Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art from Denmark

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In the 2000s, postcolonial critique effectively changed the agendas of contemporary art and art history, not least in Denmark where several artists began to engage with the local history of colonialism, the question of Denmark's share in the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans and chattel slavery, and the continued effects of colonialism on contemporary societies. After outlining such activities on the Danish art scene, this essay focuses on Jeannette Ehlers and Nanna Debois Buhl, two Copenhagen‐based artists who have made the history of the Danish West Indies (now the US Virgin Islands) the topic of several video works. I propose that their perceptions of Danish colonialism and its effects on the islands are very different. Therefore, their works need to be analysed within different frameworks: in Buhl's case, a combined postcolonial and critical whiteness studies perspective; in Ehlers's case, a combined decolonial and postcolonial perspective. Furthermore, a postmigrant perspective is introduced to provide a frame for understanding how closely the critique of (Danish) colonialism ties in with pluralization processes in society at large.
Original languageEnglish
JournalArt History
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)258-283
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - Contemporary art, Danish colonialism, transcultural entanglements, video art, postcolonialism, postmigration

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