OPENING HOURS:   WE - Fr  4 - 7 PM, Sa  2 - 6 PM


Søren Martinsen


texts about the individual videos

Sparwasser HQ, Torstrasse 161, Berlin Mitte
Opening April 12.
Exhibition period April 13. - 22. 2001
Opening hours: wed­fri 4­7pm and sat 4­6pm
NB!! 21.4. : 4-10 pm, 22.4. 2-6pm
Screenings at Z-bar, Bergstrasse 2. Videos by Søren Martinsen:
Shadows and Magic
, sat. 14.4. at 10pm, Burn and Wrecking Ball, 21.4. at 10 pm.

dream operator is the title of a series of video installations and screenings in Sparwasser hq 12.4.01 ­ 04.06.01 (see program). The first installation is by the Danish artist, Søren Martinsen.

Who, as a child, did not have a dream that turned into a nightmare: waking up one morning to find yourself the only person left on earth, the freedom of independence transforming quickly into loneliness and despair. Walking through the installation When I woke up, you were gone by Søren Martinsen evokes these dream/nightmare emotions. The installation consists of three different projections, each capturing the atmosphere of a walk through a deserted townscape. The same soundtrack, a piece by Giya Kancheli, guides all three. There is nothing dramatic about the setting, as such. Emotional effect is obtained through simple, formal, cinematic effects; it is the combination of fluid, almost slow-motion camera movements and music that turn these views of depopulated architecture into a narrative of lonely searching and longing for reunification, underscored by the title of the installation.

Martinsen takes a similar approach in his video Into the Freetown, which is screened nightly in the window of Sparwasser HQ. The architectural setting is Christiania, an autonomous community in Copenhagen. The narrator walks through an empty and deserted town. Once again, sound, camera, and editing create a psychedelic atmosphere, and the architecture represents lost idealism, pointing to Christiania as a failed utopia.

The two pieces are part of Martinsen's ongoing investigation and redefinition of the principles of documentary filmmaking. The camera captures real material, but the point of departure is always subjective, and in opposition to TV documentary or journalism, Martinsen's works do not attempt to uncover a certain truth or fulfill an enlightening aim. He employs, instead, the manipulative possibilities of the documentary genre in a simple, formalistic exploration of his subject. Martinsen makes the manipulation, which present in all documentary work, transparent, and the outcome is a highly personal and suggestive work.

In connection with the exhibition, three additional videos by Martinsen will be shown at Z-bar. Shadows and Magic explores the Copenhagen art-scene from various perspectives: Martinsen's personal experience, his contemporaries, and the younger generation of artists. Despite its specific setting, the work reflects the general situation and complexes of the artist. Burn and Wrecking Ball both investigate phenomenon of festival culture: a catharsis experience of outliving ones fantasies and getting lost. Both videos generate apocalyptic feelings.

Text: Henrikke Nielsen



Video-Installation 13 -22 April:

Video-Installation, drei Projektionen/3 x 9 minutes

bis 22. April


Video installation on three screens, 3 x 9 minutes. VHS.

"When I woke Up, You Were Gone" is a video installation on three screens. Each screen shows a different video.
All three videos have the same length and are synchronized to a common soundtrack, an orchestra piece by Giya Kancheli. Even though each video is unique, the three videos resemble each other; they are three variations over the same theme and the same type of pictures.

This installation examines the atmosphere of special architectural sites.
All three videos show depopulated city architecture, shot in a fluid, almost slow-motion style. The empty city assumes the character of a lifeless body, and the videos, atmosphere - which is also determined by the use of music - is that of death: A dead city as seen in a waking nightmare.

The travelling camera movements on the videos create an "elastic" effect, as if the city were a soft and fluid structure which changes all the time, a theme that is enhanced by the physical experience of walking in and out of rooms to see the 3-screen installation in the gallery's rooms.
The camera,s "searching through this architecture and the general atmosphere of sadness makes the video a statement about loneliness, of the wish to reunite with a loved person, and the title also points to this theme of loneliness: "I am wandering about, looking for "you.

The character of the site is enhanced, by means of a manipulation of the images with sound, music, camera movements and other techniques which come from cinema. In this way the video uses the formal, cinematic possibilitues of the video medium and its ability to create a mise-en-scene of an everyday scenario in a special light.


Video-Screening 14. April 10 pm
in Z-bar, Bergstrasse 3, 10115 Berlin

SHADOWS & MAGIC - Art Life in Copenhagen
Video, 55 minutes, 2000




Video-Screening 21. April 10 pm
in Z-bar, Bergstrasse 3, 10115 Berlin

THE BURN video (29 min)

DV/Betacam, English

An English version is on its way!

Instruktion og fotografi: Søren Martinsen
Klip: Bo Mikkelsen
Lyd: Kaspar Husted
On-Line: Thomas Therchilsen
Produceret med støtte fra Det Danske Filminstituts Filmværksted
Distribution. Galerie Asbæk, Bredgade 20, DK - 1260 Copenhagen, Denmark.
Telephone (+45) 33 15 40 04, fax: (+45)3313 16 10
Søren Martinsen Kunst & Kommunikation, Asgårdsvej 6, 1811 FC, Denmark.
Tel./ fax: (+45) 33 23 95 45

The BURN er en eksperimentalvideo optaget på Burning Man Festivalen i Nevada Ørkenen 1998.
Hvert år rejser tusinder af mennesker til det afsides beliggende ørkenplateau Black Rock i Nevadaørkenen for i cirka 1_ uge at deltage i opbyggelsen af en midlertidig, autonom by som fungerer som ramme om en usædvanlig festival, der går ud på at tillade alle deltagerne at udfolde deres personlige ritualer og drømme.

