22 March 2020
Babel visningsrom for kunst welcomes you to the exhibition Blue Chip Baby by Duckert Detroit March 6 –
Welcome to the opening on Friday March 6 at 19.00!
Guided tour of the exhibition by Kjetil Detroit Kristensen and Helene Duckert March 22 at 14.00.
Blue Chip Baby is a collaborative project between Kjetil Detroit Kristensen and Helene Duckert – a project that, in simplified terms, addresses themes related to the artist’s role and art production. The collaborative project is presented as one unit, one artist, one sender; Duckert Detroit.
Blue Chip is a term taken from the financial world and appropriated into the art field, to describe an artist who provides guaranteed returns, even in times of decline. In the Blue Chip Baby project, Duckert Detroit explores themes such as success and defeat, artist economics, popular culture, collaboration and solidarity. Duckert Detroit conceptualizes “branding” as part of the contemporary artist’s new reality in a hyper-globalized world. The duo discusses the thoughts and experiences surrounding the roles that today’s artists face, and looks for methods of interaction and art production.
Helene Duckert holds an MFA in medium and material-based art with a BFA specialization from the metal and jewellery department from the Oslo National Academy of the Arts as well as a Bachelor in art and design from the Oslo University College. Kjetil Detroit Kristensen holds an MFA in art and public space from the Oslo National Academy of Fine Arts, a BFA from Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art, and has recently completed an advanced course in commissioning and curating public art from Gothenburg University. Both artists have exhibited broadly across Norway as well as internationally. The artist duo Duckert Detroit was established in 2019.
Babel Visningsrom for kunst is supported by Arts Council Norway and Trondheim Municipality.
Interview with Duckert Detroit
by Agnieszka Foltyn
“We are making it by faking it, spending our sixteen days in the art world convincing you that we are here to stay.”
Blue Chip Baby is the prestigious art world love child devised, constructed, and lived by duo Duckert Detroit (Helene Duckert & Kjetil Detroit Kristensen). The maximalist, multidisciplinary exhibition plays with trajectories of success and defeat within the arts; relentlessly questioning the myriad pressures that influence the working conditions of artists in contemporary art today.
Duckert holds an MFA in medium and material-based art with a BFA specialization from the metal and jewellery department from the Oslo National Academy of the Arts as well as a Bachelor in art and design from the Oslo University College. Detroit holds an MFA in art and public space from the Oslo National Academy of Fine Arts, a BFA from Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art, and has recently completed an advanced course in commissioning and curating public art from Gothenburg University. Both artists have exhibited across Norway as well as internationally. Their interest in contemporary artistic struggles and their desire to act upon them in creative ways brought them to found their collective work as Duckert Detroit in 2019. For Blue Chip Baby, Duckert Detroit bring an interdisciplinary practice rich in material textures and histories, drawing on personal experience, popular culture, and artistic research.
The exhibition Blue Chip Baby by Duckert Detroit runs from March 6th to the 22nd, 2020. The opening reception is at 19.00 on March 6th and there will be an artist talk at 14.00 on March 22nd.
Welcome to the grand opening presentation of Duckert Detroit, the soon-to-be famous duo-as-one, newest, greatest, future retrospective titled Blue Chip Baby at Babel visningsrom for kunst.
Duckert Detroit, Oslo-based artists Helene Duckert and Kjetil Detroit Kristensen, are making a splash in the Norwegian art scene. They are building it, physically, with painting, photography, portraiture, printed media, sculpture, graffiti, installation, performance, confidence, trust, intention, exchange, and more. Their practice as a duo responds to current social urgencies within contemporary artistic work by using mechanisms such as branding to highlight the importance of creating art work. “We are making an artistic career in one show,” they state. “This project will continue growing. It almost feels like a release. We are trying to push all of the buttons. It’s a massive thing.” And it’s coming to Babel.
Their research is felt through the body, through their own lives and experiences but also that of artists around them. To be able to work in many disciplines, to check all of the boxes, is a statement of value. “We are using our own art as currency to pay [our collaborators] because we don’t have any money,” say Duckert Detroit. They are used to making a lot out of a little, a fundamental skill these days. Using their vast network of resources, of equipment, of skills, and most importantly of people, Duckert Detroit claim a value to their work, their labour. They mark this physically, too, by using their art as currency in exchange for services provided, inserting themselves into a long history of artists doing this before them. This exchange may not have been possible without the existing trust of their network but it speaks to the importance and confidence of a claim within the art world.
