HANNE NIELSEN & BIRGIT JOHNSEN _ VIDEORAUM

  DK   UK

 

Camp Kitchen

2014

Single screen video installation - projected with peace lilies in the room 

Duration:  21 min

Format : HD – 50 frames/sec-

Aspect ratio i sheet : 1080x1920

Shuting format: RED camera 4K

Sound. No dialogue.

 

 

Camp Kitchen:

Synops

Camp Kitchen has a kitchen and a staged Western lifestyle as its backdrop: a place to barricade oneself in; protecting against and repressing the world´s problems, while simultaneously maintaining a belief in control.

We stand as spectators in a kitchen scene midway between war and cuisine, where the sound from radio and TV fills the space. In a reaction to the world we are a part of, abrupt and unexpected kitchen scenes pop up.

 

 

 

Camp Kitchen

– altermodernistic activistic

War, Cuisine and Ninja Throwing Cookies

Karin Petersen

 

 At first glance we find ourselves in an American kitchen from

the 1960s. The pop singer Brenda Lee surrounds us, filling the

room with her husky and languorous voice, and inviting us in

with the massive hit You Can Depend on Me from 1962. A delightfully

nostalgic and recognisable meeting with an anachronistic

kitchen, similar to the ones we know from countless

American films. When we hear singing voices, we immediately

assign them in time, body, age, race, ethnicity, and what is more,

class,1 which we convey to the narrative layer in the image: the

apron-clad housewife, probably a wasp (white, Anglo-Saxon

protestant) and middle class, in place in her modern, comfortable

kitchen. A Peace lily is on the table, and everything smells of

peace and no danger. But not for long. We are soon torn away

from our American dream, as Brenda Lee moves aside for the

news from radio and TV, which is definitely neither anachronistic

nor peaceful. It is current news from the world’s many flash

points. On the television, a helicopter is brought to earth; maybe

the Black Hawk which the Taliban shot down in 2013. Now

the kitchen might sooner function as a common camp kitchen; a

camping kitchen which the American prepper2 would be able to

seek refuge in. Apparently there is not only one housewife from

a stereotypical nuclear family present but two women, who are

in the midst of cooking. On the menu is cabbage, Denmark’s

oldest vegetable, so maybe in reality we are merely here at

home.

 

The cabbage is chopped with an excessively large butcher’s

knife, and the sound from the knife changes to almost hyperrealistic

amplified rifle shots. What we thought was a part of the

interior reveals itself to be a roller blind with printed kitchen

motif, and when it is rolled up there is an inferno of burning

fields just outside the kitchen door. The roller blind functions as

an effective screen against reality, because just as soon as it is

rolled up, the surrounding world penetrates the kitchen with

apocalyptic force and we see that the kitchen is located near

a battle zone, similar to Camp Bastion. The helicopter is no

longer merely something one sees on TV or is able to ignore; it

hovers right over our heads causing flour to swirl up from the

table. A desert storm comes blowing in and literally sweeps everything

from the shelves, leaving the kitchen in chaos. Luckily,

with a quick heave on the blind, one can re-establish tranquillity

and order, while Brenda Lee returns soothingly, and the women

quietly and calmly tidy up.

 

We experience five episodes in this way, following the same pattern:

when the roller blind goes up, all hell breaks loose. The

buns in the oven catch fire, the kitchen machinery goes amok,

dishwater froths up, cans of produce explode, and order is restored

after each episode. But a development happens nonetheless.

Where the women in the first episode are passive and

almost anonymous, they become more and more lucid, outspoken

and active as the episodes progress.

In episode two, where there is most definitely smoke in the

kitchen, we see them for the first time close up, and we now see

that it is the artists themselves who have chosen to act. The

black aprons are held up protectively in front of brow and

mouth, and it is difficult to determine whether they are actual

burkas or, indeed, whether we are perhaps amongst insurgents

on television in Gaza or Egypt.

 

In episode three we get even closer, also in a figuratively empathic

sense. We see that one woman has a picture of a young

soldier dressed in military uniform in her purse, and we see that

on the wall there hangs a cutting of the Pakistani schoolgirl

Malala Yousafzai, while simultaneously on the TV there is a debate

on women’s rights. The peace prize-winning Malala survived

an assassination attempt by the Taliban, and has since become

an icon for the right of girls to education, under the motto:

“Knowledge is also a weapon”.

