‘All correct’ in 2019 – or not?

by Mille Højerslev Nielsen
Press release of 2019, OK, Christine Laquet’s solo show, Spanien19C, Aarhus (DK), 2019.

In July last year, an asteroid hurtled past the Earth at a close proximity. It reminded us that the Earth will not remain in perpetuity and that life on this planet will change – and eventually end. We know there is certain likelihood that we will suffer the same fate as the dinosaurs that went extinct by an asteroid crashing into Earth and causing dramatic climate changes. The Earth, as they knew it, disappeared, making it impossible for them to survive. Unlike the dinosaurs, however, the likelihood of humankind being to blame for its own extinction is far greater. The title of a new exhibition by French visual artist Christine Laquet, 2019, OK, is a clear reminder that (wo)man is still alive and walking on Earth; that we continue to live our lives relatively unchanged despite various outside threats. But the title also asks if contemporary humans truly understand the planetary challenges that we face. Is everything actually ‘all correct’[1]. What or who should we fear in the future? Is it an object from outer space? Or is it our own actions and the disasters we are causing?

2019, OK gives body to the different notions of asteroids, meteors and comets, which have evolved over time. Such as descriptions found in the novels The Meteor Hunt (French: La Chasse au Météore) by French writer Jules Verne (1901) and Finnish-Swedish writer Tove Jansson’s Comet in Moominland (Swedish: Kometen Kommer (1946)), or in American sci-fi films such as Deep Impact (1998) and Armageddon (1998). The exhibition makes us consider the way we live today and how we might wish to live in the future. What would we do if an object from outer space collided with the Earth and changed the climate conditions for all life? How would we organize ourselves if we were forced to survive in a landscape without water, trees or bees? How would we cooperate if we were to share the Earth with other living beings; human as non-human? The meteor as a myth or symbol offers safe common ground where we can share our hopes, dreams, doubts and fears. By focusing on death, destruction, invasion, and the possible extinction of the Earth as we know it, while not seeming immediately positive or constructive, helps to feed and sharpen our collective mind. Literally and figuratively speaking, it forces us to consider how we can better protect our collective home. Whether the solutions are installing solar cells, planting more trees and building hives on top of high-rise buildings in polluted cities; or replacing capitalism with alternative economic systems and other more humane ways of living; or deconstructing the (post)colonial worldview that still prevails in global cultural production. It is clear that the current Euro-centric, colonial model which upholds global capital and patriarchy, is helping enact a destruction akin to a slow moving meteorite crashing to Earth.

The golden-coloured material, which wraps the walls of Laquet’s exhibition, resembles the fiery exterior of the meteor as it descends through outer space, illuminating the atmosphere so we can see it from Earth. However, gold also has a unique geology and mythology. It is possible that all of the gold in the universe was created by a cosmic event known as a gamma ray burst or  the collision of two dead stars. The gold discovered on Earth (that which has not sunk into its flaming inner core of magma) has been known to humans since prehistoric times, often used for decoration and ritual. Throughout time, gold has been a symbol of human desire, abundance, corruption and power – making it the ultimate symbol of capitalism. In a series of three photographs mounted on a metal grid, we see a female-like figure wearing a similar golden material wrapped around her head. The headscarf references traditional women’s head coverings such as the hijab or the Catholic Madonna. However, this synthetic material is actually a survival blanket. As visual imagery, it elicits photographs of refugees wrapped in these blankets to keep their bodies warm and free from harm upon arrival to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea. 

At the entrance of the exhibition, the audience is presented with a painting depicting a man – we assume – who looks like he has fallen from the moon. His body is connected with the earth but his gaze is distant. Echoing this piece is an installation composed of a donut-like sitting area with a turning table in the middle of a ring of small empty chairs. The chairs face a painted collage representing a group of men in suits looking passively at the Earth. It reminds us of the set-up for a parliament meeting and directly references the G7 Summit, where, since 1975, the leaders of the world meet annually to discuss economic policies – and more recently also the ecological state of the planet. Just like in Laquet’s collage however, they seem to be just looking at the Earth instead of moving towards change and action. To quote Swedish activist Greta Thunberg: 

   “Some people say that we are not doing enough to fight climate change. But that is not true. Because to ”not do enough” you have to do something. And the truth is we are basically not doing anything”.[2]

More proactive, but equally dystopian is the video which documents a utopian act performed by a handful of characters building in a desert that is clearly uninhabitable. Their actions are quite mechanical and we never see them eat, sleep, kiss or fight, like humans do. Finally, Laquet presents two moss green sculptures that look like a mix between a dog and a unicorn. On the back of these animal-like sculptures are a group of tiny human beings. Some sunbathe naked, others are fighting or being beaten, and there seems to be no connection between their various actions. Viewers may ask whether they see each other or even register that they are not alone. Last but not least, the ‘queen jewel’ of the exhibition: A replica of the H chondrite meteorite, which fell in Risskov, Aarhus on the 2 October 1951 and belongs to the Geological Museum in Copenhagen.

Through the various elements in 2019, OK, Laquet offers a rethinking of spatio-temporal relationships between humans and non-human, and invites viewers to meditate on our collective state of precarity and dream together a future measured by geologic time. 


[1] ‘O.K.’ stands for ‘oll korrect’ or ‘ole kurreck’, and comes from an abbreviation trend which was popular in Boston, MA, in the 1830s
[2] Excerpt from video posted on @GretaThunberg, Twitter, 22 January, 2019.


About the artist:

Christine Laquet is a French visual artist who works with a wide range of mediums including installation, sculpture, painting, photography, video and performance. For the second year in a row, she has been awarded an artist-residency at ARoS Museum of Art as a member of the artist collective Flux Factory (New York, U.S.). Recent exhibitions include No Man Spirits Our Dust, 5-50 Gallery (NYC), Apparition Disparaissante, Site Saint-Sauveur (Rocheservière, France) and Les Visionnaires #1, 24b Beaubourg (Paris). Christine Laquet lives and works in Nantes, France.