El barco de barro
(The Clay Ship)

Copenhagen Contemporary
10 October 2020 – 1 August 2021

If we travel for a longer period of time, we become acutely aware of our place of origin and aspects of our own particular culture. In the encounter with strangers, we are confronted, as is our home country, with the perception of strangers and the paraphrases, generalisations, and misunderstandings that may arise when a particular culture and its narratives are interpreted by outsiders.

This is the kind of journey that the Venezuelan artist Sol Calero invites us to take when her brilliantly coloured Caribbean universe entitled El barco de barro (The Clay Ship) unfolds at full throttle in Copenhagen Contemporary’s (CC’s) halls. Here, Calero creates a living community with pavilions, plastic chairs, and organically shaped furniture emblematic of a perception of Latin America. The exhibition is structured as a large clay workshop where questions about identity, immigration, and cultural encounters emerge while visitors move round the installation. By working creatively with clay, Sol Calero invites visitors to help create the exhibition and pass on their own stories. The exhibition will gradually take shape and visitors’ creations will finally fill shelves and surface areas everywhere in El barco de barro.

Art as a shortcut to understanding

An encounter with Sol Calero’s exhibition is an encounter with art, but also with ourselves and other people. Meeting people offers new pictures and perspectives on the world, which may change our perception, not just of other cultures, but of our own, too. When did you last meet a person who offered you a new perspective on the world? These are the questions and ideas which Calero raises with us, very apt in these corona times and pinpointing just how different people and nations really are.

Narratives in clay

In the exhibition, visitors will experience the transformative process of clay. From its wet and malleable stage until heat turns it into stoneware and, finally, how it undergoes chemical processes in the large kiln. Visitors are invited to continue adding to the narratives of other people, thus shaping and developing El barco de barro together. With this clay ship, Sol Calero helps CC’s visitors to set sail and share their own stories and cultural heritage.

Sol Calero, El barco de barro (The Clay Ship) is supported by Nordea Fonden.

The clay workshop in Sol Calero’s exhibition have been developed in collaboration with Cerama.

All photos by David Stjernholm