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2009 produktion Et samarbejde mellem Slagelse Kunstforening og Slagelse Kommune Tekst: Stig Fjord Nielsen Layout: Art´N Draw Tegnestue v/Pia Vadmand Tryk: Jannerup A/S

ISBN 978-87-993436-0-7

KUNST & KLIMA


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Olivia Birch født 1970

Claes Birch 1942-2003

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FORORD Min far - en særegen æstet

Foreword My father – a distinctive aesthete

Af Olivia Birch

By Olivia Birch

Han har fotograferet mig som nøgent strålingsoffer i en blyforet kiste, han har udstillet min smølfesamling, venindernes ødelagte dukker er blevet støbt ind i polyesterfiberglas, og han har modeleret min næse, læber og ører ind i sine skulpturer. Altid, når han var færdig med et større projekt, spurgte han mig, hvad jeg syntes om hans ting. Som barn faldt det mig svært at svare eller finde ud af, hvad jeg skulle mene. Da jeg blev voksen, forstod jeg hvorfor. "Jeg kan ikke skille dig som far, fra dig som kunstner", forklarede jeg ham engang. "Du er min kunstnerfar, min farkunstner, og jeg holder af det du laver, fordi du er min far." Jeg tror han forstod mig - men han holdt ikke op med at spørge. Han var tidligt miljøbevidst. De sidste fire årtiers forfærdende fortællinger om giftudslip, klimaændringer, og atomkatastrofer tog han indenbords og omsatte sin afsky og empati til følelser med form. Jeg husker især hans udstilling 'fragmenter fra verdenshavet', som blev til, mens han boede i Stavanger, Norges olieby nummer et. Han turde læse avisernes historier om olieudslip, gift i grundvandet og hormonforstyrrende stoffer, holde fast og forme sine følelser til groteske havs-eksistenser. Godartede fisk med ondartede deformiteter, sære snegle afrundet af en brystvorte eller med en menneskelig hånd eller fod på vej ud af åbningen. Livet gør alt for at sejre, konstaterede han, men satte spørgsmålstegn ved menneskets ret til at udrydde arter eller møblere om på genetikken, hvad enten det var uoverlagt eller bevidst. Han var en gammeldags kunstner uden ironi eller gåseøjne. Der var ikke distance mellem formen og indholdet - som udstillingen 'tutta plastica', hvor alt var plastik - fra babys første legetøj til hospitalets poser med blodplasma. Og så kaldte han sig selv en ikke-kommerciel kunstner. Fordi han hellere ville åbne beskuerens øjne end sælge, og var mere stolt af at skabe end af at udstille. Det faldt ofte let at sympatisere med de emner han tog op, men skulpturerne egnede sig sjældent til bytorvet, den hjemlige reol eller vindueskarmen. Måske fordi de lå der og skreg op om skyggesiden af den moderne udvikling. Som alle de historier i aviserne vi sjældent orker at læse eller skynder os at glemme, fordi budskabet i dem er for hårdt, sørgeligt, sandt. Min far er ikke mere. Men han har omdannet sine tanker og følelser til varige former. Han har brugt sin krop i sin kunst - bogstaveligt talt - hænder, fødder, tæer, sæd, kønsdele, knæ, albue, øjne, mund, tænder... Hvis jeg ville, kunne jeg sikkert samle ham igen, næsten. Jeg glæder mig til at gense hans værker.

He photographed me as a naked radiation victim in a lead-lined coffin, he exhibited my Smurf collection, my girlfriends’ broken dolls have been cast in polyester fibreglass, and he has modelled my nose, lips and ears into his sculptures. Every time he finished a major project he would ask me what I thought of his work. As a child I found it hard to answer this question and to decide what I should think. When I grew up I understood why. “I can’t separate you from being a dad and an artist,” I once explained to him. “You are my artist-dad, my dadartist, and I like what you do because you are my dad.” I think he understood me – but it never stopped him from asking. He was environmentally-conscious from early on. He took in the shocking stories of poisonous emissions, climate change and nuclear bomb disasters from the last four decades, and turned his disgust and empathy into feelings with form. I especially remember his exhibition entitled “Fragments from the world’s sea”, when he lived in Stavanger, Norway's biggest oil producing town. He read the stories in the papers about oil spillages, poison in the ground water hormone-disrupting substances; he took them in and let his feelings turn to grotesque sea creatures. Normal fish with nasty deformities, strange snails rounded off with a nipple or with a human hand or foot coming out of their shell opening. Life will do all it can to conquer, he said, but he questioned people’s right to eradicate species or to modify genetics, whether it was conscious or not. He was an old-fashioned artist without irony or pretence. There was no distance between the form and the content – such as the exhibition “tutta plastica”, where everything was plastic, from the baby’s first toy to the hospital bags containing blood plasma. And he referred to himself as a non-commercial artist, because he would rather open the beholder’s eyes than sell, and was prouder to have created than to have exhibited. It was often easy to sympathise with the topics he dealt with, but his sculptures were rarely suitable for display on city streets, a book shelf or the window sill. Maybe it was because they screamed out about the darker side of modern development. Just as all those stories do in the papers that we barely bother to read or try to quickly forget, because the message in them is too harsh, too sad and too true. My dad is no longer. But he converted his thoughts and feelings into permanent shapes. He applied his body in his art – literally – hands, feet, trees, sperm, genitals, knees, elbows, eyes, mouth, teeth... If I wanted to, I think I could almost recreate him. I look forward to seeing his work again.

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Claes_Birch_prospekt

Stig Fjord Nielsen født 1947

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En historie om kunst, klima og Claes Birch

A story about art, climate and Claes Birch

Af Stig Fjord Nielsen

By Stig Fjord Nielsen

Slagelse Kunstforening og Slagelse Kommune har besluttet at udstille værker og installationer af billedhugger Claes Birch i forbindelse med klima-topmødet i Danmark. Claes Birch (1942-2003) er død, men hans arbejder er så at sige genopstået i forbindelse med vor tids klimadiskussion. Værkerne viser, at den moderne verden i ham havde en hypersensitiv betragter og modstander. Han var anfægtet på mange måder – kaotisk anfægtet - vil nogle sikkert sige. Men Claes Birch har gjort sit til, at forureningsbekæmpelse, atomnedrustning og klimaforebyggelse er centrale politiske temaer i vor tid. Derfor udstiller Slagelse Claes Birchs værker – til genovervejelse – til mere diskussion – til skræk og advarsel med en del galgenhumor – til erindring om en anfægtet kunstner. Udstillingen er blevet en realitet, fordi Claes Birchs værker forefindes deponeret på Kulturcenter Knudsrødgård i Bildsø – 12 km fra Slagelse centrum, og fordi Claes Birchs datter har stillet værkerne til rådighed. I dette tekstkatalog kan De læse om: Kunstneren Claes Birch – hans baggrund, moral og motivation, og om den giftige verden i Birch-tiden, og - naturligvis - om Claes Birchs miljøkunst.

The Art Society and municipality of the Danish town of Slagelse have decided to exhibit the works of sculptor Claes Birch in connection with the Copenhagen Climate Conference. Claes Birch (1942-2003) is no longer alive, but his work is, so to speak, being resurrected in connection with our current climate debate. His work shows that, in him, the modern world had a very sensitive observer and opponent. He was contested in many ways – chaotically contested, some might say. But Claes Birch has done his bit to ensure that the fight against pollution, arms disarmament and climate issues have now become central political debates of our time. Hence, the town of Slagelse is now exhibiting Claes Birch's work, for reconsideration, for further debate, for spreading fear and warning, all with a certain amount of black humour and in memory of a contested artist. The exhibition has become achievable thanks to Claes Birch’s work being stored at the Knudsrødgård Centre for Culture in Bildsø, 12km from Slagelse city centre, and to Claes Birch’s daughter for making his work available. In this catalogue you can read more about: The artist Claes Birch – his background, his morals and inspiration, about the poisonous world in Birch times, and - of course - about Claes Birch's environmental art.

