Paradise Genetically Altered
The figures by sculptor Bjørn Nørgaard, installed on the waterfront in Copenhagen, pick up the thread of one of the most complex issues of our times, genetic technology.
Referring to Edvard Eriksen’s Little Mermaid from 1913 on the Copenhagen waterfront, Nørgaard’s genetically modified Little Mermaid is the only figure made of bronze. All other figures are a combination of stainless steel, aluminium bronze, cast iron, gilded lead and granite.
Art does not embody definitive conclusions, but rather accommodates open possibilities for discussing art’s function in the context of modern society./Bjørn Nørgaard
The form of genetic alteration we are confronted with is possibly an existence that will radically change the ways we perceive ourselves as people. The strange rudimentary human figures, that have come into being here, constitute a way of discussing what kind of an entity the human being actually is, what it looks like – and what it will look like in 100 or 200 years./Bjørn Nørgaard
Every single figure is discussing whether or not it is possible to create a sculpture today that, through artistic inquiry, can enter into discussion with the context and values of society today. It is in this light that the figures in Paradise Genetically Altered have to be regarded.
In Walt Disney’s rendition of the tale there is a happy ending, she gets married with the prince, and they live happily ever after....and all that stuff. In Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale the story turns out very badly. The Little Mermaid is indeed a genetic modification, because she avails herself of sorcery. She knows all too well that it might turn out badly, but the love makes her blind. She is however, split in the legs./Bjørn Nørgaard
The Genetically Altered Female Figure, or Madonna, on top of the Triumphal Arch is a completely wildly growing manifestation of what might conceivably happen if we just let the forces loose without anybody bothering to consider what the consequences might be./Bjørn Nørgaard
The man in top hat, cigar in his mouth and three penises, is discussing the situation that capital ought to have more faces than just this one in order to make money.//Bjørn Nørgaard
You might say that capital has to have a social context within which to operate, and also that it must have a milieu-context and finally, that it must have a cultural context toward which it can address itself (the three sources). Right now, global capitalism and the free-market can just bulldoze its way over anything and everything, because capitalism, in a militaristic and power-political manner, has assumed control of the establishment of meanings in the world. Therefore, it is crucial that we make an attempt to set up some other kinds of meanings, before the whole thing just goes up in smoke because of this.
The man is fighting against the order of nature. It certainly seems possible that we, as men, will be able to give birth to children in the future. But in any event, the man cannot do so right now. And maybe that’s the gist of the whole thing with genetic manipulation, that it articulates man’s ultimate desire to be able to create life; there seems to be an indomitable urge to surmount the biological fact that it is the woman who gives birth to children.//Bjørn Nørgaard
Adam and Eve
These are more traditional male/female roles. The man, Adam, is the extroverted figure; the man with the briefcase and the cleaved head, on his way somewhere or other. She is the traditional woman, with the home and the equanimity. They represent the Old Testament, with the man as the driving force, and the woman as the keeper of the home. This is in order to counter pose her with Mary Magdalene, who maybe represents the modern woman.//Bjørn Nørgaard
Two couples – an Old Testament couple and a New Testament couple. Subsumed under both of these couples is the fall of Man, or the sinner. In both instances, there is this peculiar disavowal of love. Adam and Eve are punished when they discover sin and physical love – here, there is a matter of original sin. Christ comes into the world and frees us from sin, but this entails that Mary Magdalene, who is a sinner, has to stop committing her sins.//Bjørn Nørgaard
Christ is standing there and looking out over the world in the midst of the situation where Satan is offering him all the world’s wealth if only he will renounce God. And it is the same thing with the genetic technology – which promises all the world’s gold and green forests if only we will renounce all ethical and aesthetic claims.//Bjørn Nørgaard
The figures were originally designed as part of the world exhibition Mankind, Nature and Technology for EXPO 2000 in Hannover.
Bjørn Nørgaard’s descriptions are excerpted from an interview with Karsten Ohrt for the book Paradise Genetically Altered published for the EXPO.
An updated book will be issued in October 2006.
A apartment building designed by Bjørn Nørgaard, in the Bispebjerg district of Copenhagen, is currently nearing completion.
The central objective of the building, constructed of solid, well tested, high quality materials, was to prove that good craftsmanship is competitive with present day industrialized building construction.
By integrating art, architecture, technique and craftsmanship Bispebjerg Bakke is a building that, through the best of the different trades, will distinguish itself both aesthetically and functionally.
Last updated: December 19, 2013