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‘Human billiards’ installation rolls into Danish museum

What might appear to be a bouncy game of giant-sized billiards is actually the recreation of a playful 1970s art installation, on display at a museum on the outskirts of Copenhagen.

Three large, inflatable balls bob across a white, bouncy castle-style mattress. Visitors young and old run, jump, pass or stumble in an anarchic explosion of energy rarely seen in hushed museum halls.

Arken Museum of Modern Art, about 15 kilometres (nine miles) southwest of central Copenhagen, has faithfully recreated “Giant Billiard”, an installation first staged in 1970 by rebellious Austrian architect/artist group Haus-Rucker-Co.

Back then, the group’s three founders believed times called for radical change — an inflatable oasis, they thought, might help break down existing hierarchies of power and create new utopian urban spaces.

Indeed, amongst the whoops, laughs and gasps, visitors inadvertently become part of a game — they fight against or alongside each other depending how the giant inflatable balls fall.

“Maybe we can give something of the seventies, which was very positive (compared) to nowadays,” laughed 81-year-old Gunter Zamp Kelp, one of the three original members of Haus-Rucker-Co, which formed in 1967.

“The intention was to break the historic heritage character of the museum and to put some more life in and to bring a new kind of activity into the museum style”, he added.

After first appearing in Vienna in 1970, “Giant Billiard” was staged in New York later that year. But it rarely appeared in following 50 years. The Arken show is a rare recreation and its first appearance in Scandinavia.

Curators say the work, staged today amid growing social inequality and isolation, couldn’t be timelier.

“Hopefully, you will walk away thinking that sometimes unconventional solutions are needed. And we need this more than ever,” said Arken curator Jenny Lund.

“It’s also okay if they just have fun — and we need fun, I think, more now than ever with everything we are facing,” she added.

Visitor Frederik Svanholm, 46, had his own interpretation.

“If you’re just lying down, then you are safe, right? As soon as you stand up in life, then the danger comes and knocks you out sometimes. That’s what it tells me,” he told AFP.  

While some of Arken’s visitors might miss the profound social commentary, many seemed keen to partake in a bounce at the installation’s opening on October 8.

“I think it’s a nice idea to make art that, like, gets you to interact with other people,” said 38-year-old office worker Laura Konrad. “You interact with people you don’t know at all.” 

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