About the work



     World of Butterflies, 2002 (Detail)
68 parts, each 52,2 x 42,5 cm
World of Butterflies is an encyclopaedic registration of species of butterfly from all over the world. Holst Henckel has combined the butterflies with a corresponding number of press photographs taken from the world's hot spots.

Thus he relates on the one hand the Western world's manner of recording and charting the species, and on the other the staggering number of violent and potentially violent conflicts that have characterised the twentieth century.

The photographs present well-known instances of world political events. Murder, demonstrations and violent insurrections contrast with the fragile butterflies. The individual historical events have been branded into the wings of a species from the corresponding geographic location.

In this manner World of Butterflies records in an almost scientific fashion events of world politics from the past hundred years. The hanging of the pictures and their Latin nomenclature mimic the taxonomy previously employed in biology. Analogously to biology, the onlooker can compare not only the butterfly species but also the political events that have marked the twentieth century.

The butterfly holds a number of symbolic meanings. By way of its transformation from larva to butterfly it is a symbol of immortality and rebirth, and an allusion to the soul and the psyche. The religious and poetic symbolism, however, is countered by the work's scientific character.

World of Butterflies continues the themes that Holst Henckel has explored for a number of years, e.g. in the work entitled Dr. Merkwürdigeliebe, a rewrite of the film title Dr Strangelove. In Dr. Merkwürdigeliebe Holst Henckel combined tokens of Western imperialism with the name of the destructive Nazi doctor in the movie, Dr Strangelove.

Like World of Butterflies, that work employed a complicated compound of objects and images which Holst Henckel had appropriated from various contexts to illustrate how we in the West record and classify the world.

Peter Holst Henckel's art in general
Holst Henckel sees art as inextricably bound up with the rest of the world, and thus it makes no sense to see art as expressions of its own laws and aesthetic principles. The concrete outcome of that is Holst Henckel's inclusion of non-artistic image types, first and foremost photographs, that he finds in papers and magazines. Thus art is a means to interpret and understand the world. Social, political and economical aspects affect art.

Holst Henckel belongs to a generation of artists who do not wish to delimit themselves to one medium, but instead work with a wide section of different image types. The choice of pictorial medium is determined by the individual work. In addition to utilising pictorial art, he also incorporates images from other contexts, i.e. the world of advertising.

He appropriates other people's pictures, inserting them into new contexts, as is the case with World of Butterflies. Appropriation art explores different pictorial types, inquiring into the relations between art, pictorial constructions, media and symbols. By utilising images drawn from mass media Holst Henckel stresses art's strong bond with current and historical reality.

Holst Henckel is not only concerned with art as part of society in an overall sense. In several works he stresses a moral dimension to the art. Taking his cue from the American conceptual art, he explores art's political potential. He combines social, cultural and moral reflections with a visual style whose colourful and appealing idiom has a close relation to Pop art.

Holst Henckel includes concrete political events in his art that we can all relate to, making it difficult to regard art as merely an aesthetic experiment. The work also becomes a medium for the artist to express e.g.. political considerations.

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