With Keeping the Wolves from the Door, artists Lise Haurum (DK) and Chris Woodvine (UK) reflect on the fluidity and meaning of language through the lens of idioms and proverbs. Although the meaning behind common expressions can feel self-evident to those who are familiar with them, they do not always translate across cultures. Take for example the Danish idiom “there is no cow on the ice” - meaning, there is no problem. Yet these expressions can help build strong cultural identities, especially when they are culturally specific. In this way they hold value. Proverbs are particularly valued as expressions of truth and wisdom based on shared experiences. But because of this, proverbs can often act as dead ends for discussion and critique. They carry a weight of finality that can be hard to contradict.
The exhibition features a new video artwork by Chris Woodvine, titled Man’s Junk, which splices a series of British proverbs into one continuous text that scrolls across the screen. The 3D lettering and scrolling banner format recall low-budget advertisements and motivational quotes that populate the internet, especially social media. Woodvine is particularly interested in how this aesthetic has been shaped by internet trolls who derail online discussions through “shitposting” - a practice that sometimes weaponizes proverbs as provocations.
Woodvine will also exhibit a new sculptural work titled KTWFTD - an acronym of the exhibition’s title. Each letter is 3-D printed in a warped design that disrupts legibility. Suspended from a mobile, the letters appear to float, twisting and turning in a motion that mirrors their digital rendering and animation. Here Woodvine draws inspiration from CAPTCHA, the verification system that uses a distinctly wavy script to differentiate human users from bots.
Lise Haurum’s text-based installation, UGLEN I MOSEN, traces the evolution of the Danish proverb, der er ugler i mosen. Directly translated as “there are owls in the bog”, this proverb expresses that something is wrong. Originally the proverb warned of wolves, not owls, but after wolves became extinct in Denmark, local dialects mutated “wolves” into “owls” based on similar pronunciations. In her text, Haurum inserts the figure of an owl into 39 Danish proverbs. The owl’s strange and unfamiliar presence in these proverbs unsettles their meaning and invites them to be read in a new light.
UGLEN I MOSEN (original)
Uglen ser dagens lys. Uglen har det som blommen i et æg. Uglen kan ikke se skoven for bare træer. Uglen har en ræv bag øret. Uglen får en tudse i halsen. Uglen er sulten som en ulv. Uglen hører en lille fugl synge. Uglen har sommerfugle i maven. Uglen får fluer i hovedet. Uglen går hen over hovedet på ulven. Uglen går agurk. Uglen presser citronen. Uglen er rosinen i pølseenden. Uglen bider i det sure æble. Uglen bider i græsset. Uglen stjæler slik fra børn. Uglen stjæler billedet. Uglen slår et slag i bolledejen. Uglen hænger med næbbet. Uglen hænger med hovedet. Uglen har hjertet på rette sted. Uglen får luft under vingerne. Uglen lægger hjernen i blød. Uglen har følehornene ude. Uglen bliver varm om hjertet. Uglen vender det døve øre til. Uglen står med håret ned ad nakken. Uglen taber sit hjerte. Uglen får noget galt i halsen. Uglen stikker en finger i jorden. Uglen falder i staver. Uglen er helt oppe i skyerne. Uglen kommer som sendt fra himlen. Uglen deler sol og vind lige. Uglen slikker sol. Uglen sætter himmel og jord i bevægelse. Uglen svæver på en lyserød sky. Uglen er i den syvende himmel. Uglen i mosen tuder: der er ulve i mosen.
UGLEN I MOSEN (UK)
The owl sees the light of day. The owl feels like a pig in shit. The owl can’t see the forest for the trees. The owl is sly as a fox. The owl has a frog in its throat. The owl is hungry as the wolf. The owl hears someone singing like a canary. The owl has butterflies in its stomach. The owl builds a castle in the air. The owl leaves the wolf in the dark. The owl goes bananas. The owl squeezes until the pips squeak. The owl is the icing on the cake. The owl bites the bullet. The owl admits defeat. The owl steals sweets from babies. The owl steals the show. The owl makes a scene. The owl has a heavy heart. The owl hangs its head. The owl has its heart in the right place. The owl has the wind beneath its wings. The owl racks its brains. The owl puts out some feelers. The owl has a song in its heart. The owl turns a deaf ear. The owl has had its feathers ruffled. The owl has lost its heart to someone. The owl has something stuck in its craw. The owl knows which way the wind is blowing. The owl lets its mind wander. The owl has its head in the clouds. The owl is heaven-sent. The owl lets all things be equal. The owl has its own place in the sun. The owl moves heaven and earth. The owl is in seventh heaven. The owl is on cloud nine. Suspicious, the owl shrieks: it smells a rat, smells a wolf.
- translation by Phillip Shiels
Chris Woodvine’s multimedia practice centres on his interest in the power and mechanics of language. He uses readymade objects, video, drawing, painting, sound, and writing to investigate where language becomes valueless, and words become abstracted from their meaning. In collaging together elements of his practice, his work is concerned with acts of condensing, summarizing, subtracting, and how these acts are associated with the digitized flow and circulation of objects, information and people around the world. Currently based in Sheffield, UK, Woodvine was educated at Sheffield Hallam University (2017) and Newcastle-Under-Lyme College (2014).
Lise Haurum is a visual artist and writer who works with artist books, installations, and performances. Thematically Haurum is interested in nature. She is motivated by an urge to understand the complex relations between man and nature, and to shed light on natural phenomena. Haurum often conducts extensive surveys of natural landscapes as a starting point for her text-based and visual artworks. Haurum studied visual art at Konstfack in Stockholm (2011) and writing at the literary school Litterär Gestaltning in Gothenburg (2010).
CALL & RESPONSE
Keeping the Wolves from the Door is the sixth exhibition in Call & Response, which activates two window galleries (The Demo Room in Aarhus, Denmark and AirSpace Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent, UK) as sites for collaborative exhibition-making. Earlier in the project, Haurum and Woodvine mounted back-to-back solo exhibitions in The Demo Room, where Haurum’s exhibition was made in direct response to Woodvine’s. Now with their duo exhibition, the artists further explore their shared interest in language.
Call & Response is curated by Pamela Grombacher, in collaboration with AirSpace Gallery and Galleri Image. The project is supported by the Danish Art Foundation, the City of Aarhus (Kulturudviklingspuljen), Arts Council England, and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.