With his outdoor installation Exit Basel Jan Christensen, who was born in 1977 in Copenhagen and who lives and works in Berlin and Nantes, responds to the challenging urban setting around Kunsthaus Baselland.
Situated along the borderline separating an urban from a rural environment, this former industrial building is embedded in a commercial area increasingly occupied by the sprawling city of Basel. A case in point is the Kestenholz Mercedes outlet which has set up a makeshift dealership in the immediate vicinity of Kunsthaus Baselland, and much impairs its visibility. It has been agreed upon by both parties that the façade on the Kunsthaus Baselland side should be made available to this art institution and the activities carried out by it. Kunsthaus Baselland, after long deliberations, has selected Jan Christensen’s now completed work. With Exit Basel, the artist has transferred an emergency exit logo from an indoor into an outdoor setting. The stylized figure trying to escape a fire is turned such that it runs towards the entrance of Kunsthaus Baselland, toying with the idea of alleviating or defusing a putative emergency situation by means of art. In an outdoor environment, the oversized logo appears absurd — who is this figure running from, and why? What is more, its absurdity also stems from the fact that it is placed outdoors, in a ‘safe’ area. This reversal of inside and outside, of safety and insecurity, and the palpable impact of this sign (which is really a signal as well as orientation marker) — all of this has an effect on viewers, i.e. on people who virtually drown in a sea of symbols and signs. Exit Basel is a hard-to-miss beacon leading you to the safe haven of art. Basel’s exit is now located at Kunsthaus Baselland.
Exit Basel will be inaugurated on the occasion of the Basel Museum Night 2006, heralding Christensen’s first solo show in Switzerland. Kunsthaus Baselland will present a comprehensive exhibition devoted to the artist from 6 May to 2 July 2006 entitled Forward Momentum.
Text by Sabine Schaschl