 

In episode four, the media images provoke a reaction from the

women. When the kitchen becomes a war zone with desert

sand and explosions, the women transform themselves into action

heroes and begin to mobilise. Cookies are cut out using

ninja baking tins and become real ninja throwing stars when

they are used. They are placed in military-style tin lunchboxes,

which are stockpiled for shipping, while at the same time honey

bombs are stocked into a large, metal field box, also ready to be

sent to the front: a female–political battleground. Now the Russian,

feminist punk collective Pussy Riot can be heard, with their

activistic call to arms for all housewives, taken from their song

 

Kropotkin Vodka:

Occupy the city

with a frying pan

Go out with the vacuum cleaner

Get off on it

 

In the fifth and final episode, a curious dish of omelette and

finely chopped beetroot is flambéed, forming – together with a

ring of caviar – an imaginary national flag. In the second round,

the symbolic flag burning catches hold of both the tea towel

and the Peace lily on the table. The fire is extinguished, and the

peace lily is dried carefully, as if a possible comment on fanatical

flag burning against freedom of speech – all while we zoom

in on the concluding TV sequence, the legendary The Kitchen

Debate, and Brenda Lee assures us that we can still trust in her.

 

The kitchen debate. The former American Vice President Richard

Nixon and the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev held a cultural

exchange meeting at the American embassy in Moscow on

the 24th of July 1959. The Americans were the hosts and had, in

order to illustrate the blessings of capitalist society, constructed

a copy of a modern American suburban house. The Cold War

and its ideological, political and cultural quarrel between capitalism

and communism has become synonymous with Nixon

and Khrushchev’s view of the world, as it is mirrored here in the

model kitchen. At one point in the debate the following exchange

takes place on how one ought to furnish the modern

kitchen in order to make life as easy as possible for women. Nixon

proudly presents the dishwasher and refrigerator, and exclaims

that in the USA all women would be able to afford such

technological wonders. Khrushchev is not so impressed:

 

“Nixon: I want to show you this kitchen. It is like those of

our houses in California.

[Nixon points to dishwasher.]

Khrushchev: We have such things.

Nixon: This is our newest model. This is the kind which

is built in thousands of units for direct installations in the

houses. In America, we like to make life easier for women…

Khrushchev: Your capitalistic attitude toward women

does not occur under Communism.”3

 

So when the women in Camp Kitchen work together in the

kitchen, it can be seen as both a comment on the communist

construction of gender, which led to the setting up of kitchen

collectives,4 and a comment on the feministic critique of patriarchal

constructions, which grew in the Western world after the

1960s, and which in many ways resembled and took inspiration

from Trotsky’s analyses of the oppression of women as a class

who are forced to carry out unpaid household work. Feministic

video artists and their works, for example Judy Chicago’s The

Dinner Party from 1974, Martha Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen

from 1975, or the more recent collective work The HouseWORK

project from 2003, investigate the everyday, domesticated

space with the camera, especially the kitchen.

 

Intransitivity and political art.

 

Where these works to a large extent

thematise the female body, the male view, the housewife

role, the female stereotype, and so on, Camp Kitchen has a

more direct activistic agenda. It is by far one of the most politically

expressive works we have seen from Hanne Nielsen and

Birgit Johnsen: a call to arms for sisterly solidarity and active

participation in the political struggles of other strong women,

such as Malala Yousafzai and Pussy Riot. But the video work is

still a stylised artwork and not a slogan. It still regards itself as

art, intransitive to the political. According to the aesthetic theorist

Morten Kyndrup, if one stretches the political in front of the

artwork, one makes the work ‘transitive’; that is, purposive, to a

means. On the other hand, intransitive art in itself contains a

promise of, and referral to, a commonality, which in a fundamental

sense is ‘political’5.

