Kirstine Roepstorff

In 1999 the enthusiasm was far from overwhelming when Kirstine Roepstorff exhibited a series of banners with the title Terror and Therapy in New York. On the banners one could read a text about the commonalities between terror and therapy. One of Roepstorff’s points was that both terror and therapy are about trying to break down the status quo – whether one attacks the physical pillars of society, or one attempts to loosen up ingrained and destructive patterns of thinking in an individual. Both the terrorist and the therapist work with the identification of the “normal”. They are both signs of breakdown of the system – or as the artist herself puts it: “Both methods are the result of not feeling in a constructive exchange with the surrounding society, and not being able to create and live out ones personal values.” Roepstorff did not emphasise one praxis over the other. Neither did she claim that terror is the same as therapy; rather that the two concepts are structurally related. Nonetheless a lot of people in New York City, the world’s capital of therapy, became pretty upset about her work.

Terror and Therapy points to a central theme in Roepstorff’s work: her continuous investigation of what constitutes meaning and normality. An example is the slogan-like statement in one of her central collage works: ‘Who Decides Who Decides?’ A question, which is both directed at the individual on a basic existential level, and at overarching power relations on the global, high-powered political scene.

In recent years, Roepstorff has focused most of her investigation into the rhetoric of the language of power onto the collages that now make up most of her work. They are detailed photo montages, where images of exploding bombs, exploited nature and tense political summit meetings are put together with seductive images of lush jungle flowers and shimmering pearls, with a sparkling sprinkle of glitter. The result can seem paradoxical, but is nonetheless consistent with Roepstorff’s central message – that the production of meaning is a sensitive business. As Karl Marx said: “All that is solid melts into air.” And in a way, it is the semantic fragility of modern life that Roepstorff is trying to point at with the versatile expression of the collages: that the values and conventions our society is built on are perhaps not so solid and everlasting, but can in an instant be turned into airy concepts – into a single sprinkle of glitter.

By Pernille Albrethsen, translated by Eva May


"Pink, 2004" (collage paper, pearls, 230 x 226 cm) Courtesy Gallery Christina Wilson. Photography: Anders Sune Berg.