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Claes Birch

Claes Birch

Claes Birch Olsen blev født i Roskilde 12.4.1942, men kom som barn til Slagelse eller Plagelse, som han senere – i bedste H.C. Andersen-stil kunne finde på at sige og skrive. Forældrene var ingeniør Carl Harry Olsen og Ingeborg Lilli Birch. Faderen var en del af ingeniørfirmaet Olsen og Østermark, der havde adresse på Bredegade 19, Slagelse. Firmaet beskæftigede sig med mejerier og køleanlæg. Når Claes Birch som kunstner anvendte rustfrit stål, skyldtes det bl.a., at han via faderen havde adgang til stålrester fra virksomheden. Claes Birch gik – som tusindvis af andre børn – på Vestre Skole i Sct. Pedersgade i Slagelse. Han var muligvis ordblind, hvilket kan gøre skolen til et kedeligt bekendtskab, og det synes at være tilfældet for Claes Birch. I øvrigt var det let at blive skoletræt på den store skole, hvor individualitet ofte blev set som et problem. Ellers tyder alt på en almindelig barndom med en kærlig og forstående moder og en streng, men retfærdig fader. Klicheen holder dog ikke helt. Claes Birch fik som sin lillebror ret frie tøjler. Var skolen ikke noget for Claes Birch, var han til gengæld lykkelig om sommeren, når familien drog i sommerhus ved Stillinge Strand. Et andet højdepunkt i Claes Birchs tidlige tilværelse var deltagelse i spejderlivet i Slagelse. Livet ved vandet med en sejlbåd og fritiden som gul spejder har formentlig været med til at danne Claes Birchs forestillinger om den rette, sunde og naturlige tilværelse. Han fik således – kan vi gætte på – allerede som spejder en moral, der indebar, at naturen skal omgås

Claes Birch Olsen was born in Roskilde on 12.041942, but arrived as a child in Slagelse or “Plagelse”, as he later, in true H.C. Andersen style, often called it (in Danish the word plage means to complain). His parents were engineer Carl Harry Olsen and Ingeborg Lilli Birch. His father worked for engineers Olsen and Østermark, based at no. 19 Bredegade in Slagelse. The company worked with dairies and refrigeration equipment. When, as an artist, Claes Birch used stainless steel, it was partly because he had access to stainless steel parts from the company via his father. Along with thousands of other local children, Claes Birch attended the Vestre school in Sct. Pedersgade in Slagelse. He was possibly dyslexic, which can make school a challenge and this appears to have been the case for Claes. It was also easy to become bored with education at such a large school, where individuality was often seen as a problem. Everything else points to a normal childhood, with a loving and understanding mum and a strict, but fair, dad. The cliché of a tortured soul does not quite fit though. Like his younger brother, Claes Birch had fairly loose reins. School may not have been of much interest, but Claes Birch was nevertheless blissfully happy in the summer, when the family went off to their summer house on Stillinge beach. Another highlight of Claes Birch’s childhood was joining the Scouts in Slagelse.

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4 respektfuldt – eller bæredygtigt, som det vil hedde i dag. Men det er ikke alle spejdere, der bliver miljøkunstnere, så hvorfor valgte Claes Birch en kunstnerisk vej? Muligvis fordi han på en uortodoks måde var ambitiøs. Hvis ens fader er ingeniør, og man ikke selv har det godt med skoler, ligger der i kunstens verden en mulighed for respekt og status, der i bedste fald overstråler en borgerlig tilværelse. Vi vil alle sammen gerne ses og anerkendes, og Claes Birch havde tydeligvis et stærkt behov for at blive set – også på egne udstillinger. At han samtidig havde talent for kunstnerisk udfoldelse er naturligvis en helt afgørende forudsætning for valget. Og i sidste instans var det talentet og arbejdsviljen, der afgjorde, at billedhuggerdrømmen kunne realiseres. Efter skolegangen med syv års undervisningspligt kom Claes Birch i lære som elektriker hos el-firmaet Jensen og Nielsen, Schweizerpladsen i Slagelse. Men det var ikke nogen succes, og han blev løst fra kontrakten. Han fik inden da rodet nogle ledninger forkert sammen på en lokal fabrik. Det fortælles, at fabrikkens ringesystem aldrig siden kom til at fungere. Så det var sikkert heldigt, at han kom væk fra det elektriske. I stedet blev han – ja, man har lyst til at skrive, at han for at følge med tiden i stedet kom i lære som urmager. Det var hos urmager og optiker Svend Gundtoft, Gammeltorv 8 i Slagelse. Det var vist heller ikke et ønskejob, men især Claes Birchs fader lagde vægt på, at han skulle have en uddannelse.

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A life by the sea with his boat and spare time spent as a Scout probably contributed to Claes Birch's perception of a healthy and natural existence. He therefore acquired – and we can only guess – as early as his scout days, a belief that nature should be treated respectfully, or sustainably, as is the term today. But not all scouts become environmental artists, so why did Claes Birch choose the artistic path? Perhaps it was because, in his own unorthodox way, he was ambitious. If your father is an engineer and you yourself are not a great scholar, then the artistic world holds an opportunity for respect and status that can outshine a typical suburban lifestyle. We all want to be seen and to be acknowledged, and Claes Birch clearly had a strong desire to be seen - also at his own exhibitions. That he also had a talent for artistic development was of course a concluding factor for his career choice. It was his talent and enthusiasm for work that finally determined that the dream of becoming a sculptor could be achieved. After seven years of compulsory education, Claes Birch joined the electricity company Jensen and Nielsen as an apprentice, based in Schweizerpladsen in Slagelse. However, this job proved unsuccessful and he was released from his contract. Prior to leaving, he did manage to cross a few wires at a local factory. Apparently the factory’s bell system has never worked properly since. It was probably a good job that he left the electrical world behind him.

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Det var dog tidligt klart, at han næppe ville få en normalborgerlig urmager-tilværelse. Hans interesse for kunstneriske udtryk og udfoldelser blev ikke holdt skjult, og han vidste tidligt, at det var billedhugger, han gerne ville være. Heldigvis havde urmager Gundtoft forståelse for Claes Birchs noget specielle udvikling og optrådte i nogen grad som mæcen. Claes Birch drømte om at komme på Kunstakademiet. At konsekvensen kunne være et liv på smalkost, generede ham ikke. Tværtimod vil jeg næsten tro. Claes Birch tilhørte en generation, hvor ganske mange hyldede antimaterialisme og et simpelt liv. Man kunne vel blot lave sine egne ting. Claes Birch syede selv sine sandaler. Heldigt voksede samfundsøkonomien på samme tid så hastigt, at gammeldags fattigdom forsvandt. Det kunne man dog ikke vide dengang. Langt senere – i 1994 – klagede Claes Birch alligevel over de økonomiske vilkår for ikke-kommercielle kunstnere som ham selv. Det var på et tidspunkt, hvor han måtte sælge det arvede sommerhus og delvist klare sig for bistandshjælp. Denne histories forfatter mødte Claes Birch i 1967. Han gik da på Kunstakademiet. Jeg var ved at afslutte gymnasietiden. Vi kunne løse verdenssituationen. Det var for os endnu en tid uden grænser, selv om det objektivt så sort ud. Vi var – uden grund – ganske optimistiske i en verden fuld af ulykker. Men netop optimismen gjorde det vel meningsfuldt at gøre noget, eller som det ville hedde i dag – at sparke røv. Claes Birch var elev på Kunstakademiet 1964-1971 hos de anerkendte kunstnere og lærere Gottfred Eickhoff og Dan Sterup-Hansen og fortsatte

Instead, he became an apprentice watchmaker at watchmakers and opticians Svend Gundtoft, at no. 8 Gammeltorv in Slagelse. This too proved an unsuccessful career choice, but Claes Birch’s father, in particular, emphasised the importance of having an education and skill. It was, however, apparent early on that he would not lead the normal suburban life of a watchmaker. His interest for artistic expression and development did not remain hidden, and he made it clear that it was a sculptor that he really wanted to be. Fortunately, the Gundtoft watchmaker understood Claes Birch’s special development and to some extent became his mentor. Claes Birch dreamed of going to the Art Academy. That this could lead to a life of bread and water did not stop him. On the contrary, I think. Claes Birch belonged to a generation that praised anti-materialism and the simple life. You could, after all, just make your own things. Claes Birch even sewed his own sandals. Fortunately, at the same time the economy grew so rapidly that old-fashioned poverty disappeared. You would not have known this at the time. Much later – in 1994 – Claes Birch still complained about the economic conditions for non-commercial artists such as himself. At one time, they had to sell the inherited summer house and live partly on income support. The author of this story met Claes Birch in 1967. He was at that time a student at the Art Academy. I was just finishing sixth-form. We were going to put the world to rights.

