Ormston House proudly presents Particles, the first exhibition by internationally renowned Danish video artists Hanne Nielsen and Birgit Johnsen in Ireland. For more than three decades, Hanne Nielsen and Birgit Johnsen have focused on the powerful influence of media images in society. The artists say: “We want to create a frame for reflection on current global, critical conditions as well as the ethical, existential choices confronting us today. We often perform ourselves in our works; we believe that the performative connects the personal with the political.”
In their new two-channel video installation, the artists perform as bird-like figures beamed down from somewhere in the universe. Together, they travel through Tarkovsky-inspired scenes—an abandoned fun park, a ravaged industrial site, overgrown castle ruins, a rocky landscape, burning fields. They are female clones of the plague doctor and the future scientist, equipped with all kinds of measuring tools. Drones are deployed to provide the vertical perspective they need to travel through time and space, and to unfold a machine-vision, flying in abrupt movements, watching, searching, monitoring, and disappearing into the sky.
Crosscut with TV and internet footage, the installation presents a range of different “reflection rooms” where clips of historical and recent events are intertwined with personal and mythical interpretations through the plague doctor’s crystal ball. While particles in the form of dirt, smoke, or fog may refer to climate change, pollution, poverty, war, or even a lack of transparency in antidemocratic processes, particles in the sense of aeolian dust are also the precondition for existence. The doctor and the scientist mediate seemingly chaotic conditions and continue their journey seeking signs of life and measuring the state of our planet.
About the artists
Hanne Nielsen (b. 1959) and Birgit Johnsen (b. 1958) have an international reputation for artistic excellence and are recipients of numerous awards, including the new Carlsberg Foundation Art Award, the Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen Award, and the prestigious Eckersberg Medal. Their investigative and experimental approach to video has given them pioneer status on the Danish art scene.
The artists’ work spans from modest single screens to major filmic productions, studio recordings, and documentary explorations presented in immersive installations. Nielsen and Johnsen have collaborated since 1993 and have exhibited widely in Denmark and abroad, as well as participating in film festivals around the world. They have depicted the world we live in with visual poetry, with humour, and with a persistent commitment to feminist political issues. In 2021, they received a lifetime achievement award from the Danish Arts Council.