Scintillating dualities – on Bjørn Poulsen’s sculptures

By Torben Sangild, 2008

In the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the protagonist starts to behave in a strange way after having been in close contact with a UFO. He becomes possessed by a particular form: a kind of mountain form. It begins in the morning when he’s going to shave. He shapes the shaving lather in his hand into this mountain form. He sees this form in a pillow and in a boy’s lump of clay; he doodles it absent-mindedly on the newspaper; he models it at the dinner table out of the mashed potatoes in such an obsessed way that his own family starts to be afraid of him; he forms it in clay. But all the while, he’s besieged with the sense that it’s not quite correct. When he discovers that it is a specific flat-topped mountain, he goes amok, starts digging up the garden and throwing the soil into the house (as the family flees) so that he can build the right form indoors.

Bjørn Poulsen’s works have not come into being under the influence of visiting creatures from outer space and because he happens to be an artist, his actions are considered to be more or less acceptable, but the sculptor himself has pointed toward the parallels with his own enterprise: forming a material through the ruthless destruction of the same. The material can be anything whatsoever and often consists of already-formed mass-produced items, “ready-mades” or found objects: inner tubes from tractors, living room furniture, mixing bowls, rocking-horses, paper trays, bobsleds, flowerpots, iron pipes, model airplanes, and so forth. These comprise one half of his work – the most conspicuous part.

The other half is made in more classical amorphous materials; plaster, wood, clay, granite, steel, bronze – materials that are modeled. This is one way of dividing his work: the readymade-based as opposed to the traditional materials of sculpture. On the one hand, this distinction makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, it may seem a bit superficial. In any event, it’s important to see the connections between the two types – and maybe especially important to see how they influence each other reciprocally: how a plaster sculpture like Marsyas bears the distinct character of being industrially formed and how the “Margrethe” mixing bowl sculptures’ forms, conversely, are akin to the wooden sculptures’ abstract intertwining curves (as can be seen, for example, in Strøm [Stream]). Here, we are moving in on one of the dialectics that colors and characterizes Bjørn Poulsen’s work, namely the one between the materially concrete and the form-related abstract.

A “dialectic” is a duality that ignites sparks, where two apparent opposites enter into dialogue with each other, cross-fertilize each other and spawn some Third. This “third” often has an indeterminacy and openness about it, precisely because it is the result of a meeting between opposites. To a great degree, dialectic sparks characterize Bjørn Poulsen’s work and this is one of the secrets behind the power in his sculptures. Above and beyond the dialectics between readymade-concretion and form-related abstraction, one can also catch sight of a dialectic between destruction and construction, a dialectic between the organic and the inorganic and a dialectic between the cool minimalist and the volcanically expressive.


In a room with a low ceiling, a gigantic black rubber thingamajigis hanging. Although it is not moving, there is something alarming and impetuous about its presence. Its enormous inflated tractor inner tubes are bound together in an evidently violent way by bicycle inner tubes. Protruding out from these tubes are a number of plastic pipes, which are equally black. The agglomeration does not look like anything in particular, but it calls to mind all sorts of things: a black abscess, sadistically constricted organs, excrement, sinews, blood vessels and intestines.

The piece’s expressivity is due to a number of factors but perhaps it is mostly due to the fact that, in a literal sense, a pressure from within is being blocked up by a taut and unyielding counter-pressure; that is to say, by a binding force. But there are also its obtrusive size inside the space, its peculiar manner of hanging, its quality of distension, its color and its raw industrial materials that all contribute to the work’s sinister and gloomy energy.

This piece, like two other cognate works, is called Limbo. “Limbo” is the Catholic notion about a place situated between heaven and hell where those whose souls have not been saved as a consequence of pedantic circumstances (such as infants who die before they have been baptized) but who also are not going to be condemned to hell are just simply there to wait for the Great Redemption. In a broad sense, ‘being in limbo’ signifies a condition of waiting around in an uncomfortable state of action paralysis, as if one was bound up and was hoping for someone to come along and untie the cords.

The sculpture is pneumatic, blown up. What this entails is that eventually it slowly comes to lose its air and accordingly loses its force in the passage of time. It slackens and becomes flaccid. But not only that: if one, as the artist himself has done a few times, chooses to revitalize it by pumping up the inner tubes again, hitting upon precisely the same form proves to be impossible. It will bulge in different spots, in different ways than it had before. It is a dynamic sculpture, which is never the same, literally speaking.