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derefter som professionel kunstner. Han var nogle år lærer i skulptur i Stavanger, Norge, og periodevis censor på Charlottenborgs forårsudstilling. Han blev gift i 1967 med billedvæver Jytte Møllegaard Larsen (1938-2007). De har sammen en datter f. 1970. Ægteskabet blev opløst i 1989. Claes Birch manglede som forventet ofte penge, men havde glæde af forskellige stipendier og midler fra Statens Kunstfond. Han kom på studierejser til en række lande: Italien, Holland, Grækenland, Tyrkiet, Iran og Pakistan. To gange i 1980’erne havde han ophold på Det danske Akademi i Rom. Han er repræsenteret på Skive Kunstmuseum og Vejle Kunstmuseum med i alt syv værker. Claes Birch døde 18.11.2003 af bughulebetændelse efter en sprængt blindtarm. Han blev 61 år.

Mindeord: Den tidligere kunstmedarbejder på Ekstra Bladet, Alex Steen, skrev mindeord om Claes Birch: ”Med Birchs død mistede dansk kunstliv en af standens mindst kommercielle kunstnere. Hans kamp var et opgør med atomtruslen, radioaktiviteten og en evig kamp mod den omsiggribende forurening… Birch mente, hvad han mente og kunne ikke drømme om at gå på akkord med det…Hans kunst fremstod som digte mellem det syge og sunde, i flere år i tæt samarbejde med maleren Erik Lagoni og forfatteren Thorkild Bjørnvig. Birch var en alvorsmand og en ener – og han var global i sit perspektiv. Han bevægede sig dybt ind i fremtidens sorte skygger og kunne lide at sætte problemerne under debat.” 12

It was still a time of no boundaries, even if times were bleak. We were – without reason – quite optimistic in a world that was full of disaster. But it was the optimism that made it meaningful to do something, or as it is called today – to kick ass. From 1964-1971 Claes Birch studied at the Art Academy with the renowned artists and teachers Gottfred Eickhoff and Dan Sterup-Hansen and continued thereafter as a professional artist. He was a teacher of sculpture in Stavanger, Norway and periodically a censor at the Charlottenborg spring exhibition. In 1967 he married illustrator Jytte Møllegaard Larsen (19382007).They had a daughter, born in 1970. The marriage dissolved in 1989. As expected, Claes Birch often had no money, but benefited from various bursaries and resources from the State’s Art Fund. He went on study trips to many different countries: Italy, Holland, Greece, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. Twice in the 1980s he stayed at the Danish Academy in Rome. He is represented at the Museum of Art in Skive and in Vejle, with seven works in total. Claes Birch died 18.11.2003 of an infection in the abdominal cavity following a burst appendix. He was 61 years old.

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Obituary: Alex Steen, the former art correspondent for Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, wrote an obituary for Claes Birch: “ With Birch’s death, Danish art has lost one of the most commercial artists of our time.

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Claes Birchs programerklæring 1972 ”Jeg er meget optaget af den forurening, som mentalt og fysisk angriber og ødelægger mennesket i dag. Jeg vil prøve rent æstetisk at udtrykke min mening om forureningen med de midler, jeg har til rådighed”, udtalte den fra Kunstakademiet nyuddannede billedhugger Claes Birch til Sjællands Tidende 23.9. 1972. Claes Birch var da fyldt 30 år og havde levet halvdelen af sit liv i en verden med ny og omfattende forurening.

His crusade was a battle against the threat of nuclear bombs, radioactivity and omnipresent pollution.... Birch thought what he thought and would not dream of providing piece work. His art came across as prose between the sick and the healthy, for several years in close collaboration with the painter Erik Lagoni and the writer Thorkild Bjørnvig. Birch was a serious man – a loner – and global in his perspective. He immersed himself in the dark clouds of the future and liked to debate issues of the day."

Den giftige verden 1942-1959 Claes Birch blev født tre år før atombomben i Hiroshima. Ikke at det betyder noget særligt. Der blev født mange børn i 1940’erne. De hørte alle sammen om atombomben og brintbomben og kendte forskel på fission og fusion – uden at være atomfysikere. Strålingsskader blev hverdagskost i samtaler ved middagsbordet. Paddehatteskyer var lig med langtrækkende død og ødelæggelse. Den kolde krig i den bipolære verden byggede på en terrorbalance, der når som helst kunne vippe til katastrofesiden, hvis en galning kom til at trykke på en knap i Moskva eller Washington. Det kunne gå galt med lynets hast. Hvis Gud havde skabt jorden på syv dage, kunne mennesket nu udslette alt liv på syv sekunder. Det var nye tider. Det var giftige tider. De mange dræbte i verdenskrigenes skyttegrave var for intet at regne, når de blev sammenlignet de nye bombers destruktionskapacitet.

1960-1975 I de oprørske 1960’ere mødte atomoprustningen

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Claes Birch’s programme declaration 1972 “I am very concerned for the pollution that both mentally and physically attacks mankind today. I will try aesthetically to express my views on pollution using those resources I have available to me”, said the Art Academy’s newly qualified sculptor Birch to local paper Sjællands Tidende on 23.9.1972. Claes Birch was then 30 years old and had already lived half his life in a world with new and omnipresent pollution.

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The poisonous world 1942-1959 Claes Birch was born three years before the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima. Not that this is in any way significant. Many babies were born in the 1940s. They all knew of the atom bomb and the hydrogen bomb and knew the difference between fission and fusion – without being nuclear physicists. Radiation damage became a daily topic of conversation at the dinner table.

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folkelig modstand – især hos ungdommen. I Danmark var det ”Kampagnen mod atomvåben”, der både arrangerede studiekredse og påskemarcher fra Holbæk til København. Afspænding blev efterhånden et almindeligt politikerudtryk, men atomvåbenproduktionen fortsatte. Snart fik også det kommunistiske Kina atombomber. Det var imidlertid nyt, at folk ikke længere lod sig lede af den styrende elite. De såkaldte græsrodsbevægelser blev en ny politisk faktor. I USA blev Vietnam-krigen reelt tabt til protestmøder og protestmarcher. Det var et nederlag for præsidentembedet og kongressen. Mange protesterende oplevede omvendt tilbagetrækningen fra Vietnam som en sejr. Det kunne nytte!

1976-2009 I 1970’erne stagnerede den vækst, der havde præget 60’erne. Oliekrise fulgte oliekrise, men da nye oliefelter blev åbnet, og olien delvist blev erstattet af naturgas, drejede karrusellerne igen. Samtidig blev det mere og mere åbenbart, at den industrielle verden på mange forskellige måder var en giftig størrelse. Teoretisk kunne man blive enige om, at der var ”grænser for vækst”, men vækstmaskinen arbejdede i praksis videre. Dioxinforureningen i Seveso, Italien, fandt sted i 1976. Ulykken blev i en periode en international øjenåbner. I Danmark var især Grindstedværket og Cheminova de problematiske kemi-virksomheder. De skabte forurening i Kærgaard Klitplantage og på Harboøre Tange.

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Mushroom clouds equalled a long drawn out death and destruction. The Cold War in the bipolar world built on a balance of terror, which could at any given moment tip towards the side of disaster should some nutter happen to press a button in either Moscow or Washington. It could all go wrong at lightning speed. If God had created the earth in seven days, then man could now destroy all life in seven seconds. These were new times. They were poisonous times. The number of men killed in the trenches of the two world wars seemed low when compared with the destruction capacity of the new bombs.

1960-1975 In the rebellious 1960s nuclear armament met with public opposition – especially from young people. In Denmark it was the “Campaign against nuclear weapons”, which brought together both study circles and Easter marches from Holbæk to Copenhagen. The term ”armament reduction” began to be a normal political expression, yet nuclear weapon production continued. It was not long before communist China also had its own nuclear bombs. Also new was that people no longer let themselves be governed by the great elite. The socalled grass roots movement became a new political factor. In the US, the Vietnam war was genuinely lost to protest meetings and marches. It was a defeat for the presidential office and the congress, whereas many protestors saw the pulling out of Vietnam as a victory. It had all been worth it!

