Does the language we use to describe terror simply report on violent acts or does it actively shape and produce terrorism? In the exhibition, ‘The Language of Terror is Terror Itself, The Language of Terror is Terror Itself, The Terror of Terror is Language’—currently on view at Galerie Wedding—Danish artist Peter Voss Knude launches an investigation into the relationship between language and terrorism.
The exhibition revolves around a document called ‘KRISØV17’ (Crisis Exercise 2017), a piece of speculative fiction that sees Denmark hit by a multilateral terrorist attack, which was originally devised for the Danish Emergency Management Agency to serve as the framework for an exercise in terror management. The exhibition is composed of a series of critical, artistic responses to the language of this document (available to visitors as a 60-page booklet), unfolding in a broad variety of media ranging from architecture and painting to music and performative tarot readings.
Although jihadist terrorism only accounts for one third of potential attacks in Denmark, ‘KRISØV17’ focuses solely on non-white, Muslim perpetrators. Throughout the exhibition, it becomes clear just how indicative this text is of the islamophobic worldview that festers in the public imagination, as well as within official institutions. The author even admits to taking much of the storyline from the American TV Series ‘Homeland,’ which has been widely criticized for its islamophobia.
The exhibition is spearheaded by the striking piece, ‘Rose Quartz Terror Barricade’: a huge 1.1-ton, Instagram-friendly rose quartz crystal that blocks the entrance of the gallery. Emulating the anti-terror architecture that can be seen all across urban Europe, its delicate color and healing connotations mirror the paradoxical double-function of this type of anti-terror architecture. It is an emblem of governmental responsibility and protection, its design (masquerading as billboards and oversized flower pots) simultaneously works to conceal the function of the construction.
A group of Voss Knude’s works center around a performative crisis management workshop held by the artist, leading up to the opening of the exhibition. The workshop departed from a recent academic study that claims that every time the New York Times publishes an article about terror, an immediate increase in domestic terror attacks can be observed. Part crisis management, part tarot card reading, Voss Knude confronted the articles in the New York Times as attacks, urgent crises to be managed, thereby reversing the generally perceived causality between journalism and terror, examining the question of media culpability.
By artistically reworking a defence exercise like KRISØV17, Voss Knude is able to transform it into a different kind of defence. A defence, not from an external threat, but from our own prejudice and terrorized minds.