Jani Leinonen - School of disobedience
19 MARCH UNTIL 12 JUNE 2016, LEVEL 5
World-famous brands and logos receive special treatment in the SCHOOL OF DISOBEDIENCE. Equal amounts of humour and gravitas come into play when the Finnish artist Jani Leinonen shines a light on the injustices of the world in his first exhibition in Denmark.
The exhibition SCHOOL OF DISOBEDIENCE by Jani Leinonen (b. 1978) is part of ARoS FOCUS // NEW NORDIC. In this exhibition, Leinonen focuses on how art can work as a catalyst for political activism. He is renowned for decapitating the world-famous mascot Ronald McDonald and for recreating famous logos and brands by inserting his own messages into them.
‘Leinonen uses his art to shed light on conditions within society which he thinks need changing. For Leinonen, it’s basically about not being passive and not accepting social injustice. He sees himself more as an activist and a watchdog than a traditional artist, the term disobedience being a central point in his work,’ says Lise Pennington, senior curator at ARoS.
Jani Leinonen speaks of disobedience, quoting the American historian and political scientist Howard Zinn (1922-2010):
‘The most atrocious events in world history such as wars, genocide, and slavery did not result from disobedience, but from obedience and subjugation.
SET-UP OF THE EXHIBITION
The exhibition takes up three rooms in the gallery on Level 5. In the first room, the viewer is presented with well-known brands, logos, and slogans, all containing political and religious undertones. Several versions of the clown Ronald McDonald – including the decapitated version – can be experienced in this room.
The second room features an installation (or set piece) referring to a campaign from 2011 where Jani Leinonen rebelled against a Hungarian law making it illegal to sleep in the streets; a law that would affect many homeless people. Leinonen’s fictitious burger bar Hunger King was a statement which, among other things, drew attention to the gap between rich and poor.
In the third exhibition room, a school bell sounds – and in Leinonen’s class, disobedience is on the timetable. The installation is set up in the style of a classroom where viewers, via a screen, can be taught ‘lessons’ from a number of prominent Danes. The room is intended to provide food for thought and act as a space for critical thinking where the discourse of power is questioned.
THE DANISH TEACHERS OF DISOBEDIENCE
When exhibiting his classroom abroad, Jani Leinonen always gets local ‘activists’ involved, turning the event into a social project powered by the community. The Danish teachers are:
Emma Holten: Feminist and debater. In 2011, Holten fell victim to online revenge porn, and has since succeeded in turning the situation into a debate on personal rights, online rights, and, not least, about an individual who has lost confidence in the state.
Robert Olsen: Head of Kofoeds Skole, a humanitarian organisation. He has spent many years working with homeless people, drug addicts, and other vulnerable groups.
Parl Kristian Bjørn Vester / Goodiepal or Gæoudjiparl: Musician, composer, and techno warrior. He talks about the conflict between generations and the ability for critical thought regarding prevailing norms, structures, and rules.
Lisbeth Zornig Andersen: For many years, Andersen has worked with various socially vulnerable groups focusing on children's rights. She has aided Syrian refugees in getting from Denmark to Sweden and has become an example of how civil disobedience can make a difference, but also how it can lead to prosecution.
Kjartan Arngrim: Musician in the band Folkeklubben. Their songs describe many different aspects of Danish society: a bar on Vesterbro, homeless people’s Christmas party, the Tønder Festival, and Mændenes Hjem (the Men’s Home).
Curators-in-charge: Lise Pennington, senior curator and Jakob Vengberg Sevel, curator, both ARoS.
Udstillingsansvarlig: overinspektør Lise Pennington og museumsinspektør Jakob Vengberg Sevel, ARoS
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