And so it hangs right there, distended and constricted, taciturn and unmoving, nothing other than rubber, plastic and air – an object inside a room – an object that expresses itself because we cannot help letting it express itself. There’s nothing magical at all about this. It is a case of objective expressivity.


Everybody notices that there is something forceful in Bjørn Poulsen’s sculptures, that there is an outgoing energy in the expression. But it is something else again and a feat that is more difficult to describe why they possess this power. One of the explanations certainly applies to Limbo: there is a pressure in conjunction with a counter-pressure or binding force. This pressure is literal/physical in Limbo but it is also manifest in many other sculptures that have a bound force, where one senses that something is being restrained and wants to break on through. Consider Terminator, for example, where kindred corporeal limbs or stumps come to form a human-size figure, which seems to be ensnared in the deformity. Or consider the bubble forms in a work like Hob [Heap], which call to mind the air’s energy inside fluids. Or envisage the many stars that appear to be in the process of exploding simply because they are bristling and sparkling in all directions.

There is a dynamism in the sculptures – the viewer can perceive motion, even though most of the works are quite motionless. In addition to the pressure from within and outward, this dynamism can also be constituted by a succession of waves or by a sense of something organic-locomoting present on account of the corporeal, the muscular.

We can also turn our attention to the compactness that characterizes many of the works: there is a gnawing sense about something condensed and compact, something that the artist himself formulated so precisely back in 1989: “The sculptures have to radiate density. They must elicit the effect of having sucked more energy into themselves and having become more charged up with meaning and power than the surroundings. They ought to elicit the effect that the molecular structure inside them is especially dense.”

It’s as if the energy had accumulated in these sculptures, as if their surfaces adumbrated something compact underneath, regardless of whether this is the case or not.

Finally, there is energy bound up in the trails that are left behind in the wake of an impetuous process in the works that clearly consist of materials that were destroyed: plastic components, “Margrethe” mixing bowls and articles of furniture have been brutally smashed and bound up or screwed together once again in the manner of a reconstructive establishment of form. This energy should not lure anybody into resuscitating the expressionist myth of the tortured artist who is revealing to us his pain and aggression. No, this myth should immediately be put to rest and buried deeply for the sake of making room for a more levelheaded view. What we have here, quite simply, is a working procedure that leaves traces of physical violence in the works and which accordingly contributes in an objective way to their expression of frayedness, shatterdness and brutality.

Flesh and gender

The destroyed materials are accumulated and built up into new constructions, guided by Poulsen’s assured sense of form. They carry along with them the traces of both the industrial and the destructive as they progress toward the new form.

The violent and the destructive are, traditionally, masculinely coded and what we see in Bjørn Poulsen’s work is often the settling of a critical account with masculinities. You get a distinct hint about this in the Inferno collages, with their edited and re-spliced fragments of bodybuilders’ torsos without heads – a mosaic of muscles in a unappetizing soup of exaggeratedly swelling and glistening male flesh. The hypermasculinity that the bodybuilder culture constitutes is being stripped down in an exhibition of the flesh as pumped up mass.

At the same time, what runs through all of Poulsen’s production is a consistent fascination with the carnal in the form of cascades of irregular organic lumps and bones. The accumulation of the convex (outwardly bulging) is one of the forms that recurs most of all in his work, and it fills the volume with all different kinds of materials. In pieces like Sebastian and Terminator, the accumulations are built up onto direct castings of limbs in a certain way so that the artist manages to refrain from creating a functional body. Instead, similar to what we saw in Inferno, he merely builds up a mass of carnality – but here in directly macabre unfurlings, replete with a reference to classical motives. In Prometheus, it is the bone-like that dominates. These are not sculptures of suffering bodies but rather of bodily physicality and carnality that have been subject to being piled up, impaled and constricted.

In the Navigator series, the bodybuilder-fleshlike is being conjoined not only with the industrial but also with its feminine counterpart, the kitchen bowl that is known as “Margrethe”. The “Margrethe” mixing bowl is a Danish housewife’s icon, a cooking accessory, and yet another dialectical spark is ignited here in the formal amalgamation of macho-muscularity and whipped-cream-femininity. Here, the genders’ codes are literally being deconstructed – their own respective expressions are being torn away from each other and subsequently re-amalgamated in a sublationof what is ostensibly a fundamental ideological contrast.