 

“In a certain sense, all art is political. But art should not recreate

a social convention of reality; on the contrary, it should experiment

with modes of expression, plasticity, sense perception and

expectations with reference to grasping or showing reality in a

specific perspective, and in a particular stylised form. In the artistic

experiment, new modalities for our comprehension of the

world around us, including ourselves, are created and developed”,

as Mikkel Bogh formulates it.6

 

Thus Camp Kitchen enrols itself in a modernistic endeavour by

allowing the world to appear as a shock to the viewer, avoiding

well-known, safe interpretations and, for example, allowing ordinary

everyday objects, such as cans, to mutate into grenades.

 

Phenomenological, traumatic and performative realism.

 

Camp Kitchen is not realistic in a documental sense, such as

Defense Against the Unpredictable; nor is it a work where the

middle ground between fiction and documentary is indefinable,

such as we often see in newer art. We are never in doubt

that here the idea we are dealing with is stylised construction,

even though it is mixed with the everyday medial context

from radio and TV. We see only vague, stylised outlines of the

women, and the roller blind serves as an obvious Verfremdung

attribute, which we recognise from Bertolt Brecht’s epic

theatre, demonstrating clearly that we are now opening up

Pandora’s Box and letting the world around us force its way in

with destructive energy and in grotesque ways, simultaneously

investing the work with a large portion of humour.

 

However, the work enrols itself in a new realistic tradition, in

that it subscribes to various newer forms of realism. The work

identifies strongly with the ’50s modernistic form experiments

that are expressed, for example, by the writer/author Alain

Robbe-Grillet. He shows things as they are experienced by a

consciousness. In this way he can de-realise the world instead

of making it recognisable. Britta Timm Knudsen7 calls this mo-

dus phenomenological realism. When we encounter the world,

we project ourselves out in it, and we record it in us. Our view

goes via the cultural images which Camp Kitchen is a clear

example of.

 

Likewise, Robbe-Grillet’s principal of composition is very

close to what we encounter in the video work, namely the circular

flow and the repetitive. With each new slow pan around

the Peace Lily, cracks immediately appear between the repetitions,

letting in the catastrophic events which are similar to

what we find in Andy Warhol’s Death and Disaster series; for

example, Ambulance Disaster from 1963. It is in the cracks between

the repetitions that the real,8 in the form of a traumatic,

pre-language reality based around angst, desperation, anger

and powerlessness – which we do not have words for – can

seep into the female bodies, causing them to react. We are

simply affected by the world directly through images, which

master us in this way. The new forms of realism do not differentiate

between medial and authentic reality; on the contrary,

TV and other media enter as a natural part of reality. Because

of this, there is also good reason to mention both inclusion

and exclusion.

 

It is, however, liberating that Camp Kitchen is not satisfied

with silently pointing at the trauma, as in many contemporary

works. Rather, one can instead mention a performative realism,

which is yet another new form of realism, and which

binds on to more recent interventional art. One speaks of a

performative turn, which the German professor of theatre

studies Erika Fischer-Lichte believes is the result of the development

art has gone through since the ’60s in the form of

happenings, situationism, fluxus, performance art, action art,

and minimalism, and which points forward to contemporary

relational art, where the status of the viewer increases by being

not merely sentient and thinking, but openly active.9 It is

this will to action and dialogue which Camp Kitchen aims to

bring to the viewer.

 

Altermodernistic art.

 

Nicolas Bourriaud, who is most wellknown

for his articles concerning relational aesthetics,10 has

coined the phrase altermodern11 in connection with an exhibition

of the same name at Tate Britain in 2009, and which he

believes can include art and the whole of modernism and

post-colonialism after the new zero point in the death of

postmodernism. Alter means the other, the different, the alternative,

and can be described as a modernism without

roots, without a centre but with a global dialogue. The term is

not weighted down by nostalgia or nationalism, but is open to

chaos and complexity. Thus altermodernistic art investigates

the present from all other times and places. It migrates, so to

speak, and expands the narrative in that way to a greater

global and time-related context.

 

On the basis of this it is natural to call Camp Kitchen altermodernistic.

One is led around through many realities and

many geographic times at once, and the viewer often loses

his/her orientation: Are we in the USA in the ’60s, in present

day Denmark or the Egypt of the future? But what binds the

altermodernistic works together is the will to create global

networks and find meaning across national boundaries.

