Updated: Feb 18
Walking down the red carpet is kind of an extraordinary experience, one might think. Well, walking down the red carpet and being met by a funny smell in the dark hallway is no less extraordinary if one is seeking authentic experiences. In the shabby former military barrack upstairs there is a quirky exhibition called “Going Down Getting High – and the Helpless Spectator”.
No, this is not staged by a wealthy gallery, where we go for a glass of champagne and the well-known names, sometimes without a clear understanding of the conception and value of the art on display. This time I’m literally stepping into the reality of the residents of Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen, Denmark (also, without a clear understanding of the conception and the value of the art on display as there is no sign about the show).
No description by the entrance. A home-like living room and a tiny bar suggest it's a space for social gatherings of individuals that enjoy organic tea "Pukka" and are avid beer drinkers. There is no one to offer a sip to me so I proceed with this curious tour. My eye gets caught by a few stacks of colourful posters mostly made for the anniversaries of Christiania, the neighbourhood that declared its independence from the authorities of Copenhagen in 1971.
"Don't you be afraid, it's one of the safest neighbourhoods in town" I remember the guide saying. These days all the hippies, punks, homeless people and other rebels of the free town are back under the common Danish law. Well, I can see they clearly are: the road nearby is full of the police raiding something! Anyway, back to the show.
The exhibition “Going Down Getting High – and the Helpless Spectator” explores the feelings and experiences of the people that have life-threatening addictions as well as the impact on their beloved ones.
One should watch out for the dead bodies and suffering faces which appear in the form of installation and painting. They get even scarier when it dawns on me it's the real deal. There are no faked emotions, the artworks scream about the pain and emptiness caused by drug abuse.
Leah Robb’s oil painting “The Inner Scream” has a message next to it: “When messages from your loved one cause the already fragile relationship to crumble, releasing the inner screams.”
I linger in front of it for a while just to imagine how much pain those inner demons might inflict. Stepping into the shoes of people with addictions isn’t that hard of a job as not only them, every single one of us has that dark space within, filled with ghosts and different kind of addictions which are ripping the wholesome existence apart.
The labyrinth behind the glittering curtains gives me an understanding what people with addictions are going through.
SPOILER ALERT... Read on if you're not planning on going to Christiania.
It seems fun at the beginning: I pass by the Superman installation, proceed to the colourful disco area, where David Bowie's "Heroes" is being played – I love this! Curtain after the curtain, the music dies away and soon it gets dark and confusing: a few human body parts lie in the corner, no light whatsoever, I get caught in the rags, have no idea how to find the way out of it, what a nonsense!!
No matter how lost in the labyrinth one can be, there is always hope. Just rip the hell those dusty rags and get out! Then go on chasing your truest dreams. Remember those long forgotten visions of happiness?
These can be written on the beans of Leah Robb’s interactive installation “Wish upon a Bean” (2018) and then be put in the iron pods that are attached with wires to the wooden ceiling. So many wishes of love, trust, courage, self-control, peace and others are already resting in those pods…
Pusher street, 1440 Copenhagen, Denmark