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De kongelige elefanter
Karl Holmqvist

A documentation of a visit to the Copenhagen Zoo where, since November 2001, three new young Thai elephants are hosted. The elephants were presented as a personal gift from the Thai King to the Danish Queen and the video gives rise to a number of thoughts around globalization, the crossing of borders and animal as well as human rights issues.

Aspect ratio 1.33:1 (4:3)
Prod. format Generic SD-video
Duration 00:23:10
Color Color
Year 2002
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About the artist

Born in 1964 in Västerås, Sweden. Works in Stockholm and Berlin, Germany.

Karl Holmqvist deliberately uses a casual home video style when he documents places and situation of special interest or symbolic meaning such as a Zen garden or Thai elephants at the Copenhagen Zoo. In his text-based art, a plethora of voices and impressions intersect: hit songs and poetry, literary quotations and references to art history, slogans and fashion tips, Öyvind Fahlström and Patti Smith, dada and Lady Gaga. His books, posters, installations, readings and performances inscribe themselves in a rich tradition of linguistic experiments on the boundary between visual art and poetry, from futurism to concrete poetry and conceptual art.

But Holmqvist’s art is not merely an echo chamber where contemporary pop culture and historical avant-garde experiments reverberate in new chords and harmonies, but also has a distinctly political dimension. His cut-ups and détournements aim to challenge today’s homogenised global mass culture, to untwist its expressions and formats from their given places and open up new cracks or create new dialects within its uniform language, seeking in this way to reach the intermediary position where language is destabilised and the meanings begin to shift, where the all-too-familiar again becomes strange, the banal is infused with meaning, and new resonances and tensions arise: positions between letters of the alphabet and figures, between the written and the spoken, between surface and space, between repetition and variation.

Plagiarism is necessary, progress implies it, said Lautréamont in 1870. Holmqvist’s art proves that this is more true than ever. To copy, imbibe and distort different forms of culture is not only a right, but a duty.