At nogle danskere nu tog forurening alvorligt, viste sig i Skælskør, hvor en pvc-fabrik ikke nåede at blive etableret, før mange protesterede. Landbrugets og byernes udledning af forurenet vand til søer, åer og hav, blev diskuteret indgående og hidsigt. Algeproduktion, iltsvind og fiskedød var synlige konsekvenser. Det blev almindeligt at placere skylden hos ”de andre”. Lysten til at tage ansvar for udviklingen var begrænset. Ikke mindst, når det kostede penge. Spørgsmålet om atomkraftværker i Danmark var længe det vigtigste debatemne. I 1960’erne var det et hovedsynspunkt hos atomvåbenmodstanderne, at atomkraften skulle bruges til fredelige formål – altså gerne til el-værker. Men da staten i 1970’erne udpegede naturskønne kystområder til fremtidens atomkraftværker, skiftede stemningen. OOA (Organisationen til Oplysning om Atomkraft) fik en nøglerolle med en stærk folkelig tilslutning. Den gule mærkat ”atomkraft – nej tak” blev en agitationssucces – også internationalt. I Sverige var der i 1975 bygget et atomkraftværk i det tidligere danske Barsebäck - lidt uden for Malmø. Nu kunne København være truet i tilfælde af en ulykke, og det førte til demonstrationer under slagordene ”Hvad skal væk – Barsebäck! Hvad skal ind – sol og vind!” Danmark fik i de følgende år etableret en vindmølleproduktion, der med statsstøtte voksede sig stærk. Et eksempel hedder Vestas. Men det var egentlig Tvind med den omstridte skoleleder Amdi Petersen i spidsen, der tidligt rejste en stor mølle.

1976-2009 The growth of the 1960s began to stagnate in the 70s. Oil crisis followed oil crisis, but when new oil fields were opened and oil started in part to be replaced by natural gas, things started to change once more. Meanwhile it became more and more apparent that the industrial world was in many different ways of a poisonous size. Theoretically one could agree that there were “limits to growth”, but in practice the growth machine continued working. 1976 saw major dioxin pollution in Seveso, Italy. For a while the disaster was an international eye opener. In Denmark it was the “Grindstedværket” and “Cheminova” that were the problem chemical companies. They spread pollution in Kærgaard Klitplantage, a conservation area of outstanding beauty, and in Harboøre Tange, a narrow peninsula off the coast. That Danes were now taking pollution seriously became obvious in Skælskør, where a PVC factory was never built due to the amount of protests it received. The spillage of polluted water from farming and cities into lakes, streams and the sea became an exhaustive and heated debate. Algae production, oxygen depletion and dying fish were visible consequences. It became the norm to blame “everyone else”. The desire to take responsibility for development was limited. Especially if it cost money. The question of nuclear power stations in Denmark was for a long time the most important debate.

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På grund af det folkelige pres opgav de politiske partier at etablere atomkraftværker i Danmark. Det vakte glæde på Vestsjælland, hvor området ved Mullerupgård langs Storebælt havde været reserveret. I 1986 skete så katastrofeulykken på atomkraftværket i Tjernobyl i Sovjetunionen. Herefter blev atomkraften nedtonet overalt - i hvert fald i en overskuelig fremtid. I midten af 1990’erne satte en ny galopperende vækstperiode ind. Forbruget af fossile brændstoffer steg til nye højder. Samtidig blev begreberne drivhuseffekt og CO2-udledning almene. Det var som om vi gik mod varmere tider og smeltende poler, og måske skyldtes det os selv? Den tankegang blev udviklet i det nye årtusind. Der er nu bred enighed om, at nogle klimaforandringer er menneskeskabte. Det er derfor et ønske at skabe en global aftale om CO2-udledning og en grænse for temperaturstigning. Herom mødes verdens nationer i København i december 2009.

Er vi bange nok? Det er uvist om konferencen i København vil ende i succes eller fiasko. Men det er sikkert, at vi i den industrialiserede verden alle kører firehjulstrækkere – også selv vi har en elbil. Vi ved, at den er gal, men vi gør meget lidt eller intet. Det er et paradoks svarende til, at unge mennesker ryger, selv om der på pakken står, at rygning dræber. Ifølge den engelske sociolog Anthony Giddens hjælper det derfor ikke at skræmme mere. Vi er - så at sige - bange nok, men handler ikke på angsten.

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In the 1960s it was the main opinion of nuclear weapon opponents that nuclear power should be used for peaceful means – such as electricity plants. But when, in the 1970s, the state chose parts of the natural coastline for future nuclear power stations, that opinion changed. The OOA (which stands for Organisationen til Oplysning om Atomkraft – Organisation for Information on Nuclear Power) played a key role and had a strong public following. The yellow sticker “Nuclear power? No thanks!” became a propaganda success – also internationally. In 1975, in Sweden, a nuclear power station had been built in the former Danish area of Barsebäck – just outside Malmø. Suddenly Copenhagen became very vulnerable to any potential accidents from the plant, which led to demonstrations with the slogan ”What is out Barsebäck! What is in - sun and wind!". In the years that followed, wind farm production began to take root in Denmark and, with support from the state, grew rapidly. One such example is Vestas. However, it was actually the organisation Tvind, with its controversial headmaster Amdi Petersen at its helm that was the first to put up a wind turbine. The pressure from the public made political parties give up on establishing nuclear power stations in Denmark, much to the delight of West Zealand, where the area by Mullerupgård along the Great Belt had been reserved for just such a purpose. 1986 saw disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Soviet Union.

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Side 21

Konsekvensen må være, at vi skal lære af Martin Luther King. Denne sagde i sin store tale “I have a dream” Anthony Giddens anbefaler derfor, at klimapolitikkens fordele (fx drømmen om ren natur og energisikkerhed) fremhæves. Om den positive tænkning og tilgang så virker bedre, er dog uvist. Anthony Giddens diskussion viser vel mest, at ingen endnu ved, hvordan man får realiseret en klimabeskyttelse på denne – vor jordklode.

Claes Birchs vej mod miljøkunst Claes Birch er repræsenteret i Slagelse. På Bibliotekets vestgavl blev i 1989 opsat et relief i stål og polyester. Relieffet er udført i 1970. Den abstrakte komposition kaldes ”Balancepunkt” og er et godt eksempel på Claes Birch i slutningen af kunstakademi-tiden. Det er kølig og nøgtern geometri – balance. Snart efter udviklede Claes Birch en helt anderledes urolig og ubalanceret stil. Det er faktisk den, der efter Kunstforeningens opfattelse kvalificerer ham i forbindelse med klimadiskussionen. ”Jeg er meget optaget af den forurening, som mentalt og fysisk angriber og ødelægger mennesket i dag. Jeg vil prøve rent æstetisk at udtrykke min mening om forureningen med de midler, jeg har til rådighed”, sagde Claes Birch som nævnt i 1972. Udtalelsen dokumenterer, at Claes Birch nu havde en klar mission med sit arbejde. Nogen sikker forklaring på den kunstneriske nyorientering kan næppe findes, men det har givet haft betydning, at Claes Birch i 1970 mistede sin mor.