Dette mini-bysamfund fungerer som en non-kommerciel, anarkistisk lejr hvor deltagerne udfører eksperimenter med sig selv og søger at nærme sig en utopi om at leve sammen i et alternativt fællesskab, der er baseret på personlig frihed og grænsebrydning snarere end kommercialisme og regler, der jo kendetegner det etablerede kapitalistiske samfund.
Kulminationen på festivalen er når deltagerne i fællesskab og under kathartisk ophidselse brænder en stor figur af en mand af, og mange af lejrens møjsommeligt opbyggede strukturer og kunstværker brændes også ned i scener af destruktion og spektakulære ildritualer. Tilsidst forsvinder deltagerne så pludseligt som de kom og vender tilbage til deres normale tilværelse.

Jeg har altid været fascineret af mennesker der søger at etablere utopiske, eksperimenterende samfund. Jeg ønskede at vise Burningn Man Festivalen sådan som jeg oplevede den, som en outsider/voyeur med et kamera i ørkenen i 12 dage. Jeg ville gerne prøve at få beskueren til at føle hvordan det føltes at være der, hvilken oplevelse det var - uden at tilkendegive min egen bedømmelse af om Burning Man som visionært, utopisk projekt er en succes eller en fiasko.



WRECKING BALL video ( 7 min)

(1997) DV/ Betacam.


"Wrecking Ball" is a video about Europe's largest rock festival ("Roskilde" in Denmark). The terrible and tragig events that occurred at the Roskilde Festival 2000 when eight young people were crushed to death at a concert, eerily echo the dramatic atmosphere of the film, but the film was shot 3 years earlier than the tragedy and it has no connection or reference whatsoever to this.

An establishing shot (thousands arrive at the festival) at the beginning hints at the context, but the crowd shown might be from anything from a rave to a political demonstration, or a peace march. The specific facts about the event are not disclosed; it was important for me that the video only provide the loose backdrop of an 'abstract' location. The video is simply a series of images from a place which is clearly a 'pocket of difference', judging from the way the people and the architecture look - a zone for a certain 'other', alternative life-style.

A loose narrative forms as the character of the event drastically changes, and a dramatic 'cataclysm' (a raging thunderstorm) happens. When this is over, the registering camera wanders about in the wreckage, a city of destroyed tents, mud and rubbish, and discovers sleeping, seemingly 'dead' people. The video ends with this post-apocalyptic atmosphere.

The video assumes a documentary style but employs very manipulative editing and careful selection of raw footage. Only the festival's 'side-effects' are shown in the video.
In a normal video from a rock festival one would see live music, people dancing, etc., but in this case the festival-goers are presented only as if they were a strange, zombie-like tribe with motives and rituals one doesn't quite understand.

The video is about the need for extacy. It's a slightly cynical but also funny, voyeuristic study in compulsive, all-devouring celebration and its consequences. Human beings need to let off steam in a carnivalesque 'paretheses', a zone where the normal rules do not apply.

The song "Woodstock" is used in the beginning and at the end of the video and points to the irony of the fact that the young generation of twentysomethings in the 90's still haven't created their 'own' celebration, automatically 'replay' the extasy that their parents discovered in their youth: The dinosaur Woodstock lives on in the " contemporary rock festival.




Also shown on the gallery window 13. - 22. April

INTO THE FREETOWN video (8 min.)

Betacam/VHS. 1996

"Into The Freetown" is a video produced for an exhibition ("Escape Attempts") which took place in a notorious Danish hippie commune called Christiania. Christiania is unique because of its large size and geographical location(more than 1000 people live in a very large area right near the centre of Copenhagen) and its longevity (it dates back to 1971). In spite of hostility and pressure from the government and the police, it has the status of 'social experiment' and has managed to survive.
Christiania carries a multitude of connotations to many people, but my fascination with it has to do with its anarchistic non-government structure and hence its simultaneous acceptance of attractive and repulsive elements: good and bad, beautiful and ugly, constructivity and dysfunctionality exist alongside each other in Christiania.

The video recounts a fictitious voyage into Christiania. A voice tells us the story about walking into the "Freetown". This place turns out to be a mysterios town without any people, as if everybody had suddenly disappeared without explanation.
The video's atmosphere is that of a dream or a nightmare in which one suddenly finds oneself all alone in an empty world, as in "Palle Alone in The World", (a Danish children's book about a child's nightmare). All that is left to hint at the story of Christiania's life is the area's sad, empty architecture.
This fictitious ghost town is presented by means of lingering, dreamy tracking shots through the area combined with heavy, psychedelic music which sounds as if it is being played through water or is transmitted over a long distance, from another time and space.
This empty architectural shell points to the obvious absence of people, as if, metaphorically speaking, a departing of the spirit of Christiania had occurred. This mysterios absence comments on the anxiety that has lingered over Christiania since its beginning: A fear of being closed down by the authorities.
Seen in this perspective, the video shows the politicians' vision come true. However, the video can also be seen as a comment on Christiania's own internal process of change: The utopian, anarchistic character of the 'social experiment' is beginning to evaporate and gives way to commercialism, tourism and isolationism; a process of normalization that fundamentally changes the 'soul' of Christiania, the commune becoming a psychedelic theme park rather than an open, radical experiment in new society.