 

The culinary film. In conclusion, it makes sense to turn to the

Austrian avant-garde musician and filmmaker Peter Kubelka,

who, since the ’60s, has worked with modernistic experiments

in film. In an attempt to explain cinematic perception, he has

introduced the term the edible metaphor. By this he literally

means that “anyone who makes movies should also cook”.

Because, as he further adds:

“Cooking is humans’ most ancient creative activity. In cooking

people express their vision of the world12. Cooking is a performative

art, food and cooking are the origin of art and culture,

a form of communication”.

 

Cooking is a performative art form, and a highly effectual

mode of communication; something we are firmly convinced

of in Camp Kitchen.

 

His culinary film must not be confused with culinary peepshow

theatre, where one as a viewer allows oneself to be seduced

by the illusion of the theatre. Peter Kubelka’s intention

is the opposite of this. In the culinary film the viewer should

be activated, be able to taste a film and, through this, activate

all senses as one. We should be able to feel the flour on the

teeth when it whirls up above our head, and feel the smoke in

our eyes. At the same time the term “edible” sounds somewhat

like “edit”: “cooking speaks on the power of people to

edit what seems unedible.”

 

In Kubelka’s 13-minute-long film “Dichtung und Wahrheit”

(Poetry and Truth) from 2003, 12 narratives are told in 12 repeated

sequences with a serial development, somewhat similar

to what we find in Camp Kitchen. At one point in one of

the takes, an enigmatic glimpse of “Wahrheit” falls on people,

dogs, buckets and pasta. This moment of truth transforms

them to pure ‘Dichtung’ – a bucket glows from within, a woman’s

smile turns to terror – only to just as suddenly return to

their normal selves. He believes this transformation – alternation

– is valid to every social existence:

 

“By extension, this precise and endlessly repeated alternation

would be the basic behavioural cell that can be used to understand

all forms of social existence.”13

 

This is to be understood in the way that the shift between representation

and presentation gives precisely “additional surplus

truth-of-matter”, the kernel of truth, which allows us to

experience an enigmatic moment of insight, an alternation,

where a tin can in a split-second can mutate into a grenade,

or a peaceful housewife transform into a lethal warrior.

 

So, take cover! Anyone involved in the oppression of women,

group rapists, Cold War apologists and fanatics the world

over, watch out you don’t get a ninja throwing cookie in the

neck.

 

 

1 See Ansa Lønstrup: Stemmen og øret – studier i vokalitet og auditiv kultur,

Klim 2004. 2 A prepper is prepared for the eventuality that society

might collapse as a result of an impending catastrophe, and that it is up to

the individuals to prepare themselves and defend themselves by all means.

3 A transcription of the entire Kitchen Debate can be found at http://

teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/the-kitchen-debate/ 4 See

Christina Kiær: “Konstruktivistiske objekter og kønskonstruktioner”, in Periskop

– forum for kunsthistorisk debat # 7, 1999. 5 See http://kunstdebatten.

dk/hvordan-gar-det-i-ægteskabet-mellem-kunst-og-æstetik/ 6 In “For

en udvidelse af kampzonen: Kunstkritik som kulturkamp”, in Turbulens, 1.

10. 2005. 7 In “Realismer i 50érne - visualitet, affekt og traumer i den ny

roman”, in the anthology Virkelighed, virkelighed! – Avantgardens realisme,

edited by Mette Sandbye & Karin Petersen, Tiderne Skifter 2003. 8 For further

details see Hal Foster: The Return of the Real, MIT Press, 1996. 9 See

Solveig Gade: Intervention & kunst – socialt og politisk engagement i samtidskunsten,

Rævens

Sorte Bibl. 2010. 10 Relationel æstetik, Det Kongelige

Danske Kunstakademi,

2005. 11 The exhibition is curated by Bourriaud

himself, who has also written the article Altermodern for the catalogue.

12 See http://bampfa.berkeley.edu/film/FN11261 13 See Alexander Howarth:

“This Side of Paradise: Peter Kubelka’s Poetry and Truth”, at http://

www.filmcomment.com/article/this-side-of-paradise-peter-kubelkas-poetry-

and-truth.