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Following this event, nuclear power was toned down everywhere - and remains so at least for the foreseeable future. In the mid 1990s a new period of galloping growth began. The use of fossil fuels rose to new heights. Meanwhile, the greenhouse effect and CO2 emissions became widespread concepts. We were approaching warmer times and melting icecaps, and maybe this was our fault? This was the thought process that developed in the new millennium. There is now widespread agreement that some climate changes have been brought about by man. It is therefore a goal to create a global agreement on CO2 emissions and set a limit on rising temperatures. The world's nations will meet to discuss this subject in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Are we scared enough? It is uncertain whether the conference in Copenhagen will end in success or fiasco. But what is certain is that we in the industrialised world all own four-wheel drives – even if we also own an electric car. We know it is wrong, but we do very little or nothing about it. It is a paradox equal to the one of young people smoking even though it says on the cigarette packet that smoking kills. According to British sociologist Anthony Giddens, scaring people no longer has any effect. We are – so to speak – scared enough, but do not react to our fear. The alternative is to let ourselves be inspired by Martin Luther King, who said in his famous speech, “I have a dream”. Anthony Giddens recommends that the advantages of

Hun havde fået en svulst i hjernen. Hun blev behandlet og opereret, men svulstens rødder kunne ikke fjernes, og hun døde. Det var i tiden efter morens død, Claes Birch skiftede stil og retning og gjorde forureningsbekæmpelse til sin hovedopgave. Missionen varede til efter Tjernobyl-ulykken. I et interview i 1977 nævner Claes Birch selv morens død som en stærk kraft, men helt uden sammenhæng med tidsånden var hans bevægelse dog ikke. Det må noteres, at regeringen Krag i 1971 etablerede et ministerium for forureningsbekæmpelse. Dette blev i 1973 til Miljøministeriet. Tiden var opmærksom, men der skete ikke så meget. Derfor var der nok at se til for Claes Birch og hans ligesindede. Siden er tidsånden skiftet. Nu er det så lidt vel patetisk, når politikere (ingen nævnt, ingen glemt) beskrives som store miljøforkæmpere. Generelt kan man regne med, at det politiske miljø i nærheden af magten først kommer på banen, når det ser en vindersag. Netop det forhold betyder, at der er behov for den frie kunstner. Som et paradoks må man konstatere, at den frie kunstner – der i nogen grad står uden for samfundet – har en vigtig rolle i samfundet. I 1990’erne vendte Claes Birch tilbage til det geometriske og stabile bl.a. i nogle skulpturer på flyvestationerne i Karup og Skrydstrup, og han genoptog også ungdommens arbejde med det figurative.

climate politics (such as the dream of clean natural surroundings and energy safety) should be highlighted. Whether positive thinking and attitude works better, is yet uncertain. What Anthony Giddens’ discussion shows most is that no one yet knows how to achieve climate protection on our planet earth.

Claes Birch’s journey to environmental art Claes Birch is represented in Slagelse. In 1989 at the library’s west gable a relief in steel and polyester was erected. The relief was completed in 1970. The abstract composition is entitled "Balance point" and is a good example of Claes Birch's work at the end of his time at the Art Academy. It is cool, calm geometry – balance. Shortly after, Claes Birch developed a completely different, troubled and unbalanced style. It is actually this style that, according to the Art Academy’s perception, connects him to the climate debate. “I am very concerned for the pollution that both mentally and physically attacks mankind today. I will try to aesthetically express my views on of pollution using the resources I have available to me,” Claes Birch said in 1972. These words prove that Claes Birch now had a clear mission for his work. A definitive explanation for this new artistic direction cannot be found, but it was undoubtedly of significance that in 1970 Claes Birch lost his mother. She had a brain tumour. She was treated and operated, but the roots of the

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Side 23

Værksteder på Vestsjælland En artikel i Sjællands Tidende 23.9 1972 fortæller, at Claes Birch forberedte en udstilling på Kunstindustrimuseet. Noget af arbejdet foregik på Freses Metalstøberi i Slagelse. Han var glad for at få mulighed for at arbejde i industrivirksomheder. Han havde ikke berøringsangst over for den industri, som vel egentlig medvirkede til den forurening, han ville bekæmpe. Paradokser må også kunstnere leve med. Han havde nemlig ikke noget atelier. Claes Birch havde tidligere arbejdet på Botved Boats (glasfiber og polyester) og Antvorskov Teglværk. Her var de store ovne en gave til en lerskulptør. At Claes Birch har vakt nogen opmærksomhed på de nævnte arbejdspladser fremgår af en historie i BT 10.2.1973. Artiklen hedder ”Billedhuggeren Claes Birch ikke ked af at blive kaldt idiot…”. Claes Birch indrømmer, at han normalt ”erklæres for idiot af de ansatte, fordi han overskrider alle faggrænser”. Han mener dog samtidig, at folk har velvilje over for idioter, selv om de ryster på hovedet. Til gengæld misundte en del mennesker sikkert kunstneren, at han i sommeren 1972 kunne være to måneder ved stranden: ”Jeg har studeret solnedgangen over havet og er meget optaget af den spænding, der opstår mellem farverne, imellem skyerne og solens stråler. Både morgen og aften er som et drama i horisonten, hvor lysstråler angriber og opsluger hinanden.” Kunsten kunne stadig og endnu beskæftige sig med det skønne.

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tumour could not be removed and she passed away. It was in the time following his mother’s death that Claes Birch changed his style and direction and made the fight against pollution his main objective. This mission lasted until after Chernobyl. In an interview in 1977, Claes Birch names his mother's death as a strong influence, but his movement was not entirely unconnected to the zeitgeist. It should be noted that in 1971 the Krag government established a ministry for combating pollution. In 1973 it became the Ministry for the Environment. Times were aware, but not much happened. There was, therefore, plenty to do for Claes Birch and other like-minded individuals. The zeitgeist has changed since then. Now it seems a little pathetic, when politicians (no names mentioned or forgotten) are described as big supporters of the environment. You can generally count on the fact that the political arena closest to the top only becomes visible when there is a chance of winning some votes. Such a relationship alone stipulates a need for the free artist. It is quite a paradox that the free artist – who to some extent lives on the margins of society – has an important role to play in society. In the 1990s, Claes Birch returned to the geometric and stable style, such as his sculptures at the Danish airbases in Karup and Skrydstrup show. He also took up the more figurative work of his youth.

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Digt af Thorkild Bjørnvig

Truende skyer

Threatening clouds

Senere blev skyer anderledes kontroversielle og problematiske for Claes Birch, der i forbindelse med en udstilling på Vejle Kunstmuseum i 1985 lod en satirisk omarbejdet salme trykke. Forfatteren var Thorkild Bjørnvig, der havde ladet sig inspirere af Ingemanns ”I østen stiger..”:

Later, clouds became different, controversial and problematic for Claes Birch. In connection with an exhibition at Vejle Museum of Art in 1985, he let a satirical and modified hymn go to print. The author was Thorkild Bjørnvig, who had found inspiration in Ingemann’s famous hymn”In the east rises the sun....” This was transformed to:

På himlen stiger skyen op, den spreder død og brand, går over hav og bjergetop går over by og land. Den afsvir hud og pels og løv og sætter alt i stå, den sender vind med strålestøv til store og til små. Og med den sky udgår en glans fra luft og jord, forbrugt, og i en panisk skyggedans ophører sans og flugt

The cloud rises in the sky, it spreads death and fire, passes over sea and mountain top, passes over town and country. It burns skin and fur and leaves and makes everything stop, it sends wind with radiation dust, to young and old everywhere. And with this cloud a sparkle disappears, from air and soil, spent, and in a panicked shadow dance, all flight and senses expire 23


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Side 25

Miljøfanatikerne Claes Birch og Thorkild Bjørnvig I et demokratisk samfund er kampen om hjerte og hjerner den vigtigste kamp. Derfor er kampen også hård og brutal. Store interesser er på spil. Ordet miljøfanatiker er en del af kampen. Måske kan man standse en miljødebat ved at kalde aktørerne for fanatikere? Ord har magt. Vi kender det fra debatten om abort eller fødselskontrol. Modstandere taler om fosterdrab eller fosterfordrivelse. Tilhængere brugerne ordene svangerskabsafbrydelse eller netop det mere kliniske abort. Birch ville som kunstner deltage i samfundsdebatten om miljø. Forsigtighed og balance i naturen kunne være nogle ord, han ville have brugt, hvis han havde brugt ord. Nu var Claes Birch skulpturmager og rumkunstner, så han ville fortælle sine historier og vise sine pointer i rumlige installationer. Helt undvære ord kunne han alligevel ikke. Han fik skabt et samarbejde med digteren Thorkild Bjørnvig, der på samme tid havde skrevet en række miljødigte og derfor også en var en ”miljøfanatiker”. Det viste sig siden, at ”miljøfanatikerne” havde meget mere ret, end de havde lyst til. Jo, Birch og Bjørnvig havde set Tjernobyl-ulykken lang tid, før den skete. Et eksempel er digtet ”Stråling” fra omkring 1980. Det snart 30 år gamle digt har også nutidens klimadebat indbygget i de første linjer.

