Nanna Debois Buhl

Born: 1975
Nationality: Danish
Based in: Denmark
Media: Multimedia / Video, Cross Discipline, Photography, Public Space, Sculpture / Installation, Sound / Performance
Content: Architectural, Conceptual, Gender, Knowledge Production / Discursive, Political, Post-Colonial


Places and objects, traces and fragments

My artistic practice is an ongoing investigation of historical and cultural knowledge through botany, animal life, imagery, and architectural components.

In many projects I examine the layers of stories and histories inscribed in landscapes and urban spaces. Some works are “close readings” of objects concerning how artefacts and ideologies are interrelated, how they travel through and change over time.

Following traces and collecting fragments are common methods throughout. The film “Looking for Donkeys” maps my search for feral donkeys in the Caribbean whose ancestors were brought by the Danish colonizers in the 17th century. Today the donkeys roam the island like ghosts of colonial times. My recent project “Botanizing on the Asphalt” is serial cyanotope “herbarium” of objects found on walks around the exhibition spaces were the work is shown. Inspired by the British botanist and photographer Anna Atkins who did a large cyanotype herbarium of algae in the 1840s, the work explores the respective areas through their discarded objects.

I materialize my works through a combination of installations, film, text, photography, sound, and books, and often use the formats of maps, herbariums, atlases, or travelogues. My studio practice oscillates between research and visual experimentation. Methodologically my works emerge in the collision between word and image: With an experimental approach to storytelling and photography I sample own texts and images with archival material, historical photographs, and fragments of literary or non-fictional texts. New spaces, meanings, and parallel histories are created in these collisions.

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Botanizing on the Asphalt (LIC), 2015 Installation 44 cyanotypes (38 x 56 cm) + map A serial cyanotope “herbarium” of objects found on walks around the exhibition spaces were the work is shown. The work is inspired by the British botanist and photographer Anna Atkins who did a large cyanotype herbarium of algae in the 1840s. Installation view SculptureCenter, New York

Botanizing on the Asphalt, 2015 Artists’ book published by Officin Part of the project Botanizing on the Asphalt. The book contains cyanotypes of discarded objects collected on walks in New York, Riga, and Copenhagen and a letter exchange between Nanna Debois Buhl and art historian Jen Kennedy in which they consider the life of objects, the porousness of the skin, and the meaning of mapping a city through trash by use of cyanotype.

Looking for Donkeys, 2009 16mm film transferred to HD 14 minutes Diary format film about the donkeys on St. John whose ancestors were brought to the island by the Danish colonizers in the 17th century to be used as beasts of burden at the sugar plantations. Today most of the island is a nature preserve. Having lost their original function, the donkeys roam the island as ghosts of Danish colonial times.

A Journey in Two Directions, 201o Artists’ book published by Revolver The book represents my body of works that examine traces of the Danish colonial past in the intersection of Afro-Caribbean, American, and Danish histories. It includes contributions from Naja Marie Aidt, Johanna Burton, Edgar O. Lake, Thomas J. Lax, Tone Olaf Nielsen, and Louise Wolthers. Navigating with imperfect maps between unfamiliar terrain and familiar surroundings, the journey goes through archives and streetscapes, islands and museums, as I investigate the varied and variable signs of these overlapping histories.

Collected Walks, 2012 Installation w. sound The installation’s soundtrack is a montage of literary quotes describing walks made by women through diverse cityscapes. The visual component is a series of monochrome cyanotypes created during my walks in different cities. The cyanotype collection is a diary or logbook, each print an abstract registration of the weather and light conditions at a given time and place along the itinerary. Installation view, ISCP, New York