 

 

Karin Petersen has an MA in Music and Literature, and is a Part-time Lecturer

at the Department of Aesthetics and Communication – Aesthetics and

Culture, Aarhus University. She has participated in the research projects

“Moderne Æstetisk Teori” (Modern Aesthetic Theory) and “Realitet, realisme,

det reelle i visuel optic” (Reality, Realism, the Real in Visual Optics).

 

At first glance we find ourselves in an American kitchen from
the 1960s. The pop singer Brenda Lee surrounds us, filling the
room with her husky and languorous voice, and inviting us in
with the massive hit You Can Depend on Me from 1962. A delightfully
nostalgic and recognisable meeting with an anachronistic
kitchen, similar to the ones we know from countless
American films. When we hear singing voices, we immediately
assign them in time, body, age, race, ethnicity, and what is more,
class,1 which we convey to the narrative layer in the image: the
apron-clad housewife, probably a wasp (white, Anglo-Saxon
protestant) and middle class, in place in her modern, comfortable
kitchen. A Peace lily is on the table, and everything smells of
peace and no danger. But not for long. We are soon torn away
from our American dream, as Brenda Lee moves aside for the
news from radio and TV, which is definitely neither anachronistic
nor peaceful. It is current news from the world’s many flash
points. On the television, a helicopter is brought to earth; maybe
the Black Hawk which the Taliban shot down in 2013. Now
the kitchen might sooner function as a common camp kitchen; a
camping kitchen which the American prepper2 would be able to
seek refuge in. Apparently there is not only one housewife from
a stereotypical nuclear family present but two women, who are
in the midst of cooking. On the menu is cabbage, Denmark’s
oldest vegetable, so maybe in reality we are merely here at
home.
The cabbage is chopped with an excessively large butcher’s
knife, and the sound from the knife changes to almost hyperrealistic
amplified rifle shots. What we thought was a part of the
interior reveals itself to be a roller blind with printed kitchen
motif, and when it is rolled up there is an inferno of burning
fields just outside the kitchen door. The roller blind functions as
an effective screen against reality, because just as soon as it is
rolled up, the surrounding world penetrates the kitchen with
apocalyptic force and we see that the kitchen is located near
 
At first glance we find ourselves in an American kitchen from
the 1960s. The pop singer Brenda Lee surrounds us, filling the
room with her husky and languorous voice, and inviting us in
with the massive hit You Can Depend on Me from 1962. A delightfully
nostalgic and recognisable meeting with an anachronistic
kitchen, similar to the ones we know from countless
American films. When we hear singing voices, we immediately
assign them in time, body, age, race, ethnicity, and what is more,
class,1 which we convey to the narrative layer in the image: the
apron-clad housewife, probably a wasp (white, Anglo-Saxon
protestant) and middle class, in place in her modern, comfortable
kitchen. A Peace lily is on the table, and everything smells of
peace and no danger. But not for long. We are soon torn away
from our American dream, as Brenda Lee moves aside for the
news from radio and TV, which is definitely neither anachronistic
nor peaceful. It is current news from the world’s many flash
points. On the television, a helicopter is brought to earth; maybe
the Black Hawk which the Taliban shot down in 2013. Now
the kitchen might sooner function as a common camp kitchen; a
camping kitchen which the American prepper2 would be able to
seek refuge in. Apparently there is not only one housewife from
a stereotypical nuclear family present but two women, who are
in the midst of cooking. On the menu is cabbage, Denmark’s
oldest vegetable, so maybe in reality we are merely here at
home.
The cabbage is chopped with an excessively large butcher’s
knife, and the sound from the knife changes to almost hyperrealistic
amplified rifle shots. What we thought was a part of the
interior reveals itself to be a roller blind with printed kitchen
motif, and when it is rolled up there is an inferno of burning
fields just outside the kitchen door. The roller blind functions as
an effective screen against reality, because just as soon as it is
rolled up, the surrounding world penetrates the kitchen with
apocalyptic force and we see that the kitchen is located near
At first glance we find ourselves in an American kitchen from
the 1960s. The pop singer Brenda Lee surrounds us, filling the
room with her husky and languorous voice, and inviting us in
with the massive hit You Can Depend on Me from 1962. A delightfully
nostalgic and recognisable meeting with an anachronistic
kitchen, similar to the ones we know from countless
American films. When we hear singing voices, we immediately
assign them in time, body, age, race, ethnicity, and what is more,
class,1 which we convey to the narrative layer in the image: the
apron-clad housewife, probably a wasp (white, Anglo-Saxon
protestant) and middle class, in place in her modern, comfortable
kitchen. A Peace lily is on the table, and everything smells of
peace and no danger. But not for long. We are soon torn away
from our American dream, as Brenda Lee moves aside for the
news from radio and TV, which is definitely neither anachronistic
nor peaceful. It is current news from the world’s many flash
points. On the television, a helicopter is brought to earth; maybe
the Black Hawk which the Taliban shot down in 2013. Now
the kitchen might sooner function as a common camp kitchen; a
camping kitchen which the American prepper2 would be able to
seek refuge in. Apparently there is not only one housewife from
a stereotypical nuclear family present but two women, who are
in the midst of cooking. On the menu is cabbage, Denmark’s
oldest vegetable, so maybe in reality we are merely here at
home.
The cabbage is chopped with an excessively large butcher’s
knife, and the sound from the knife changes to almost hyperrealistic
amplified rifle shots. What we thought was a part of the
interior reveals itself to be a roller blind with printed kitchen
motif, and when it is rolled up there is an inferno of burning
fields just outside the kitchen door. The roller blind functions as
an effective screen against reality, because just as soon as it is
rolled up, the surrounding world penetrates the kitchen with
apocalyptic force and we see that the kitchen is located near

