The artists / Jens Møller Sørensen

Christina Hemauer & Roman Keller: United Alternative Energies

Kunsthal Aarhus, Århus, Denmark, 22 January–3 April 2011

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The monographic exhibition “Christina Hemauer & Roman Keller: United Alternative Energies” was the most comprehensive presentation of the Swiss duo's work to date, featuring ten works four of which were newly produced for the occasion. The exhibition was selected from a pool of 600 submissions received in response to Kunsthal Aarhus’s open call (then referred to as Aarhus Art Building) for the 2011 season.

The Swiss duo has investigated the concept of energy for several years – as an allegoric concept, as an invisible force, and as a theme that defines geopolitics and modernity. One of their main areas of interest is the history of oil and its competing alternatives, notably solar energy. Often involving historical research, remembrance, performance and film, their projects focus in particular on the politics of oil, energy crises, and the pursuit of new technology.

Their work often provides an opportunity to revitalise key historical moments. For example, the 66 minute documentary essay ‘A Road Not Taken’ (2010) examined former US President Jimmy Carter’s early and ultimately futile efforts to raise awareness about oil dependency, as symbolised by the installation, in 1979, of solar panels on the White House roof.

Also featured in the exhibition was 'No.1 Sun Engine' (2008–9) produced for the 11th Cairo International Biennale. In 1913, American inventor Frank Shuman inaugurated the first large-scale solar power generator near Cairo, Egypt. Although it was economically viable compared to coal power, the plant was only used for a year. The artists reconstructed two segments of this pioneering facility and established an information kiosk in Cairo where local residents and passers-by discovered and contributed to its story.

'The Postpetrolistic Internationale' (2006–ongoing) is a choral work which refers to the songs of socialism and the workers' movements – one of the most widespread social upheavals of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With this project, the artists aimed to use the collective force of the human voice to herald a new age of alternative energy beyond fossil fuels. This work was presented in November 2009 as part of the series of commissions 'Portscapes' curated by Latitudes in the Port of Rotterdam.

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