Artist of the week

#58 J&K / Janne Schäfer and Kristine Agergaard

The artist duo J&K (Janne Schäfer and Kristine Agergaard) have been working in collaboration since 1999 and are based in Berlin and Copenhagen. J&K’s artistic practice is fundamentally performative and engages various ways of relating performance to other media such as photography, installation, collage, sculpture, found objects, video and text. The works are often inserted into public or institutional contexts. Kaleidoscopic reference systems, constructed narratives and altered mythologies build the backbone, whereas collage can be understood as a basic principle for how the works come into existence. Although existing within its own idiosyncratic complexity the work attempts an immediacy carried by (self-)humour and absurdity. Thus using a double-bind of playfulness and sincerity the work investigates the mechanisms behind the cultural production of values, believes and identity. The notion of civilisation is questioned while liminal realms of human and non-human becoming are scrutinised and transitional states of existence explored.

Current projects are the realisation of a permanent art work for the new building of the Goethe Institute in Cairo/Egypt and the development of a new work series for the public space for Somewhere in Copenhagen. J&K have shown major solo presentations at The National Gallery of Denmark (2011 + 2013-2015), KUNSTEN, Aalborg Museum of Art (2015), Copenhagen Art Festival (2012), The Pergamonmuseum Berlin (2008), The Aarhus Art Building (2010), Overgaden, Copenhagen (2007) and others. Participation in international group shows include ƒƒ-TAZ3 (Teatr Studio Warsaw, Poland, 2014), Tea with Nefertiti (Mathaf Doha, Institut de Monde Arab Paris, IVAM Valenica, Museum for Egyptian Art Munich, 2012-14), 4th Ars Baltica Triennial of Photographic Art (NGBK Berlin, KUMU Tallinn, Pori Art Museum, Casino Luxembourg, 2007/2008) and The Independent – Liverpool Biennial, 2002. J&K are members of feminist artist network ƒƒ.



Social Practice II, Museum O.O.O, photo, 2015

Hvilke temaer og hvilke spørgsmål er I optaget af i jeres kunstneriske praksis?
The most perpetuating field of fascination and research could be summarised like this: “ancient cultures, mythology and ritual”. Within this area we are specifically interested in how human identity has been defining itself and how this definition is undergoing shifts and transmutations on an philosophical, spiritual and cultural level. In this respect we are researching into techniques and ritual practices of various cultures and speculate on im/possible forms of community. We love to fabulate about a future in which new forms of trans-human togetherness will blossom, in which fossils, people, gods, animals, art works and meteors will live happily together.

Hvilke nulevende og afdøde kunstnere føler I, at I går i dialog med?
Hieronymous Bosch, Jean Luc Godard, Maya Deren, Alejandro Jodorowski, Gelitin, Kurt Schwitters, Andrea Fraser, Matthew Barney, Christoph Schlingensief, Gilbert and George, Christine Borch, Mathilde ter Heijne, Melissa Steckbauer,…


Relatives, collaboration with Linards Kulless and Christoph Mühlau, photo, 2015

Hvad gør I for at trække jeres kunstneriske praksis nye steder hen?
Collaboration and shared experiences – ongoingly between us and in various constellations with our families and friends, donkeys, cars, stones and plants. When you play with others or base your work on real life processes you never end up where you imagined you would – so it automatically takes you to unexpected places.

Hvad kendetegner de seneste nye opdagelser I jeres praksis? Hvad har det tilføjet jeres kunstneriske udtryk?
We are always trying to dig deeper into questions of representation and how live expression and performance can relate to other media, such as photography or installation. We are hereby not so much interested in documentation in the classical sense but rather in defining ways in which a document establishes a relationship to an event that continues or crystallises a narration and takes on its own live. We feel that we are slowly getting more precise with this but still need to dig deeper.

Hvad er de konkrete rammer for jeres arbejdsgang? Hvordan udfolder processen sig rent praktisk?
As we live in Copenhagen and Berlin respectively we don’t have an everyday studio practice in the same location. We communicate a lot via e-mail and skype and then meet up for more intense work periods in different locations, for example in our communal country side house on an island in Denmark or in either Berlin or Copenhagen.


The Nation – Family, photo, 2013

Hvad betyder inspiration for jer? Hvor opsøger I den?
Most of ideas are crystallised when we spent intense time together and talk, walk and make mind maps. But the deeper basis for inspiration is shared experiences mainly deriving from spiritual practice such as yoga, meditation, shamanic work and any kind of excessive event. We love to go on inspirational travels and adventures together, which is a strong bond for our friendship and artistic collaboration.

Hvad stiller I op, når jeres proces går i stå?
Drink coffee and eat cake!


Community Cycle – Birth, performance, 2012, photo: Rydvald

Hvad har for nyligt begejstret jer kunstnerisk?
Last summer we took part in the 4-day happening deep inside the mountains of The Black Forest, organised by fellow artist Mathilde ter Heijne around the firing of her large scale ceramic sculptures for “The Onthology of the In Between”. The event brought together various groups of artists, shamans, medicine plant experts, ceramicists, a film team and an the curatorial staff of an established museum to spend some days together under open sky to undergo an experiment of experimental archaeology: to create a 3 day long ceremony in which the sculptures were to be burned and glazed in self-constructed kilns and blessed by the ongoing ritualistic activity on the ground.

First, it was provoking to think that we were on the one hand part of creating an art work under the direction and name of another artist (Mathilde) and on the other hand we were engaged in a deep personal quest to meet the spirit of one of the most powerful teacher plants and on top of this we were documented in the name of the art work. Nevertheless, along the process it became clear that exactly the breaking down of the borders between the making of the art work, everybody’s personal experience and the workings of the group as an organism became what made everything so special. The process of creating the art work became completely real as each of us lived out our personal experience to the fullest. There was nothing staged about it at all. It was like we created a complete world.


The Late Parnassus, collage, 2015

Hvordan ville I beskrive den danske kunstscene og hvordan befinder I jer personligt med den?
Well-funded, protected, hyggelig. As we are a German-Danish duo and both based in Copenhagen and in Berlin we have one foot out at all times – and maybe also only one foot in either place.

Hvad er jeres tanker omkring størrelserne duo vs. individ? (spørgsmål fra #54 two-women-machine-show)
We met during our BA studies in London in 1999 and very much developed our artistic language together from the start – so it is difficult to really imagine how we would work as individuals after more than 15 years of collaboration. It is like a marriage where one sometimes one might flirt with the idea of being single but in the end there is no real reason why one would want to stand alone. Our “marriage” though is of experimental character, where we invite others into our tribe and enter various collaborations, and in this way maintain an openness to “lovers” of all kinds.