Scripted and directed by

Hanne Nielsen & Birgit Johnsen

Cast

Hanne Nielsen & Birgit Johnsen

DOP

Erik Zappon

Photographer/Steadycam:  

Anders Holck Petersen / Red Rental

B - Photographer: 

Anne Skamris

Production coordinator

Karin Petersen

Light

Anders Agerbo / Paravision

Special Effects

Søren Haraldsted / FX TEAM

Sound

Erik Olsen / Olsen Lydproduktion

Edit

Hanne Nielsen & Birgit Johnsen

Soundscape and Sound edit

Søren Bendz / Soundmill

Color grading

Steen Linde / Picturewise

Motion Design | VFX

Henrik Schødt/Illusion Media ApS

Rodrigo Fiallega

Production assistants

Rasmus Ott

Anne Line Bugge

Maja Bak Herrie

Karl Svendsen

Makeup

Britt Morsing

Clearance coordinator

Karin Petersen

Music

"You Can Depend on Me" 

Written by Charles Carpenter/Louis Dunlap/Earl Hines,

performed by Brenda Lee on "Brenda, That's All", 1962.

Courtesy of Peer Music AB

and Universal Music Group

 

 

“The artists have made their best effort to clear the rights of all media footage. 

 We greatfully acknowledge:

The Richard Nixon Foundation/The National Archives, USA for "The Kitchen Debate"/ Nixon-Khruschchev Moscow Debate

 

We also greatfully acknowledge: 

Saif Hurria/YouTube, Revolution of Homs/YouTube, Souria Archives/YouTube, Alex Espejo Gomez/YouTube, SyrianDaysof Rage/YouTube, BraveNew Films/Brave New Foundation /YouTube, Tsiyonut times/YouTube, Bydesign001/YouTube, SBS Australia /Journeyman Pictures/YouTube, QuitisNotAnOption/YouTube, qWinner/Kvinfo/YouTube, Pussy Riots/Open Culture/YouTube,The Richard NixonFoundation/YouTube, Stefhoffer/  Pond5, Pukhammet/  Pond5, Mediafarmer/ Pond5, Can Stock Photo Inc/  kunstner , angellos/shutterstock.com

 

 

 

Sponsors:

Jesper Søbjørn / Damolin 

Preben Kristensen  

PS Gardiner

 

 

We wish to thank

Peter Albrecht / W. Oschätzchen, Simon Sjøgaard, Franka Broby Olsen, Per Broby Olsen, Ole Schultz Larsen, Johan Severin Schultz Larsen, Maja Bak Herrie, Anne Line Bugge, Rasmus Ott, Sindre Lindal

 

Produced with the support from:

Aarhus Kulturudviklings pulje.

 

A video by

Hanne Nielsen and Birgit Johnsen 

copyright 2014