The exhibition Blue Chip Baby asserts itself as important. The term blue chip was coined in 1928 in the United States for a corporate entity that represents reliable investment. It holds a reputation for quality, reliability, and stable profitability in both good and bad economic times. In poker, a blue chip represents the coin with the highest value – and therefore the highest appeal. To be “blue chip” is to establish a connotation between a history of high value investments and yourself. In art, blue chip is a term widely recognized by collectors to describe an artist you can safely invest in. Duckert Detroit wish to clearly establish a new sense of being blue chip – being a blue chip baby. Their ambitions resonate through a strained and playful confidence, echoing in their prolific production and in their dynamic and forceful energy. They are situating this energy for a short moment at Babel, bringing everyone into their glow. Toeing the line between highly educated research-speak and colloquial banter, they laugh, “I don’t think people want to fuck with us. You want to be in the gang.”
Duckert Detroit are “almost creating an artistic vault – to use as currency.” They wonder if it’s possible to establish future value. Models of pressure exerted within contemporary society heavily influence the type of work producers make. There have always been practical considerations linked to access, economy, and transport but Duckert Detroit find their way, marking a kind of resilient endurance found in those whose eyes sparkle with intention. They want to use the exhibition to bring real-life experiences of artistic production into focus. With their upfront, in your face attitude, they do not hesitate to tell it like it is. This is also a comment on the precarious state of the contemporary producer, the confidence required simply to make – and to show. Many artistic applications now require some form of institutional approval though an invitation or referral – a stamped and authorized outcome promise. This partnership is devised as a way to ensure quality, reputation, assurance. In a global system so largely based on personal networks of trust, it is no surprise that reputability is used as a means of expressing assurance. It’s a long line of referrals, a power status reference system. This is exactly the point Duckert Detroit are trying to make.
“Can you make yourself into a blue chip artist?” they ask. Duckert Detroit try to embody this path to success in every way, exerting power and confidence through the use of symbols. They even have established totems: Duckert’s a lioness and Detroit a polar bear, both animals with a reputation for being on top. But here, they work as one, under one co-constructed and collaborative identity: Duckert Detroit. “There is a lot of power in collaborative force,” they state. Their working method includes long brainstorming sessions twice a week, from morning until night, filled with spontaneous conversation, leisure, and production: a dynamic process of back and forth, sorting through commonalities, speculation, wishes, desires, realities, and dreams. Though they each have their own respective practices, at Babel they meet as one entity. “There is more in common with us as people. We have the same approach to being an artist in this contemporary scene,” Duckert Detroit say.
In a way, these are acts of civil disobedience, a comment on status and the pressures that shape the role of artists across class. “Collaboration is an interesting theme on its own. Creating a duo is a way to hack it,” they state. They use language as a form of play and this forms the foundation of their dialogue. “Freedom and happiness is what we’re trying to gain. And it’s useless if we don’t share it.” They exchange, pay with their art, in time, through dinners, sharing bread and wine. Using their network as a resource helps them get to where they want to go but it at the same time elevates the group as a whole. Trust and solidarity are tools of their trade.
“We want to be blue chip artists,” Duckert Detroit state. This much is clear. Branding is a whole artistic project on its own. It is a curation of an identity or perhaps the curation of its exposure. “We want to live as artists. What does it mean to make it? It is just creating great work and being ignored,” they say. Their book, How to Make it in “America”, will form part of the exhibition at Babel. It’s an introduction, volume one. Duckert Detroit use the familiar entrepreneurial tropes of capitalistic predation to comment on the dissolution of frameworks of meaning and value within contemporary art. You can catch them on social media or “somewhere out in the open.” “We are trying to maximize our own exposure,” they state. Duckert Detroit want to reach a wide range of people through different channels, such as museums, major galleries, collectors, earning street cred, and representing the underdog perspective. “We are interested in being mainstream and not, to show that we are relevant in both circles,” they add. Babel is just a landing point in their journey to stardom or rather financial stability within art work. Their collaboration soon moves to the Czech Republic for a residency and developments on future projects are already coming in. With some hope and uncertainty, they are thinking strategically, staging themselves and the exhibition in stimulating ways. They aim to make a big splash. They proclaim, “We want Trondheim to know we’re coming. Trondheim needs to know that we have arrived.” And if you haven’t yet heard of Duckert Detroit, you will.
Blue Chip Baby, 2020
Techniques: Installation, sculpture, print, jewellery, painting, photography, textiles, text, readymades. Cane by Henning Linaker.
Materials: Mixed media (shortlist): Spray paint, aquarelle, glue, tape, bamboo, human hair, various paper, various plastics, cardboard, two component organic epoxy, wood, glass, water, neon and indigo pigment, oxycontin, rubber, 18k gold, cotton, aluminum, distress hand flare.
Credits: Geir Backe Altern, Sayed Sattar Hasan, Erling Knudsen, Scott Joseph, Fellesverkstedet, Norsk Fotofagskole, Prosjektskolen i Oslo, Geir Haraldseth, Tommy Olsson, Olga Schmedling.
The exhibition also features collaborative works by Brage Sunde and Dev Dhunsi.
Photo: Babel/Susann Jamtøy