Phantasma

Video installation and experimental documentary, 2016

Danmark’s Akvarium, the first public Nordic aquarium, opened its doors in 1939, only a few months prior to the outbreak of World War II and Denmark’s occupation. Drawn by architect Gjerløv-Gnudsen the boldly modernistic building, situated in Charlottenlund park in Copenhagen, was regarded as controversial and challenging. In contrast to the cool exterior of the building, the fish tanks glowing in a perpetual twilight transmitted a melancholy aura of a much older world. Exotic and delicate creatures moved silently in seemingly authentic but completely artificial habitats, decorative stages, reminding of natural history curiosity cabinets of the 17th and 18th century. During the war the aquarium remained active, enduring as an isolated island of quiet tranquility while the world outside was burning.

Phantasma was filmed at Danmark’s Akvarium just before it closed permanently to the public in 2012. The camera transports the viewer through the dreamily delirious and dilapidated space. The halting machinery struggles to sustain this fragile world, as the seawater from the fish tanks gradually absorbs into the foundation, destroying the building beyond repair. The first Nordic aquarium connects to a historical and psychological context, where the urge to remember and the wish to forget all intertwine. Time drives organic, synthetic and mechanical elements towards joint destruction, in which they merge together to form something entirely new.
The film is accompanied by a composition by the pioneer of analogue electronic music, Mika Vainio.