighted and interrogated by Arke’s questioning approach (along with present day issues of the impact of climate change and global economics on Indigenous communities within Greenland and throughout the arctic regions.) Arke often referred to the ‘culture of silence’ around colonial relationships, especially the one she was born into. The exhibition’s title refers to how a country’s culture and history is shaped not only by what is said, but also by what remains silent.

The exhibition is being organised in close collaboration with the Pia Arke Estate and works are being loaned from major collections across the Nordic region, including: Louisiana Museum, Kunstmuseum Brandts and Malmö Art Museum, as well as the Estate itself and key individuals linked with Arke.

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