The fleshliness that fills so much in Poulsen’s works is an abstract fleshliness rather than the concrete human figure: it is, so to speak, ‘muscle-ness’, ‘flesh-ness’ and ‘bone-ness’. It is not bodily physicality qua natural or authentic. It is rather the contrary that is the case: it is an industrialized and technologized bodily physicality.


At the same time, also, there is always something else and something more than the corporeal. All the sculptures have meaning formations and associations transpiring along different paths, moving along different tangents, where the corporeal merely happens to be one of the most prominent.

There is always a structure, an architecture, an order on the move. Bjørn Poulsen is tremendously conscious about form and very formally consistent in his modelings and accumulations. He often takes his mark in a basic form. On the basis of this fact, we can sketch out a typology: there are the star-formed that bristle out in all directions; the orb-formed, which have the sphere as their basis; the bubbling and bulging; the undulating and arching; the oblong and serial; the architectonic, the crystalline, the constricted, the perforated. As soon as we try to set up this typology, however, what becomes clear is that it caves in again because these recurrent types converge with each other every which way as we move from one work to the next. They also crop up as we run across the gamut of every conceivable material and accordingly, they constantly enter into new meaning formations and expressions.

Saying that the sculptures are form-conscious is not tantamount to saying that they are formalistic. We are not dealing here with form for its own sake, which a particular ideology from a now-vanished historical stage had success asserting and insisting upon. Forms are always connected to a philosophical outlook, to a sensibility about the world – since the world has been formed, forms will accordingly refer to the world. And in the interplay with the materials and the titles and the innumerable connotations, what arise are complicated kinds of expression and scintillas that set the processes of recognition in motion among those who are willing to follow along and delve into the experiential possibilities. In the case of Bjørn Poulsen, however, the demands are not that hard because most of the works speak in a perfectly direct way.

Colored glass and mixing bowls

The sources of inspiration are countless – from ancient Rome to science-fiction movies – but all the materials are taken on a spin through the Poulsenesque wringer and transformed into something completely different. Among so many other currents, Bjørn Poulsen conjoins and carries further two distinct tendencies in modern art, represented respectively by Donald Judd and Francis Bacon. On the one hand, we have Judd’s minimalist primary forms, in combination with a sleek industrial finish, in works that render the space around themselves thematic. On the other side, we have Bacon’s preoccupation with distorted and tormented human flesh. In Poulsen’s domain, these two artistic worlds are no longer antitheses. Nor do they stand in opposition to pop art’s strategy of incorporating commonplace mass-produced objects and signs.

When we look at the Ghost and Navigator sculptures, what becomes obvious is how the different traditions can be brought together: the cool framing of the acrylic glass around a series based on plastic mixing bowls amassed in the form of organic clumps, which change dramatically entirely accordingly to where the viewer happens to be standing in relation to them. You haven’t seen a Ghost if you haven’t actually walked around the side of it in order to look behind the screen, and tried placing yourself at different distances from it. There’s no one privileged point from where the sculptures are to be viewed, not even when they draw near to being reliefs as they do in the Ghost series. There is also a play with light and colors going on here in a different way for each work. The sculptures look completely different when viewed in different kinds of light: in powerful illumination, the acrylic glass screen casts a colored shadow on the wall that wanders, naturally, when the source is sunlight and stands still when the source is a spotlight. While Ghost 1-3 all make use of transparent plastic bowls in different combinations with the screen-hue of the glass, Ghost 4 appropriates the opaque “Margrethe” mixing bowls, which results in giving this particular sculpture a darker and more closed expression. The glass colors the bowl constructions in a play of colors which, again, are intonated differently by the effect of the lighting from the room.

Mutant is hanging inside a closed box mounted on the wall and points over toward the Navigator series and Shadow, where accumulations of bowls have been placed inside glass cases on legs – not unlike old exhibition showcases – instead of being integral parts of a relief screen. What is being rendered thematic here are the very quality of being placed on exhibition, the museum and the collection. But whereas the showcase and the vitrine have traditionally served as containers for the objects being exhibited, the showcase here is an integral part of the work. Once again, what we see here is a way of playing on the space and on the different positions, since in many of the pieces, the showcase is not rectangular but is rather formed as a trapezoid, so that it is broader at the end where the bowl accumulation is thickest – somewhat like a coffin. You might not discover this upon your very first glance, but you will eventually notice that the perspective is a bit lopsided or exaggerated, all according to where you are standing. The showcase, then, is not merely a box around the figure but is rather something that adapts itself with its own linear stringency to the figure’s proportions. And inside, the bowl accumulation seems to float, in a way that is simultaneously as light as air bubbles and as heavy as flesh.

