St. Nicholas Church in Copenhagen was built in the early 1200s, but almost everything was lost during the Great Fire of Copenhagen in 1795. The congregation and priest wanted the church to be rebuilt, but with state bankruptcy following in the wake of the Napoleonic wars other buildings had higher priority. The parish was dissolved in 1805, and the congregation moved to neighbouring parishes. This marked the end of St. Nicholas’ life as a church.
Since 1957, when Knud Petersen opened his art library, the building has played a significant role in contemporary art. During the 1960s a whole series of key avant-garde manifestations took place here, including some of the first Fluxus concerts in 1962. During the 1970s the Danish Visual Artists’ Union was affiliated with the building, and in 1981 Copenhagen Council’s Exhibition Hall – Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center today – was opened.
Two permanent installations are to be absolutely visited: The Jukebox which contains a comprehensive collection of sound works, among these sound poetry, electronic music, microtonality, avant-garde music and sound works by visual artists who took part to Fluxus happenings and performances . These are sounds which are rarely heard – one is more likely to hear about them.
The idea of the jukebox dates back to the 1960’s, when Fluxus organizer Knud Pedersen put up a jukebox in order to make the sound experiments of this period available to the audience. The jukebox expressed an eager longing for the computer. Art should be brought to the people, and what could be more obvious than using a jukebox to do so?
Introducing the jukebox – an object commonly known from pubs and bars – into an art centre was also a project which was totally in keeping with the Dadaist spirit. This was related to developments within avant-garde art in which objects belonging to everyday life were incorporated into works of art.
Today, Nikolaj, Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center, has further developed the idea of the jukebox and has classified the more than 20 hours of recordings into various categories. One of these is Historical Voices, in which it is possible to listen to epochal artists such as Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Tristan Tzara, F.T. Marinetti and Joseph Beuys. Another category is Fluxus which documents how this movement worked with sound art.
The Crying Space by Eric Andersen, 1994 contains various objects and effects which can stimulate the visitors’ need to cry. Apart from the nine crying stones, made especially out of Verona marble shaped as elliptical stones, each with two indentations for tears, there are a pair of scissors, some needles, feathers – and an onion waiting to be chopped. Furthermore, there is an accompanying sound picture made of recordings of professional mourners. Crying always contains a substance and leaves traces. The minerals of the tears will influence the crystals of the marble when they fall on the stones. The elliptically shaped crying stones may therefore change their structures because of the visitors’ tears. This may be seen as an extension of Eric Andersen’s whole experimental artistic practice in which the inclusion of an active audience plays an important part.
Tears and crying are the pivotal points and the theme of the installation to be found in the green room. According to the artist, tears are the only human means of communication which cannot be decoded right away. Tears indicate that something important is happening but not what or how. Tears can thus be shed because of anger, pain, sorrow, surprise, confusion, remembrance, love, joy, consensus, the wind or for no reason at all. In The Crying Space the guests are invited inside to shed their tears together and in public. And, according to the artist, there is plenty to cry over in a culture where crying has long since become taboo.