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Studios in West Zealand.

Stråling

Radiation

An article in local paper Sjællands Tidende on 23.9.1972 tells of how Claes Birch prepared an exhibition at the Art Industry Museum. Some of the work took place at the Freses metal foundry in Slagelse. He welcomed the opportunity to work with industrial companies. He had no fear of contact with this industry, which in its own way actually contributed to the very pollution he wanted to combat. It seems artists too have to live with paradoxes. He did not have his own studio. Previously, Claes Birch had worked at Botved Boats (fibreglass and polyester) and Antvorskov brickworks. Here the large ovens were a godsend to a clay sculptor. That Claes Birch clearly raised some awareness at these work places is highlighted in a story in national newspaper BT on 10.2.1973. The article is entitled “Sculptor Claes Birch not upset at being called idiot...” Claes Birch admits that he is normally “called an idiot by employees because he crosses all professional boundaries”. However, he also believed that people show goodwill towards idiots, even if they do shake their heads at them. On the other hand, a number of people must also have envied the artist for being able to spend two months of the hot summer of 1972 on the beach: “I have studied the sunset over the sea and am enchanted by the tension created between the colours that appear amid the clouds and the sun’s rays. Both mornings and evenings are like a drama on the horizon, where rays of light attack and devour each other.” His art could still be about natural beauty.

Stadig nærmere en smeltningstid med stigende have? Eller en istid med synkende? Vi ved det ikke. Men stadig nærmere en strålingstid: Det ved vi. Ståltromler med atomaffald og udslidte atomskibe tæres i havene. Det uorganiske affald indgår ikke i kredsløbet – men deponeres, undtages fra det, isoleres: På havbund, i klipper og salthorste; i gener og knogler; i menneskelegemer – indtil de må isoleres. Sådan som en amerikansk kemiker radioaktiv smittefarlig efter en eksplosion i laboratoriet månedsvis måtte isoleres bag blyplader på hospitalet med telefon, varm ledning til omverdenen, sådan som de radioaktive lig i Polynesien efter en fransk prøvesprængning dér blev lagt, deponeret i forseglede kister. Ingen til at lukke deres øjne. Utilgængelige, selv for et afskedsblik fra deres kære. Af jord er du kommet, til stråling skal du blive -

Is a melting point with rising seas still approaching? Or an ice age with sinking ones? We don’t know. But even closer is the radiation age: That we know. Steel drums with nuclear waste and worn out nuclear ships corrode our harbours. The inorganic waste does not join the mainstream circulation – but is instead deposited, is exempted from it, isolated: on sea beds, in cliffs and salt domes; in genes and bones; in human limbs – until they have to be isolated. Just like the American chemist, who was radioactive and contagious following an explosion in a laboratory and had to be isolated for months behind lead plates in a hospital, with a phone, his hot wire to the outer world. Just like the radioactive corpses in Polynesia following the French test explosion, deposited in sealed coffins. No one to close their eyes. Inaccessible, even for a farewell glimpse from their loved ones. From earth you have come, to radiation you shall be -

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Digt af Thorkild Bjørnvig

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Side 27

Thorkild Bjørnvigs digt er skrevet til Claes Birchs skulpturgruppe ”Containers”: Kister til radioaktive lig. Digtet var opstillet i fotostat. Digtet udtrykker, at strålingsramte er nutidens spedalske, der isoleres, og det kalder på vores medfølelse. Således kunne digtet vinde hjerter for sagen: atomkraft – nej tak. Det var politisk orienteret kunst, de to ”miljøfanatikere” skabte. Endnu to Bjørnvig-digte har været med på Claes Birch-udstillinger om den moderne, giftige verden. Det er digtene ”Recipienten” og ”Fremskridtes skygge”. ”Recipienten” polemiserer mod det teknologiske sprog i miljøspørgsmål og angriber udledning til rene vandløb, søer og have. En ren sø kaldes i et klinisk sprog en kvalificeret recipient! Digtet var opstillet i fotostat i tilslutning til Claes Birchs skulpturgruppe ”1. del af fragmenter fra verdenshavet”. Vejle kunstmuseum, 1985. I ”Fremskridtets skygge” udmales det ragnarok, det vanvid, der som en mulighed følger efter det, vi kalder fremskridt. Digtet var opstillet i fotostat i tilslutning til Claes Birchs skulpturgruppe: ”2. del af fragmenter fra verdenshavet”. Charlottenborgs efterårsudstilling 1986. De to digte er trykt her i kataloget.

Mere om Claes Birchs miljøkunst ”Jeg er bange” udtalte Claes Birch til flere aviser i forbindelse med sine udstillinger i 1970’erne og 1980’erne, og publikum fik da også skrækvisioner for alle pengene. Kunsthistorikeren Ole Nørlyng har beskrevet Claes Birchs udvikling: ”Op gennem 1970erne blev manifestationerne mere morbide.

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“Environment fanatics” Claes Birch and Thorkild Bjørnvig In a democratic society battles of the heart and the brain are the most significant, which is why they are often also the hardest and most brutal. The term “environment fanatic” is a part of that battle. Can you stop a debate on the environment by calling the participants fanatics? Words have power. We know this from the debate on abortion and birth control. Those against talk of “foetus murder” or “foetus expulsion”. Those for use words such as “interrupted pregnancy” or the more clinical, “abortion”. Birch as an artist wanted to join society’s debate on the environment. ”Caution” and “balance in nature” might have been some of the words he would have used, if he had used words that is. Claes Birch was a sculptor and a spatial artist, so he could tell his stories and express his points of view through spatial installations. He was, however, not able to avoid words entirely. He developed a working relationship with the poet Thorkild Bjørnvig, who had at the same time written a series of poems about the environment and was therefore also considered an "environment fanatic". It has since been proven that the “environment fanatics” were right, far more than they had wanted to be. Birch and Bjørnvig had indeed seen the Chernobyl disaster long before it actually happened. An example of this is the poem “Radiation”, from around 1980. This nearly 30 year old poem has the current climate debate weaved into its first few lines.

Værket fremstod som et digt mellem det syge og det sunde. Atombomben og den stigende forurening medførte, at perspektivet blev mere globalt.” I 1981 blev det globale perspektiv lagt ned over Mullerup på Vestsjælland, der hørte til Claes Birchs hjemstavn. Fotografier af det skønne landskab blev forsynet med advarsler om RADIOAKTIV STRÅLING. Fra 1975 var mange forskellige skulpturer samlet under titlerne ”Mutationer”, ”Eruptioner” og ”Kumulationer”. Som bekendt er mutationer pludselige forandringer i planters eller dyrs arvelige egenskaber. Ved eruptioner forstås vulkanske udbrud eller udbrud af udslæt, og kumulationer er ophobninger, eksempelvis af stoffer, der ikke umiddelbart er virksomme, men bliver det, når de kumuleres. Men for Claes Birch var ”Kumulationer” også en anledning til at indkapsle sko, arbejdstøj, vitaminpiller, hår, urin, sæd mv. i polyester. Dermed kunne fragmenter af Claes Birch – omgærdet af pigtråd – gemmes væk til evig tid. Claes Birch var i stand til at skabe overskrifter i avisen, når han udstillede. På Charlottenborg i 1980 medvirkede hele familien Birch. Claes, hans kone Jytte og datteren var alle udstillet i ligkister. De lå indhyllet i plastic i kister af rustfri stål. Det kom der en pæn stor artikel ud af i BT d. 27.8.1980. Claes Birch: ”Kisterne er en angstvision. Jeg er bange for fremtiden, for de, som styrer den teknologiske udvikling, kun tænker på her og nu. Ikke på, hvor vi føres hen. Hvad det hele kan ende med. Jeg håber naturligvis ikke, at vi når så langt (ligkisterne red.),

Thorkild Bjørnvig’s poem is written for Claes Birch’s collection of sculptures entitled ”Containers: Coffins for radioactive corpses.” The poem was shown in Photostat. It expresses how radiation victims are the lepers of our time, isolated and crying out for our compassion. That is how the poem could win the hearts for the case of: Nuclear power – no thanks. It was a politically-oriented art that these two “environment fanatics” created. Two more Bjørnvig poems were included in Claes Birch’s exhibitions, both about the modern, poisonous world. They were the “The recipient” and “The shadow of progress”. “The recipient” is about the technical language of environmental questions and tackles spillages into clean water supplies, lakes and seas. In scientific terms, a clean lake is referred to as a qualified recipient! The poem was exhibited as a Photostat to support Claes Birch’s sculpture collection entitled “1st part of fragments from the world’s sea” in Vejle Museum of Art, 1985. “The shadow of progress” depicts the havoc and madness that follow in the wake of what we call progress. The poem was exhibited as a Photostat to support Claes Birch’s sculpture collection entitled “2nd part of fragments from the world’s sea,” autumn exhibition at Charlottenborg, 1986.