The acrylic glass imparts to the Navigator-works an industrial smoothness that colors the otherwise organic accumulations, which have in turn been constructed from industrial materials. This also provides a certain distance – you cannot penetrate the figures and get in underneath them; they have something remote about them and accordingly, the concrete material comes to be less accessible and less robust and heavy-handed than in the Ghost-series. Nonetheless, you can still see the chips and the screws and the dialectics between the industrial and the organic continues to resound in each and every detail of the sculptures.

Disenchantment and re-enchantment

The minimalist principle manifests itself clearly in the two Longing for A Space Travel works, both of which were created for purposes of occupying separate rooms at the exhibition space, Overgaden, in Copenhagen. The Long Thin Line and Planet are both based on their own respective primary forms and they each enter into a direct dialogue with their surrounding rooms – so much so that these sculptures actually draw near to being installation works. The line is built up of sequences that succeed and supersede each other, as the line penetrates its way into the room and divides it in two. The planet is hovering; with its gigantic volume, it fills up its own room. It possesses an internal space that we cannot see and an “outer space” (our space), which it dominates. It also refers, in turn, to outer space in the astronomical sense.

The Long Thin Line’s sequences alternate between some being lengthy and extended and some being more jutting, between the movement along the axis and the pausings of this movement. We can also see here that the forms are perfectly organic although they are largely contingent on each of the materials’ properties. On the one hand, almost like a catalogue enumerating cheap plastic’s intrinsic form possibilities. On the other hand, a coherent progression with an overall unity – an elegant form-related progression that transforms the plastic into being an enchanted and fantastic form.

At the same time, you can clearly see the screws that have been used to assemble the elements. Similarly, as you move close up to the work, you can see all the frayednesses and accidents in the palpable fragments. Yet again, what comes to light here is a dialectic in Bjørn Poulsen’s work: a dialectic between disenchantment and enchantment.

“Disenchantment” is sociology’s term for the process of rationalization that has carried us from believing in myths and superstition toward a more scientific and concrete manner of understanding the world. In a wider sense, it is a movement away from the fantastic (and fairy-tale like) toward the realistic. In the art of the twentieth century, disenchantment transpires on many levels – especially with the unveiling of the materials as being concrete and sometimes even banal or commonplace. “What you see is what you see”, as Frank Stella so famously put it – there’s only what’s right there in front of you. Disenchantment can also be spotted in art’s absorption with everyday life in favor over the mystical, in the down-to-earth rather than the lofty, in the simple instead of the ingenious.

In Bjørn Poulsen’s plastic sculptures, the disenchantment is already happening in the selection of materials – ordinary banal plastic that we know from the office inventories of everyday life, from children’s toys and from kitchen utensils. This material takes shape and approaches the organic in a kind of re-enchantment. Beauty is an enchantment and Poulsen’s sculptures are exploding with beauty – and frequently not in a classic sense of harmony but rather in a more modern respect, as expressive and seductive energies. This re-enchantment is punctured once again when we move up close to the works and catch sight of the imperfect joints. But it is not punctured more than that the sculpture remains overwhelmingly and playfully flashy. Perhaps the situation can be formulated in this way: the sculpture is being disenchanted as cheap plastic while the plastic material is being re-enchanted as sculpture.

Planet unifies the basic ground forms of sphere and star. At first glance, it looks like a planet with gigantic towers or excrescences jutting forth from its bulk, with correspondingly large holes in its core. Through the holes, we get a chance to peek inside but what we can see does not really reveal all that much about the sculpture’s insides, since the plastic shells continue for as far as the eye can see and because the sight is often blocked by funnels crossing the line of sight. In this way, these particular holes differentiate themselves from many of Bjørn Poulsen’s other holes, which generally are clearly demarcated and which often run all the way through the sculptures: one way of lightening up the most compact accumulations is to open them up a bit. In contrast to this, Planet’s holes are almost mystical. What is it that might be hiding inside a planet? The holes are introverted, in both a literal sense and a figurative sense, just as the jutting excrescences are extroverted in both senses of the word.

Strange Fruits – the blocked-up room and the sensibility of things

As has already been suggested, there is an ongoing negotiation of an outstanding account with the space in Bjørn Poulsen’s works. They reach out toward one another, become encapsulated, divide the room and fill the space. They are architectonic in what is often a very compact way and they suggest internal spaces of diverse kinds. Like all sculptures, they contribute to the atmosphere in the room within which they happen to be placed and some of them have even been created for specific rooms.

