Listen to the calls of extinct birds and meet strange mutants from distant galaxies. At ARKEN's outdoor summer exhibition, three artists invite you to discover worlds of abundant imagination and transformations.

13 May to 19 September 2021


Ann Lislegaard, Messages (still), 2020. Photo: Ann Lislegaard

A ghost opera, pollen clouds, earthbound creates and planets knocked off course. At a time when reality can feel like a sci-fi movie, ARKEN gazes into possible futures with the imaginings of artists Ann Lislegaard, Rolf Nowotny and Amalie Jakobsen. The works presented at this year’s outdoor summer exhibition invite us into worlds full of transformations, hope and sorrow. They revolve around the beautiful, the fragile and the frightening found in nature’s mutations and the changing world.

Rolf Nowotny, Dementia (installation view), 2019. Photo: David Dale Gallery, Glasgow

Is there life on Mars? David Bowie asked in his known song from 1971. 50 years later we are still hunting traces of life in outer space, while desperately trying to control life on Earth and erase all traces of our passage hand sanitiser, social distancing and contamination monitoring. At the same time global warming, collapsing ecosystems and a mutating coronavirus have made it only too clear that the evolution of human beings and other species is closely entwined. Humanity’s imprints can be found everywhere – even in the deepest layers of the earth. These days, it is clear how we affect and are affected by animals, bees, plants, bacteria and viruses. The virus, entirely invisible to the naked eye, has turned our everyday lives upside down.

ARKEN’s outdoor exhibition Life Trails presents works by artists Ann Lislegaard, Rolf Nowotny and Amalie Jakobsen, addressing the traces that human beings and other species leave within each other’s spheres and life-worlds. Taking their starting points in sci-fi, mysticism and science, the three artists tell poetic and poignant stories about the interaction between humans, the environment, technology and other species.

Cross-pollinations and imbalances

The works presented in the exhibition take us to parallel realities, galaxies and times when boundaries between species become blurred, new hybrids are born and nature changes. In Extinction (2020-21), Lislegaard fuses past and future together by animating the landscape with the calls of extinct bird species. In the video work Messages (2020), Lislegaard has created a narrative in which large clouds of pollen have begun to bond with human DNA. Here we meet a cyborg poised somewhere between humanoid, technology and plants, speaking about its existence in a flourishing underworld.

Nowotny’s immersive installation DOLDRUM (2018-21) takes us to an alien planet where other life forms and communities make their home. In this surreal universe, monstrous creatures large and small swarm out of mysterious caves to settle in the landscape.

In Suffocating Air (2020) by Jakobsen, the solar system has been knocked off course. The monumental sculpture consists of an array of elliptical steel plates pointing in different directions while seemingly heading up towards the skies above. Painted with powdered, blue-green diatom algae, the sculpture heralds man-made imbalances in the world’s oceans and in outer space.

It is all about expansion, invasion and coexistence between species. The narratives of these works blur the boundaries we tend to set up between ourselves and the outside world. The artists open up new imaginaries about the creative forces and evolution of life at a time when life feels uncertain and the future looks fragile.

Art in Sunshine

Life Trails is the seventh in a series of outdoor exhibitions, Art in Sunshine, which invites you to explore art on the island around ARKEN. Using the museum’s man-made landscape as their setting, these exhibitions address contemporary art’s involvement in ecological and existential issues.

Learn more about ARKEN’s sculpture park here.


Amalie Jakobsen, Suffocating Air, 2020. Arken Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Frida Gregersen