For the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, collaborative artist duo Randi & Katrine continue their exploration of architecture as both a physical and mental space by creating a new, site-specific installation on Cockatoo Island – a scaled-down Danish village for viewers of all ages to explore.
Just like great storytellers including the Roman poet Ovid, The Brothers Grimm, and fellow Dane, Hans Christian Andersen, Randi & Katrine use tactics of enchantment to create imaginary worlds for children – and adults, too. Their alluring microcosm allows us to cultivate, contemplate, understand and sustain societal mores. Randi & Katrine evoke the fairytale in their fanciful architecture and traditional Danish village setting, and use the strategy of scale to produce a sense of wonderment and awe in the visitors to their place.
At first encounter, the visitor to The Village (2014), with its charming anthropomorphised, personality-filled church tower, houses, civic gate and containment wall, might think it an amusing fantasy and playful environment for children. Of course it is, but that is not its only story. In addition to its fun-park offering, The Village is a parable and a representation of a community ideal; a utopian construct filled with structures and messages of subtle influence and control. For the modern viewer, the work represents a place of sanctuary and community, but also, if we permit ourselves to contemplate it, exclusion. This is particularly and unfortunately apt as we witness the perilous situation of those who seek asylum in this time of mass refugee movement, only to find the fortress secured and the gateway barred.
In their 2008 exhibition, ‘The House in your Head’, Randi & Katrine created a series of sculptural buildings based on a copperplate from the seventeenth century. The image, by an unknown artist, depicts a house with human characteristics, a masculine face with a moustache and windows opened by a figure with a long stick while a skeleton emerges from within. The artists identify strongly with the idea that faces can be discovered in buildings, and the symbolism of the physical house, where so many aspects of life are played out, as representative of the human head, full of thoughts, dreams and memories. Creating houses with human features – roofing resembling hair, windows as eyes, and a door representative of a mouth – Randi & Katrine explore architecture as a mental space, intending the audience’s experience of the work to alter the way they perceive their everyday surroundings.
In 2011, Randi & Katrine won Vores Kunst (Our Art), a public art competition in which the winners were commissioned to transform the passenger ferry M/F Ærøskøbing into a floating work of art, a project that was realised in 2012. More than 1000 litres of paint in 20 different shades were applied to the hull of the vessel, depicting portholes and anchors on one side, and 35-metre motif inspired by cutaway drawings of renowned vessels such as the Titanic and the Queen Elizabeth on the other. The artists encourage passengers on the M/F Ærøskøbing to dream and imagine by creating a glimpse into a fictional world full of playful possibility, stating that ‘to some people, the ferry is just a way to get from one place to another, while to others it represents a place where you can let your imagination run wild and dream yourself away to exotic destinations. By creating a peep into the ferry’s imaginary compartment, we open up and visualise the multiple meanings that are attached to the ferry as a public space.’
Randi & Katrine met while both were completing postgraduate studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art and began working collaboratively in 2004. Randi & Katrine have executed permanent works for public spaces in Denmark and South Korea. Notable solo exhibitions include ‘The Clam Box – Come Back to Pleasure’, Gl Holtegaard, Holte (2013); ‘The Tourist Gaze’, Flux Factory, New York (2012); ‘Dream Harbour’, Politiken’s House, Copenhagen (2011); and ‘The House in your Head’, Factory, Seoul (2009), and Contemporary Art, Copenhagen (2007).