But none of them sabotage the space quite so radically as Strange Fruits did at the Charlottenborg Exhibition Hall in Copenhagen, where the tilted 3-meter high wooden- and metal-barricade allowed only the possibility of seeing one half of the sculpture – and moreover, only one half of the exhibition room – at a time. Here, the guiding notion that sculpture offers no privileged standpoint to the viewer was rendered incontrovertibly concrete in the form of the physical impossibility of moving around the work and the impossibility of establishing one’s own impression of the whole. Not only is there no ideal place to stand, there is no possibility of gestalting the work’s form by looking at it from different angles and subsequently gathering up these successive glimpses in the mind into a three-dimensional form. And when you are looking at the one side of the sculpture for the first time, you don’t even realize yet that you’re going to be looking at its other side sometime later as you wend your way through the art show.

You step into an encounter with a blockade, upon which crushed articles of furniture are suspended, bound together in a manner that far exceeds what is necessary for keeping them in place. They have thus been subjected to a doubly violent assault: first, they have been crushed and broken and thereafter they have been hog-tied with a sadistic excess and mounted and hung up on a barricade that elicits a general sense of alarm and admonition. They are almost being executed and hung right before us, like the strange fruits that Billie Holiday sang about.

Can we have empathy with articles of furniture? Can an article of furniture express pain? The answer in both cases is ‘Yes’. We are intrinsically organized and imprinted in such a way that we attribute meaning to things. We do this in all kinds of ways: through making analogies, similes and associations and deciphering signs, for example. And it is not always the case that a process of interpretation is involved here. No, it often happens quite spontaneously: attributing meaning to things is one aspect of our way of sensing the world. When we look at something that has been crushed, we see traces of violence. Crushed articles of furniture, moreover, refer to the body in two ways: the legs can resemble – and function like – bones; and articles of furniture are close to our bodies. A chair is a rack for the body. The chair thus easily connotes a human being.

But even when there is no resemblance whatsoever to the human body, we still possess something that calls to mind an empathy with things. We have an intuitive sense about what condition some thing is experiencing when it happens to be hanging or when it is being squeezed or locked up or in some kind of imbalance. This sensibility certainly comes in handy when we have to deal with certain events and this is exactly what we have learned to do. In visual art, the expression that makes use of these skills becomes concentrated and condensed. When things become art, they come to be particularly full of expression. There’s nothing mystical about this and this can be said about even the most disenchanted and conceptual art.

Strange Fruits is a macabre work with a triply built-in shock: the constricted clumps of crushed articles of furniture, the gigantic barricade that blocks off the way and blocks off the rest of the room and finally, the rawness in form and the materials that are employed. In order to see the beauty, you’ve got to look the ugliness and brute force right in the eye.

The public space – discreet and spectacular

When we move from the gallery’s space out into the public space, we are presented with different conditions. Bjørn Poulsen’s sculptures in the public space are related to widely different site-specific spaces and are compelled to live up to the special demands of sturdiness. You can actually sit down on many of them, like the stone sculptures at Næstved Gymnasium or the work entitled Ros kilde [The Spring at Ro]. Some of these in-situ works are rather discreet while others are decidedly more spectacular.

One of the more discreet works can be found, paradoxically enough, at one of the most frequented places, namely on Sortedams Dossering in Copenhagen, where people are busy taking their stroll around the Lakes, feeding ducks and jogging. All of them pass Omphalos, which rests on the tree-planted gravel path situated between the banks of the reservoir and the embankment itself, not very far off from Tagensvej. But then again, the work is so discreet that it does not arouse any great deal of attention. Many people see it and it simply merges into the site’s character, but only a very few of the bypassers stop to look at it and only a very few can remember it before it is actively pointed out at the site – then again, many can somehow recall having seen it before. This is a sculpture that is perceived as though it has always been there, as though it were a part of the place itself, in spite of the fact that its material – black granite – really ought to break away from the generally light-colored surroundings.

The sculpture consists of three discs with a smooth cupola at the top. From each one of the discs, cubes jut out, which interrupt the circularity and impart a certain industrial character to the work. The discs are rotated with respect to one another so that they actually fashion a kind of spiral, albeit an irregular one, with differently spaced intervals. At the top, the cupola is not positioned regularly in the center either but is, in fact, displaced a few centimeters. These formal displacements, once again, are as discreet and as inconspicuous as the sculpture itself. Here on Sortedams Dossering, we find the “navel” of the world (omphalos), but this center is black and calm and stands where one least expects it to be.

