Emil Westman Hertz

Feber, 2011.

(Exhibition text – EN)

Emil Westman Hertz, Feber (Fever)
25 February – 2 April 2011


Emil Westman Hertz’ exhibition Feber invite us on a journey of both ethnographical, anthropological and art historical nature which introduce us to a universe of branching references, mutated cell-like structures, opaque mythological ramifications, pseudo-scientific experiments, morphological and anatomical studies, and personally anchored stories and fragments. Feber spreads like an epidemic throughout the gallery through installational measures, accumulations, chaos and more scenic indications of primitive settlements, homely settings and spatial structures.


Emil Westman Hertz (b. 1978) graduated from The Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts in spring 2008. He works with an integrating approach and across different media covering sculpture, installation, collage and drawing and with a wide range of different materials such as wax, wood, bronze, clay, bone and other objet trouvé-like objects found in nature and on his travels. His approach is often that of a Westerners fascination of the “foreign”, the “exotic” and the ”other” which like a boyhood dream of the explorer continuously lives on in our postcolonial, information saturated and cartographically exhausted age. Hertz hereby engages with the postcolonial problematics of the West’s view upon “the other” which always will be of a dominating and romanticizing nature.


But rather than celebrating the exotic and the original, Hertz’s project becomes to point towards alternative tales, values and aesthetic codes which diversifies from the dominating fiction of “the other” and which simultaneously critically-productively can open our eyes to our habitual and one-dimensional view upon the world. Amongst other things Hertz has worked with the vitrine as an art historical statement, which points both inward towards the art history itself and simultaneously gives way to reflections on our relations to and the exposure of “the other”. The vitrine refers to the 17th century’s museological attempts at classification as well as to the princely cabinets of curiosities of the period. By appropriating the museological vitrines and exhibited objects, which touches upon a peculiar in-between – neither “real” cult objects nor museological objects – Hertz paraphrases the museological classification attempts and hereby historiography and systemic thinking in general – opening up and allowing for a pluralized and idiosyncratic view of the world, which to a large extent depends on a the individual spectator.


Like an associative web of strange objects, cultic artefacts, natural phenomena, concrete interior arrangements and habitual settings (or traces thereof) are spread out through the three rooms of the exhibition. At the same time references to the West’s institutionalisation of such anthropological and natural scientific research objects and collections are recurrent. In the front room of the gallery a sort of homely setting is indicated, where the westerly spectator can lean back and relax and appropriate the foreign cultures fascinating and compelling mysticism. Simultaneously an overturned tree root with its intricate network of roots and branches references the artist’s fundamental fascination of nature’s materials and shapes. The network of roots with its rhizomatic branching points towards the thematics in the next room of the exhibition, where a combined sick and death-bed underlines the overall theme of memento mori and feverish delirium. The scene tells the story of the combined westerly fascination and angst toward the alien, where black and white magic become entwined, where the illness and the uncontrollable dominate, and where the picture of the world in feverish delirium can assume grotesque, hallucinatory and obscure figures. Among other materials in the installation wax is being used and the materials connection with the cult of the dead is inevitable. At the same time bees wax is historically seen as symbolically closely connected to life, as the beehive metaphorically marks the place where life is renewed. Etymologically it is evident in a range of languages that one word means both beehive and sarcophagus – a dual meaning which Hertz exhibition builds upon. In the inner room of the exhibition the jumble and crowding of references is amplified in various strange and suggestive accumulations in vitrines and paper works. Hertz’s figures in bronze, wood, clay and wax resembles foreign and alien cult objects, which both seem fascinating and slightly unsettling in their exotic otherness. These pseudo-cultic artefacts are mirrored in the paper works of the exhibition, which repeat the shapes and create an eerie and complex redundance. The drawings are with their ultra fine strokes and exquisite details a compact weave of transposed planes, crowded figurations and surreal objects, where the spectators gaze and imagination become enthralled. The abstraction of the forms and the fundamental aesthetic and tactile absorption of the matter elevate Hertz’s works to become more than just a westerly view upon the otherness, as the abstractions open up the possibility for the spectator to associate freely and to dive into the universe of palimpsestic structures and to create one’s own stories. The tree root’s filtered network of roots, the drawings wildly growing universe and the historical, symbolical and changeable characteristics of the wax each on their own and together subtly illustrate the fever’s potential mutation and points toward the element of impossibility in the West’s attempt to classify that which cannot be controlled.