Lene Adler Petersen

1944 | Aarhus, Denmark
Lene Adler Petersen — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Lene Adler Petersen

Danish experimental visual artist and performer.

Lene Adler Petersen was born into a working-class family in the city of Aarhus. After training at the Jutland Art Academy, Aarhus (1964-1966) and Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen (1968-1969), she started working in various media that spanned poetry, collage, drawing, painting, ceramics, happenings and film. Her work is characterised by a poetic and strategic elaboration of issues that deal with feminism, human rights and anti-capitalism.
The black-and-white photograph Fotografi (en opvask) [Photography (washing up)], 1980, is emblematic: with its depiction of unwashed dishes, she presents a social realist yet poetic image of a kitchen. In this case the woman does not clean the dishes, she makes an artwork.

Active in the radical artistic art circle of the 1960s, not least the highly influential Eks-skole (1961-1969), which formed as an alternative to the Royal Academy and introduced neo-avant-garde experiments to Denmark, she never separated her political beliefs and activism from her art, writing manifestoes, making layouts for feminist magazines, and conducting workshops as alternatives to the traditional means of expression. Within this context collage became very important, and she experimented with this medium while a part of the Danish women’s rights Red Stocking Movement. The method of cutting out and rearranging forms was an easy way of creating new narratives, as with Udklip på papir med kvindetegnet (Cut-out paper with female characters, 1974). With strong colours and a graphically simple yet striking compositions, it takes on the appearance of a political poster. L. Adler Petersen was also active as a performance artist.

On 29 May 1969 at 3:50 p.m., L. Adler Petersen undertook her most radical and notorious work, entering the Copenhagen Stock Exchange (Børsen) to perform The Female Christ II (Expulsion from the Temple), which was recorded by her partner Bjørn Nørgaard (1947-). In this iconic happening the artist walked naked through the hall among the shocked, suited stockbrokers while carrying a large cross, evoking the Christian narrative of Jesus expelling the merchants from the temple. The centre of Danish commerce was thus suddenly transformed into a platform of socio-political, capitalist critique.
She has been involved with several different Danish artists groups, including ABCinema, Tidsskriftet Kvinder, and Arme og Ben, and since 1995, Kammeraterne. L. Adler Petersen took part in, co-curated and designed the exhibition poster for the first women-only exhibition in 1975 in Copenhagen and one of the first feminist exhibitions in the world, Kvindeudstillingen (Women’s exhibition). Held at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, the exhibition featured 70 international artists, including Marina Abramović (1946-) and Carolee Schneemann (1939-2019), among others.

In the 1980s, inspired by the international feminist movements, L. Adler Petersen travelled to New York to further develop her individual and personal expression that featured the subjective experience of history. Travels to Mexico, Spain, and Indonesia would also have a strong influence on her drawings and ceramic works. Her critical and activist approach to art has influenced younger generations of Danish artists.
L. Adler Petersen is represented in many museums, including the SMK- National Gallery of Denmark.

Mai Dengsøe

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