Starry skies, rays of light and the interior of an atom. A special display of selected works from the ARKEN collection focuses on our urge to see connections between the infinitely large and the infinitely small.

14 November 2020 to 28 March 2021


Marie Kølbæk Iversen, Nine Bats, 2016. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Delving into the ARKEN collection, From a Grain of Dust to Cosmos presents works that examine the relationship between humanity, nature and technology while challenging all these categories and the distinctions between them. Art has always poked and prodded at our ideas about ourselves, asking what kind of place we can and should occupy in the world. In this exhibition, art queries our very existence and our yearning for the stars.

The word cosmos is of ancient Greek origin, referring to the idea of a connection between everything. The Greek philosopher Pythagoras was the first to use the term ‘cosmos’ about the universe. He believed that all natural phenomena, from the stars in outer space to the patterns of a leaf, could be understood through the science of geometry. Yet even today, after the development of many new scientific methods, natural phenomena such as ‘dark matter’ still remain a mystery. The unsolved riddles of the world and universe are deeply engaging, spurring humankind on to imaginative feats, and in this exhibition a range of artists examine how we humans use a range of different scales and techniques to comprehend the world around us.

The themes of the exhibition are hugely topical. The current climate crisis and the global pandemic remind us of nature’s unruly forces and of how we affect each other and our surroundings. The special display takes visitors on a wide-ranging journey of discovery, venturing out into space and into the inner ear, showing how art grapples with the realms of physics, astronomy and biology. The sixteen artists explore the world around us through camera-less photographs, video works and light installations, making us reflect on the grander schemes of things.

Biosonic echo

Marie Kølbæk Iversen’s artwork Nine Bats is a minimalist sculpture with built-in microphones that record sounds in the vicinity of the installation and cause LED tubes to emit a flickering light onto the walls and floors. Your mere presence therefore activates a landscape of light. The title of the work Nine Bats, refers to a research project carried out at the departments of Biology and Biochemistry & molecular biology at The University of Southern Denmark. Here the artist co-operated with a team of researchers on visually charting the movements of bats – just as the installation responds to our movements. This interactive aspect points towards the invisible connections between us and the world around us. In this work, man and sculpture are connected, and we are reminded that we are part of the ecosystems that surround us.

Outer space – inner ear

Lea Porsager’s video work Disrupted E(ar)thereal Fantasy (Ova Splash) is an alluring mish-mash of circular movements and images floating among each other. We are sucked into and out of a body. Erotic sequences of a naked female body are combined with gel-like 3D-animated elements. Abstractions based on a human ear float side by side with round shapes that move in the same way as microscopic viruses or atoms. The body in the work caresses itself, sucking on an egg-like organ that ejaculates liquid. Porsager’s video and installation Space-Time Foam invite us to take a sensuous, organic, and erotic journey away from the realm of the rational sciences and thought processes that govern our everyday lives.


Lea Porsager, Disrupted E(ar)thereal Fantasy (Ova Splash), 2016 and Space-Time Foam, 2016. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Nanna Debois Buhl, intervals and forms of stones of stars, 2017. Humboldt Books

Stars and stones

Nanna Debois Buhl’s photography project intervals and form of stones of stars is based on the Art Island as a specific, manmade biotope. The photographs are ‘camera-less’ prints, based on the photographic methods of William Henry Fox Talbot and August Strindberg in the1840s and 1890s. They have been taken without a photographic lens, using only light and photosensitive surfaces. In different ways they chart the flora, fauna, and particles of the biotope. In the micrograph the wing of an insect is captured by a microscopic lens. In the photogram wiry grass is placed directly on photographic paper, which is then exposed to light. In the celestograph grains of dust and sand leave direct traces as they drift across the photosensitive paper.

The exhibition is part of the research project From a Grain of Dust to the Cosmos. The project investigated the collection of ARKEN and was generously supported by the research committee of the Cultural Ministry. The research is presented in a special edition of the research journal ARKEN Bulletin which can be bought in the gift shop or accessed online on ARKENs website.