Organising, Exhibiting and Curating (in) Solidarity ‘Kvindeudstillingen’, 1975, ‘Art contre/against Apartheid’ 1983-1984, and ‘Rethinking Nordic Colonialism’ 2006

Public defence of PhD thesis by Line Ellegaard. 


In recent years there has been an increased focus on solidarity in discourses on art exhibitions. However, within the arts the concept of solidarity remains both understudied and under analysed. Moreover, the relations between the very idea of art and ideas of solidarity, still needs to be further understood. This thesis focuses on the complex and diverse legacies
of art exhibitions and solidarity in a Nordic context. Through three case studies, it examines how artists, cultural workers, and curators in the past have used art’s infrastructure to organise, exhibit, or curate in solidarity with a cause or in relation to a specific concern. This thesis thus engages the interrelated issues of the meaning and practice of political solidarity in collective exhibition making; and exhibitions as platforms for solidarity practices that challenge exhibition organising norms. Through a performative understanding of solidarity, unbound from established boundaries of identification and belonging, and an expanded conceptualisation of exhibitions, the examination is twofold: on one level, the thesis analyses how solidarity impacts the organisation principle of exhibitions and to what effects. On another level the thesis analyses how people, and things, are assembled in exhibitions to negotiate, practice, and respond to articulations and calls of solidarity.

The thesis is structured around the analyses of the following exhibitions, ‘Kvindeudstillingen’ (1975), ‘Art contre/against Apartheid’ (1983 1984), and ‘Rethinking Nordic Colonialism: A Postcolonial Exhibition Project in Five Acts’ (2006). Through the example of ‘Kvindeudstillingen’, the main part of this thesis examines how feminist practices of solidarity were translated into exhibition forms to confront the 1970s art system. The central argument is that ‘Kvindeudstillingen’ was not simply conceived as a medium for art, but as a forum for transdisciplinary practices, collective experimentation, transnational engagement, and public debate, devised through practices of solidarity informed by feminist politics. This case is contrasted by the two other exhibitions from different periods to exemplify the varied, collective, and ambiguous character o f solidarity work in exhibition form. This thesis’ central argument is that the meeting of art and solidarity through exhibition is imbued with tensions, while also suggesting certain affinities between them. It suggests that a focus on solidarity and collective action, eschew art historical conventions that stress individual production and consumption, and thus emphasises the inherent social and collective dimension of the production, presentation, and reception of art in exhibitions.


Assessment committee

  • Associate Professor Laura Luise Schulz, Chair (University of Copenhagen)
  • CEO Lars Bang Larsen (Art Hub Copenhagen)
  • Professor Katar ina Macleod (Södertörns Högskola)

Head of Defence 

  • Professor Frederik Tygstrup, (University of Copenhagen) 

Copies of the thesis will be available at: 

  • Copenhagen University Library, KUB South Campus, Karen Blixens Plads 7
  • The Royal Danish Library (The Black Diamond), Søren Kierkegaards Plads 1