More about Claes Birch’s environmental art “I’m scared”, Claes Birch told several newspapers in connection with his exhibitions in the 1970s and 80s, and his audience certainly recei-

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Side 29

Recipienten

The recipient

En ren sø, et rent vand, et rent hav med videnskabens sprog, en kvalificeret recipient - hvad er det? Det er opholdssteder (habitater) for en eventyrlig variation af liv, fra salamandre til gedder, fra sild til marsvin. Kvalificeret: Ved at de kan optage så og så store kvanta af udskilte uforbrugelige organiske, og uorganiske stoffer: Nitrat, fosfor, tungmetaller, gips m.m. fra industrier, husholdninger og landbrug – uden at det lige straks bevirker andet end algevækst, plantedød, sårramte fisk, blot ligger som et luvslidt liglagen, optakt til totalforgiftningen, livsudslettelsen.

A clean lake, clean water, a clean sea – in scientific language, a qualified recipient – what is that? These are residences (habitats) for wonderful and varied life forms, from salamanders to goats, from herring to guinea pigs. Qualified: Because they can take large quantities of released, unusable organic and inorganic chemicals: Nitrate, phosphorous, heavy metals, plaster, etc. From industry, from households and farming – without it immediately affecting anything other than algae growth, plant death and fish, which lie like a threadbare sheet of corpses, a prelude to total poisoning, and life extinction.

Skal månen en nat, skal solen en dag stå op og gå ned over strålende vandflader: Camouflage af våde, fossilfyldte grave, recipienter, forgivet af homo sapiens, skabningens ansvarsløse herre – hvis øje, hvis udtryksfulde eller målende øje er facit af ufattelige årmillioners evolution, spring fra urhavets flercellede organismer, halvt gennemsigtige, lysfølsomme - til pupil og regnbuehinde, utænkelige uden ren og salt væske i øjenhulen. Digt af Thorkild Bjørnvig

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Should the moon one night, and the sun one day, rise and set over radiating waters: A camouflage of wet, fossil-filled graves, recipients, poisoned by homo sapiens, creation’s irresponsible men –whose eye, whose expressive or measuring eye is the result of an inconceivable evolution of millions of years, a leap from a sea of multi-celled organisms, half invisible, light-sensitive – to the pupil and the iris, unthinkable without clean and salty liquid in the eye socket.

men jeg synes, at jeg som billedkunstner har pligt til at gøre opmærksom på disse ting.” Overskriften i BT var: ”Udstiller sin kone og datter i ligkisten som kunst”. Han udstillede også sig selv – så nøgen som Gud havde skabt ham. Alt i alt fik det sikkert flere til at runde Charlottenborg i august 1980. Claes Birch arbejdede videre med samme temaer i ”Fragmenter fra en nuklear tid” i 1983. Han havde produceret nye kister til atomkrigens ofre, så de kunne opbevares uden strålingsfare til evig tid. I det Orwell-ske år 1984 skabte Claes Birch udstillingen ”Tutta Plastica”. Det var en fremvisning af det omsiggribende forbrug af plastic, herunder engangsbrug, selv om konsekvenserne af menneskets omgang med plastic på ingen måde var kendt. I BT 9.10.1984 ligger Claes Birch på en plasticmødding, hvorfra han udtaler ”Livet er noget svineri. Det er vores egen skyld.” Udstillingen var etableret i Galleri A-gruppen, Store Strandstræde 14, ved Kongens Nytorv. Som Palle Schmidt i BT noterede: ”Spædbarnets sut er af plastic og begravelsesblomsterne er af plastic og hvad der ligger imellem er også af plastic.” Claes Birch udtalte til avisen: Jeg frygter kunststoffernes og kemikaliernes snigende fare og plastic’en har sneget sig ind på os, bare sådan stille og diskret, uden vi har lagt mærke til den. Vi starter morgenen med at få det første kys at plastic’en, når vi børster tænder, og dagen igennem må vi leve med den og næsten af den, for hovedparten af vore fødevarer er pakket ind i plastic.” Også til de plastic-døde havde Claes

ved their money's worth of horrific images. Art historian Ole Nørling has described Claes Birch's development: “Up through the 1970s, his work became more and more morbid. His work came across as a poem between the sick and the healthy. The nuclear bomb and the increasing pollution led to the perspective becoming more global.” In 1981, the global perspective focused on Mullerup in West Zealand, part of Claes Birch’s home. Photos of the beautiful scenery were accompanied by warnings of RADIOACTIVE RADIATION. From 1975, many different sculptures were collected under the titles of “Mutations”, “Eruptions” and “Cumulations”. As is known, mutations are sudden changes in the inherent characteristics of plants and animals. Eruptions implied volcanic eruptions, or outbreaks of skin rashes, and cumulations meant build-ups of, for example, chemicals that are not immediately potent but become so when they cumulate. But for Claes Birch, “Cumulations” also represented an opportunity to encapsulate shoes, work clothes, vitamin pills, hair, urine, sperm, etc. in polyester. The fragments of Claes Birch could in this way – fenced in by barbed wire – be saved forever. Claes Birch managed to generate headlines in the papers whenever he had an exhibition. At Charlottenborg in 1980, the entire Birch family were involved. Claes, his wife Jytte and his daughter were all exhibited in coffins. They lay shrouded in plastic in stainless steel coffins. It sparked a huge article in the national paper BT

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Birch bygget stålkister, fordi de ikke – fyldt med kemikalier - kunne brændes i almindelige trækister. Året efter – i 1985 – kom en udstilling, der bestod af 45 arbejder med titlen ”Fragmenter fra Verdenshavet”. Igen i et samarbejde med Thorkild Bjørnvig, der leverede digtet ”Recipienten” I 1986 skete Tjernobyl-ulykken. Nu viste kunstnerens skrækvisioner sig at være uskyldigheden selv sammenlignet med den skinbarlige virkelighed. Endnu engang viste det sig, at virkeligheden overgår kunsten. Kunsten var for en tid sat skakmat. Virkeligheden leverede selv skræk og advarsel. Det er en mulig forklaring på, at Claes Birch skiftede spor de følgende år. Han havde fået ret – alt for meget ret. Det blev mere traditionelle billedhuggeropgaver, der optog ham. Det skal ikke forstås sådan, at han opgav sine etiske og moralske fordringer. Han kom tværtimod i kontakt med sin lokale kirke – Grundtvigs Kirke på Bispebjerg i København. Her havde han i 2001 en meget omtalt udstilling med titlen ”Fugl Phoenix”. En udstilling om livet – det måske evige – fordi det genopstår af asken. Værker fra den udstilling og værker skabt i de mange år med miljøkunst kom i depot på Knudsrødgård ved Slagelse – afventende nye og bedre tider.

