Artists aim to remind us that war is hell

A new exhibition is aimed at looking at the bloody realities of war that many Danes don’t care to think about

Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal’s shredded face haemorrhaging blood, former PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen with a grotesque eye injury and other politicians with their faces bloodied and distorted are among the stimulating pieces in a new exhibition that is designed to help Danes rethink their country’s wars.

The new exhibition, called KRIG, KUNST OG DANMARK (War, Art and Denmark), takes at times a critical, as well as just an observant, view at Denmark’s history as a war-faring nation and comes at the ten-year anniversary of the coalition’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“Denmark have a longstanding tradition for military paintings of battles and soldiering, so it is only natural that modern artists convey the decades of war within the realm of art,” an exhibition description on the Holstebro Museum’s website reads.

One of the more provocative ensembles is the 15-portrait piece depicting various Danish politicians with mangled, bloody faces. The artist behind the grisly pieces, Simone Aaberg Kærn, said they are meant to  remind the Danish people that Denmark is indeed involved in warfare.

“It’s not an attack on the politicians. I see the politicians as our representatives and in most of the wars since the Balkan Wars [in 1912-1913], the governments have been massively backed by the people,” Kærn told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. "Danish citizens are just as responsible for the wars, though many don't really think about it.”

The paintings illustrate how we portray ourselves today, where the glorification and hero-worshipping and bloody battle scenes of the past are replaced by the individual interpretation. The interpretation is no longer only positive and the art looks at the human victims, the bloody reality of war and the critical aspects of society.

In addition to Kærn, other artists involved are Niels Bonde, Martin Nore, Morten Schelde, Peter Carlsen, Claus Carstensen and Henrik Saxgren. Their works taking a hard look at Denmark as a nation in war will be shown at Holstebro Museum from March 23 – June 30.