Artists Shed Light on the History of Witch Hunts and How Fear Spreads Through Communities in a New Show in Denmark

See images of the historical works and contemporary commissions here.

Carmen Winant, The neighbor, the friend, the lover, (2020). Courtesy the artist and Stene Projects, Stockholm.
Carmen Winant, The neighbor, the friend, the lover, (2020). Courtesy the artist and Stene Projects, Stockholm.

In the 17th century, hundreds of witch trials took place across the five Nordic countries of Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, resulting in scores of deaths and casting a pall over the region.

Witch hunts were drastically skewed along gender lines, and often once a woman in a family was accused of witchcraft, her female relatives were targets of persecution for generations. While the trials in Salem have been widely documented and recreated in popular culture for generations, the incidents of indigenous violence in the Nordic countries have been largely left out of the narrative.

Albrecht Dürer, De fire hekse (The Four Witches) 1497, Nürnberg.

A new show at Denmark’s Kunsthal Charlottenborg explores this haunting time in history with archival material dating from the 15th to 18th century presented alongside contemporary works, including seven new commissions. The exhibition features work by artists including Carmen Winant, Louise Bourgeois, Albrecht Durer, and La Vaughn Belle, tracking not just witchcraft, but the way that fear and hatred spreads throughout communities, a phenomenon that remains painfully relevant today.

“At a time of global unrest, as the politics of commemoration are in question,” the museum says in a statement, “‘Witch Hunt’ suggests the need to revisit seemingly distant histories and proposes new imaginaries for remembering and representation.”

“Witch Hunt” runs from November 7, 2020–January 17, 2021 at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Denmark. See images from the show below:

Sandra Mujinga, Ghosting, (2019). Courtesy kuntsneren og Croy Nielsen, Wien.Photo: Jan Khür.

Carmen Winant, <i>The neighbor, the friend, the lover,</i> (2020). Courtesy the artist and Stene Projects, Stockholm.

Carmen Winant, The neighbor, the friend, the lover, (2020). Courtesy the artist and Stene Projects, Stockholm.

Virginia Lee Montgomery, <i>Water Witching,</i> (2018). Courtesy the artist.

Virginia Lee Montgomery, Water Witching, (2018). Courtesy the artist.

Aviva Silverman, We Have Decided Not to Die, (2019). Installation view at VEDA, Florence. Courtesy of the artist and VEDA, Florence. Photo: Flavio Pescatori.

 

Louise Bourgeois, <i>C.O.Y.O.T.E.</i> (1947-1949). Photo: Installation view of C.O.Y.O.T.E. in exhibition 'Louise Bourgeois: Alone and Together’ at Faurschou Copenhagen. Photo by Anders Sune Berg, © The Easton Foundation. © The Easton Foundation/VISDA.

Louise Bourgeois, C.O.Y.O.T.E. (1947-1949). Photo: Installation view of C.O.Y.O.T.E. in exhibition ‘Louise Bourgeois: Alone and Together’ at Faurschou Copenhagen. Photo by Anders Sune Berg, © The Easton Foundation. © The Easton Foundation/VISDA.

La Vaughn Belle, <i>strange gods before thee</i> (2020), video still. Courtesy the artist.

La Vaughn Belle, strange gods before thee (2020), video still. Courtesy the artist.


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