Poul Gernes: Galerie Ben Kaufmann

By Smolik, Noemi | Artforum International, November 2007 | Go to article overview

Poul Gernes: Galerie Ben Kaufmann


Smolik, Noemi, Artforum International


Although Poul Gernes, who died in 1996, is well known in Denmark, where he exerted a decisive influence on the development of the local art scene during the second half of the last century, his reputation is just beginning to extend beyond the borders of that country. While the colorful panels from his "Stripe Series," 1967-68, were shown in Kassel as part of Documenta 12, this Berlin show offered a look at Gernes's earlier work. He made these pieces soon after joining forces with art historian Troels Andersen in 1961 to found the Eksperimenterende Kunstskole (the Experimental Art School), known as Eks-skolen, in Copenhagen. In a time of new departures in Denmark as well as elsewhere in the world, the Eks-skolen was soon part of a vibrant international community: Nam June Paik, Robert Morris, Yvonne Rainer, John Cage, and Joseph Beuys all came to visit. Experimental impulses were the order of the day, and no one went further than Gernes himself. One idea was "to make something disgusting": He stuffed his mouth with flour, rinsed it down with lots of water, and then rolled around on the floor until everything he'd swallowed came up again; he then continued to wallow about in his own vomit, his beard matted with it. Watching the film of this 1963 performance, Braekfilmen (Vomit Film), the viewer cannot help but be overcome by feelings of revulsion. In Poul's Paper Performance, 1967, Gernes wraps himself up in a long strip of paper, then takes a knife and cuts himself free--a male counterpart to Yoko Ono's famous 1965 piece?

One year later he created Make: The artist, nervous and tense and shot in such a way that his head is cut off, keeps shifting from one chair to another. …

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