Claes Birch og klimakonferencen Claes Birch døde som nævnt i 2003 og optræder derfor – af naturlige grunde - ikke i forbindelse med klimakonferencen, men hans liv og værk

on 27.8.1980. Claes Birch said of the exhibition, “the coffins are a vision of angst. I am now afraid of the future, because those that drive technological development, only think of the here and now. Not on where we are going. How it all can end. I obviously hope we don’t get to this stage (the coffins), but I think that as a sculptor I have a duty to raise awareness of these things.” The headline in BT read: “Exhibits his wife and daughter in coffins as art”. He also exhibited himself – as naked as the day he was born. All in all it probably got more people through the door at Charlottenborg in that August in 1980. Claes Birch continued to work with the same subject areas in “Fragments from a nuclear time” in 1983. He had produced new coffins for the victims of a nuclear war, so that they could be kept safe forever, without the risk of radiation. In the Orwellian year of 1984 Claes Birch created the exhibition “Tutta Plastica”. It was a presentation of our all-encompassing use of plastic, even when the consequences of man’s relationship with plastic remained unconfirmed. In BT on 9.10.1984, Claes Birch is lying on a plastic dung heap saying “Life is a mess. It is our own fault.” The exhibition was set up in the Gallery A collection, no. 14 Store Strandstræde, by Kongens Nytorv in Copenhagen. As Palle Schmidt in BT noted: “The infant’s dummy is made of plastic and the funeral flowers are made of plastic and what lies between is also plastic.”

var en slags oplæg til at få gjort noget ved de menneskeskabte problemer. Han udtalte – som nævnt - allerede i 1972 til Sjællands Tidende: ”Jeg vil prøve rent æstetisk at udtrykke min mening om forureningen med de midler, jeg har til rådighed.” Til samme avis sagde han 4.8.1979: ”Jeg er morbid i min kunst. Vil gerne knytte det æstetiske sammen med noget uæstetisk, være advarende. Vise at det er for farligt at lege med kemien og naturen på de lemfældige måder ”eksperter” ofte gør i dag.” Det viste han så, for de, der ville se!

Litteratur Ole Nørlyng: Weilbachs Kunstnerleksikon, 1994 Claus Bojesen: Hrymfaxe 1981, nr. 4, s. 10-13 Claus Bojesen: Hrymfaxe 1993, nr. 2, s. 15-18 Stig Miss: Skulpturer og objekter 1963-1985, Vejle kunstmuseum, 1985 Thorkild Bjørnvig: Samlede digte 1947-1993, 1998 Frede Vestergaard: Er vi bange nok? Weekendavisen nr. 30, 2009.

Fremskridtets skygge

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”Nu titte til hinanden –” 30

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Fremskridtets skygge

The shadow of progress

“Nu titte til hinanden -” ”Nu sneglen med hus på ryg vil vandre” og måske med makrohus og –menneskefod, og konkylien vil lytte med labyrintisk menneskeøre til vibrationer i havet fra skibsskruer, prøvesprængninger i koraløer, harpunhovedsprængninger i hvaler - i stedet for til deres sange. Kommer vi ikke fra havet og drages ned i det igen fragmentarisk reproduceret på faserne bagud: irrelevante ekstremiteter på krybende svævende bløddyr, brydende ud af dem, som var selve mennesket delt af en langsom mental katastrofe, en eksplosion af overmod, angst, fortvivlelse, hybris og paranoia, pornografi og forhærdelse, og nu kommer ud af skallerne: Kvindebryst, penis og kønslæber, pegefinger, næse og øre. Visioner omtrent som Antonius’ fristelser, stivnet i groteske figurationer – eller laboratorieagtigt filtreret i sagligt eksperimenterende hjerner. Måske er dette: At give efter for ”fristelser” (et ord næsten sløjfet af sproget, i videnskaben neutraliseret til nysgerrighed, forsøg uden grænser) i lang tid et fremskridt, og så ikke et fremskridt mere. En skygge ledsager det, lighvid, kulsort, stadig længere. Triumfens natside, skrækvisionen, stadig mere tydelig. Deformationen, som vokser, mens agtelse og barmhjertighed aftager.

“Let’s take a peep at each other-" “Now the snail with his shell on his back is a wandering” and perhaps with a macro house on his back and – a human foot, and his shell will listen with a maze of human ears to the vibrations in the sea from ship propellers, test explosions on coral islands, harpoons shot into whales – instead of their song. We come from the sea and are pulled down again, to be reproduced in fragments, in backward phases: Irrelevant extremities on creeping, floating soft animals, breaking out of them as though a human was split by a long and mental disaster, an explosion of arrogance, angst, confusion, hybrids and paranoia, pornography and power, and now out of the shell comes: A woman’s breast, a penis and genitals, index fingers, nose and eyes. Visions like Antonius’s temptations, frozen into grotesque figurines - or laboratory-style, filtered into objective experimenting brains. Maybe this is: To give into “temptation” (a word almost banished from language, in science it is neutralised to curiosity, experiments without boundaries) for a long time progress, and then progress no longer. A shadow follows it, deathly pale, becoming longer and longer. The dark side of triumph, a vision of terror, becoming ever more clear. The deformity that grows, while esteem and compassion slowly disappear.

Digt af Thorkild Bjørnvig

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Claes Birch told the paper,”I fear the creeping danger of synthetic materials and chemicals, and plastic has crept up on us, silently and discreetly, without us noticing. We start our day by receiving our first kiss from plastic, when we brush our teeth. Throughout the day we live with it and nearly live on it, because the majority of our food is packaged in plastic.” Claes Birch also built steel coffins for the plastic dead, because they could not – being filled with chemicals – be burned in normal wooden coffins. The year after – in 1985 – an exhibition was held consisting of 45 works entitled “Fragments from the world’s sea”. Once again it was delivered together with Thorkild Bjørnvig, author of ”The recipient”. 1986 saw the Chernobyl disaster. Now the artist's vision of terror proved to be innocence itself when compared with the incarnate reality. Once again, reality surpassed art. For a while art faced a checkmate. Reality itself had delivered the terror and the warning. It may explain why Claes Birch changed direction in the years that followed. He had been proved right – too much right. He occupied himself with more traditional sculptures. It did not mean he had given up on his ethical and moral beliefs. On the contrary, he contacted his local church – Grundtvigs Church at Bispebjerg in Copenhagen, where, in 2001, he had a widely talked about exhibition entitled “Bird Phoenix”. It was an exhibition about life – maybe eternal life as it was about being resurrected from the ashes.

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All his works from this exhibition and the works created in the many years of environmental art were put into storage at Knudsrødgård near Slagelse – waiting for new and better times.

Fortegnelse over fotos og værker

Claes Birch and the climate conference

2. Claes Birch med sin far og lillebror

Claes Birch died in 2003 and is therefore reappearing not in connection with the climate conference, but because his life and work was a sort of introduction to getting something done about problems caused by man. He expressed back in 1972 to local paper Sjællands Tidende: “I will aesthetically try to express my views on pollution using those resources I have available to me.” To the same paper he said in 4.8.1979: ”I am morbid in my art. I would like to bind together the aesthetic with the unaesthetic, and warn people. I want to show that it is too dangerous to play with chemistry and nature in that careless way that “experts” often do today.” He showed this to those who wanted to see!

Bibliography Ole Nørlyng: Weilbachs Kunstnerleksikon, 1994 Claus Bojesen: Hrymfaxe 1981, no. 4, p. 10-13 Claus Bojesen: Hrymfaxe 1993, no. 2, p. 15-18 Stig Miss: Sculptures and objects 1983-1985, Vejle Museum of Art, 1985 Thorkild Bjørnvig: Collected poems 1947-1993, 1998 Frede Vestergaard: Are we scared enough? Weekend paper no. 30, 2009.

1. Claes Birch som lille dreng Claes Birch as a little boy

Claes Birch with his father and littlebrother

3. Claes Birch med båd ved Stillinge Strand Claes Birch with boat at Stillinge beach

16. Containers 1980, rustfrit stål/cortensstål 17. Kollosal fod i ler 18. Ubrændte fødder i ler 19. Brev i en nuklear tid 1982, skifer, sølv og bladguld

4. Kumulationer 1977 indstøbt i polyester

20. Paddehattesky

5. Globalt forårsfragment 1978, polyester

21. Fragmenter fra verdenshavet 1985 gipsskulpturer

6. Mutationer 1974 7. Claes Birch med sin kone Jytte Møllegaard Larsen ved Caput Mortuum 1974 polyester

22. Billedhugger på arbejde 23. En snegl på vejen fra udstillingen fragmenter fra verdenshavet

8. En afslappet Claes Birch

24. Lille paddehattesky

9. Claes Birch midt i Tutta Plastica 1984 10. Knudsrødgård, Eruptioner 1976 11. Eruptioner 1976 12. Containers 1980 13. Kumulationer 1977 14. Fragment fra udstillingen af Claes Birch Støvet fra Fugl Phønix

15. Sære udvoksninger i ler

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Claes Birch Kunst & Klima