IN CONVERSATION - ALBERT GRØNDAHL

On the occasion of Brigade’s current exhibition with Albert Grøndahl (b. 1985), ‘Things Fall Apart; The Centre Cannot Hold’, we asked Grøndahl a few questions about the exhibition’s title, his interest in Rome’s enclosed gardens, and his distinctive use of photographic techniques.

How did you decide on the title of the exhibition; 'Things Fall Apart; The Centre Cannot Hold'?

W.B Yeats wrote the poem ‘The Second Coming’ in 1921 where he uses Christian imagery to allegorically describe a certain atmosphere relating to Postwar Europe. I’m fascinated by this quote in relation to the overall collapse happening in society at the moment. But it’s not only from an outer perspective, it’s also an inner collapse referring to the human mind. I find an acceptance in the title, and I like to see it in the light of optimism as well, that we agree upon a certain state, but we also rise and try to heal from it.


In my case I wrote a book: ‘A City Behind the Forest’, (Witty Books, 2021) the book explores, through own photographs and archival material, the psychiatric environment at Aarhus Psychiatric Hospital 1852-2018. During this period of producing this work, my twin brother was also diagnosed. Furthermore, the exhibition is in close connection to the garden Hortus Conclusus which I’m constructing at Museum Ovartaci in Aarhus, a garden inspired by the medieval concept of enclosed monastery gardens. As the garden will open in spring 2023, the garden will be managed by former and present psychiatric users. The garden stands as a mirror, using historical references and a medieval system of gardening as well as an inspiration to strengthen our healing of the mind. It is also a gesture of giving back, making a difference within an environment in need as well as its an eternal symbol for what’s broken as well as it is a physical space for reflection.


The exhibition emerges from your interest and research into the psychological impact nature can have on the human mind, more specifically the enclosed gardens of Medieval Rome, known as hortus conclusus. Why did you find these gardens an important subject to explore?

I think it’s important because we stand in the middle of collapse. In the psychiatric environment where my paths have been crossing for a while now, new understandings need to be established in order to define the future, here I have found it fascinating to go back and use historical traces as a way to broaden my own perspective, a perspective I would like to share with the viewer. Humans have always used storytelling to accept and understand the chaos around us, this lies within history, and I have connotations of that within the works installed at the exhibition.


The work '18-27-2' (2022) depicts Hadrian's Villa, also known as Villa Adriana, in Rome. What is the story behind this work?

I was there during a heavy thunderstorm; it was pouring heavy rain and the rather well-visited place was suddenly empty, and I had it all to myself for a few hours. I sat down, and I just kept looking, it somehow gave me an enormous breath, as if time and history came up from the ground.


The silver emulsion works have their roots in your photographic practice, yet don't immediately translate as photographs, they almost bear more resemblance to paintings. Could you describe the technique behind these works?

Its photographic emulsion transferred and illuminated in the darkroom on leaf silver and gold or simply linen. I have always produced my photographic work in the darkroom, where I have always had a fascination with time as well as the mineral aspects of photography, such as silver as all analogue photographic material contains silver. Photography is fascinating because it encapsulates a moment in reality, a meeting with a place or a person, but I find a weakness in the fact that this unique moment it departs from is then reproduced instead of being singular. All my works within this exhibition departs from a photographic negative representing a unique experience, something I saw or lived through. The photographic negative is a small impact on a great timeline within my own archive, a unique singular experience. As I use this negative in an artwork, I wish to pass on this singularity into a nonreproduceable surface in terms of silver and photographic emulsion on linen in order to re-establish a true connection between moment and artwork. It’s a photographic process, but the outcome is not necessarily what we consider a photograph.


‘Things Fall Apart; The Centre Cannot Hold’ remains on view until 24 November.


Opening hours

Monday - Friday: 8 am – 6 pm

Saturday: 10 am – 4 pm