Work it Out: New art exhibition reflects on modern working life

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Work it Out runs until 16 January 2022 at Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark. 
The exhibition features Highline custom design and Epoca Moss.

Photo credits: Niels Fabæk, Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg.

True to our grounded values, new expressions, constellations and spaces emerge from uniting the carpet material with established and upcoming artists from all over the world. From the very beginning of Ege Carpets, more than 80 years ago and in the spirit of founder Mads Eg Damgaard, the tension field between art and the commercial world has materialised in carpet installations expressing so much more than meets the eye. Quite simply, Damgaard was convinced that the industry and the artists needed one another.

The just opened Work it Out exhibition at Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark, featuring 2 custom design carpets by renowned artists Mille Kalsmose and John Kørner and 1 nature imitating Epoca Moss carpet in the installation by Kenneth Balfelt Team // Johan August, is just another example of this.

Why Work it Out?

Working life plays a significant role in modern society, for our culture, economy and identity. Terms like performance pressure, self-optimisation and adaptability have driven the social debate during the past decade and even creativity seems to be taken hostage by commercialisation and productivity. During the past year, Covid-19 has kick-started discussions relative to our working lives, zooming in on working from home, digital working life and the cohesive force in our society.

Humanness: Inner Studies in a Collective Cloud by Mille Kalsmose

Featuring a vividly patterned carpet on floor and walls, guests are invited to get involved in the new installation by Mille Kalsmose, who has created her work specifically for Work it Out. A gentle meditative soundscape flows from the total installation’s bicoloured walls and the blood-red colour relates to the human body while the black grid recalls the digital network everyone has become part of.

Mille Kalsmose addresses how we’re driven, in the analogue as well as the digital world, by contentment, meaning, humanity and solidarity. Moreover, the artwork raises a series of pertinent questions about social media and the boundary between private and public spaces, which are undergoing huge transformation today.

The work directs focus at our dual existence in the physical and digital world, respectively. Viewers can take part by thinking about their life and which aspects of it they would repeat if given the opportunity. Reflections by the audience will, during the course of the exhibition, be held in the work’s physical archive housed in the two filing cabinets as well as being projected onto digital screens. Viewers step into a situation where they no longer just consider their own choices, but also those of others plus the contexts they enter. The work offers both a breathing space and a reflection zone, far removed from the pace of everyday life.

I use carpet on walls and floor to create an architectural space. When standing inside the installation, the grid of the carpet seems overwhelming, yet indicates a zone of reflection: How do you spend your time? What occupies your thoughts? And should you redirect your attention to somewhere else on the map?

- Mille Kalsmose, artist

The 2 large, semi-circular bronze filing cabinets can be seen as fairly permanent symbols of human reminiscence, memory and understanding in contrast to the fleeting quality and pace associated with screens. In her artistic practice, Kalsmose addresses communal activities, family relations and personal identity from a deeply personal conviction and experience, placing her experience in a more universal, person-to-person context. She uses historical narrative as an important tool to create meaning and cohesion, here drawing on ancient rituals and brand-new digital means to address some of the structures which bring about the excessive pace of our times, which can be difficult to keep up with.

What does digitisation mean to our working lives and general well-being? The ubiquitous presence of screens is very significant for our identity, and our behaviour on the internet says a lot about us both as working and private persons.

Meeting at Kunsten by Kenneth Balfelt Team // Johan August

In Kenneth Balfelt Team // Johan August’s new work, Meeting at Kunsten, meaningful meetings are the key issue – in terms of both setting and content. At the centre of the gallery space, they’ve created a meeting room with a difference: a functional meeting room in a relaxed setting. A calm environment has been created by bringing nature inside in a specially designed architectural expression, whose organic forms, nature sounds, plants and rocks resemble both a garden and a greenhouse for human growth. A plush, dark green Epoca Moss carpet creates a soft and comfy underlay while being an acoustic helper too.

While many enterprises have stress policies in place for when an employee is hit by long-term stress, only few have a strategy for avoiding this. A way to achieve a sustainable and less stressful working life might be to create a balance between work and restitution. Too much activity and not enough restitution will affect our performance mentally and physically – at work and at home.

In this quiet environment, users of the meeting-room – enterprises and public institutions, staff at Kunsten, visitors and others – may test out various formats for a meaningful meeting. The screens in the installation provide guidelines along with a published meeting guide.

How to hold a good meeting? Our meeting culture is one of today’s major time robbers. Many people experience their time being wasted in meetings that are either badly planned, include too many people or are inconclusive.

Everyone is welcome to book the room and test the meeting format – or observe it from the outside when in use. Guests can also book a free meeting facilitator to guide them through the meeting format.

Breaking by John Kørner

Who decides what constitutes news? Who produces the news? Art can be news, but can news be art? These are some of the questions raised by John Kørner in his new work created specifically for this exhibition. An artwork that performs a dual function of artistic installation and media news desk where visitors can be interviewed. Although the news desk is intended for journalists and media people – you’re welcome, when the artwork is ’empty’, to step inside the world of news journalists and start working. The workplace is yours.

The work was conceived via Kørner’s interest in what exactly makes headlines in the press in Denmark and a longing for art to make it to the front page. Like in the old days when Danish author Klaus Rifbjerg published a new novel which was all over the front pages. Could today’s artist help set the agenda, and could artists have more impact on social development through their works?

’Breaking’ is such an interesting phenomenon. By transferring news bars from the digital media to the carpet featuring a motif of the Earth seen from the Moon, I take ownership of the news and what to communicate.

- John Kørner, artist

Kørner has addressed many kinds of socially relevant issues and approaches various segments of society as ’problems’, which he subjects to painterly analysis, often by using the colour ’Kørner yellow’. The artwork in this exhibition comprises an office with the headline Breaking written in bold on the wall. Media people can sit here and create narratives that we can read and listen to later. Is the exhibition breaking news? Can an exhibition about modern working life pull headlines? Will anyone rise to the bait? Kørner exposes power structures and stages problems via his art. The yellow and black universe encourages viewers and those working inside the artwork to be on their guard. Being constantly in a state of readiness; the next breaking news is just round the corner.

The work functions as a real place of work. Not unlike Kørner’s general practice, which zooms in on topical social themes, this work represents a small – and nevertheless artificial – section of a workplace that’s purpose is to produce value. Journalists work under constant pressure of creating news, working, researching and producing, constantly pressurised to discover a fresh angle.

You’ll work it out

Can contemporary art help make us reflect on modern working life and perhaps even contribute to a rethinking of working life in the future? Can we solve the challenges and problems that seem to be part of modern working life? Might art and museums offer new perspectives? These are all exciting questions and maybe this article has helped you form an opinion about the topics. No matter what, I’m sure you’ll work it out.

Want to create your own piece of art?

Explore our carpet collections to make your floor stand out like a piece of art. If you feel inspired to create your own artistic custom design for your hospitality, office or other project, please do reach out to your local consultant – we can’t wait to hear from you!

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Written by Mette Frydensbjerg Jacobsen: Mette is Ege Carpets' fashion savvy communications expert. Her keen eye for the sweet spot between beautiful carpets and great stories makes her our favourite pick for inspiring you with Project of the Month.

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