As a diametrical opposite, Poulsen’s most recent sculpture made for the public space, Vejviseren [Signpost], extends in an audacious and multi-colored way upward and outward above the grass-covered base outside the town hall in Vissenbjerg in Western Funen. You catch sight of this work right away and it makes an immediate impression. The surrounding area is busy with circulating traffic and there’s no place here for the meditative. That’s why a sculpture on this site simply has to tower forth and engender an unambiguous center at its top. With its warm and bright sun-orb hues and its spectacular height, it captures the gaze of everybody who happens to be passing by.

Three courses of movement wind their way, in parallel, up the extension of the column: one with curves, one with bubbles and one with crystal forms – three familiar protagonists in Bjørn Poulsen’s formal language. At the top of the column, these three winding courses ramify into three separate growths, with each one pointing in its own different direction. Thus, the signpost does not point toward one particular place but indicates three individual possibilities for the three forms.

Taken together, the base, the column and the figure constitute a manner of construction with which we are familiar in statues. And we often associate statues with war heroes and dictators, whose intention is to show us the way forward. Vejviseren dismantles this heroism and points toward a sense of doubt and toward the possibility of one finding his/her own way forward as the very premise of contemporary democratic society. And then there is the fact that the sculpture has been made out of ceramic rather than bronze – a more vulnerable material and one that is difficult to control, especially when it is being modeled in a very large scale. Signpost establishes a spectacular center in Vissenbjerg and has already come to be a landmark for the city.

Emotional apparatus

Sculptures do not become expressive on account of a special fervor or spontaneity on the part of the artist. They become expressive through their objective expression. Bjørn Poulsen’s sculptures stand as fine examples of this. The expression is created through constructions of materials, where the materials, the shapes and the contexts that they form in conjunction – spatial, institutional and ideological – engender the complex gestalt that constitutes the works’ expression.

Poulsen himself has spoken about his sculptures as “emotional apparatus”, that is to say, as industrial apparatus, of a kind, that happen to express feelings. If you are still in doubt about how far a machine can express feelings, you only need to look at a robot. But Poulsen’s works are expressing themselves in a different way. Generally speaking, they cannot move around and it is only indirectly that they resemble creatures, people and other organisms. Nonetheless, they manage to give life to the non-living materials.

What we have here, among everything else, is a dialectic between the industrial and the organic that puts the imagination into orbit and it never really lands at a final destination. We are designed and equipped for being able to differentiate between organic living creatures and non-living things and Poulsen’s sculptures can play on this mechanism by being irresolvable and indeterminate hybrids that frighten, bewilder and stimulate our sense of awareness and recognition. This play is concentrated in the accumulation of uniform corporeal fragments rather than a whole organism, especially in the large and overwhelming works.

At the same time that the sculptures speak to our sense of fantasy, they are also utterly concrete physical manifestations at a historical time when the imagination has been more or less handed over to the immaterial and the virtual. They present something that has not been seen before and they render it concrete and tangible. Here, there are also the opportunity to develop one’s own sensibility through perceptual experience and the chance to gain a more comprehensive sense of what one otherwise hasn’t really noticed or, we also could say, the opportunity of turning what is familiar into something strange, so that we can widen our understanding of it. This could apply to everything – spanning from the concretely commonplace, like industrial plastics or mixing bowls, to more general phenomena like space, industry, technology, body, gender, violence and power. The emotional apparatus, then, are also sensory apparatus and thought apparatus. This sensibility is precisely the intertwinement of feeling, sensing and thinking, which characterizes our real mode of recognition and realization.

There is a polysemantic content in Bjørn Poulsen’s sculptures and, ultimately, there is also a potential for critical cognition. This is most apparent in an impetuous work like Strange Fruits, but the tendency can also be seen in many of the other pieces. What appears to be happening at first when the objects of everyday use are destroyed is a stripping down of their utility value. But what is also happening in a broader sense is a symbolic destruction of societal values as they have come to be represented in these objects. Gender roles, overconsumption and power relations are critical to the game but only seldom in the form of polemics or slogans: they emerge here, instead, as part of a process of investigation, an examination transpiring on other premises than those that mark the ordinary discourse in the media and in the life of the society – an aesthetic investigation, where that which is broken down is being built up again into something that is both more impetuous and more beautiful.

translated by Dan A. Marmorstein

Read the text in Danish