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Lene Adler Petersen was born in Aarhus in 1944. She studied and practised at Det Jyske Kunstakademi (The Jutland Art Academy) (1964–1966) and later at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (1968–1969). While pursuing her studies, she was already a steady fixture in the experimental art scene in Copenhagen forming around Eks-Skolen (an artist-run alternative art school started in the 1960s by Bjørn Nørgaard, Per Kirkeby and Poul Gernes among others). At the time, Petersen gave her rebellious counter-examples artistic expression as a film-maker, painter and collage artist. A couple of performances that attracted considerable media attention during this period were Female Jesus (1969) and Horse Sacrifice (1970). The former involved Petersen running naked through the Copenhagen stock exchange. The latter involved her and her partner, Bjørn Nørgaard, slaughtering a horse in a field, carving up its carcass and preserving the cut up meat in jam jars.

Regardless of the medium, the artist seemed to flourish primarily through collaboration and took part in many collaborative initiatives in the Danish art community. This appetite for artistic dialogue is apparent in the number of groups she has been part of: ABCinema, Eks-skolens Trykkeri (Eks-Skolen’s Printing House, Tidsskriftet Kvinder and Arme and Ben. Today, as a member of the Danish artists’ association Kammeraterne (to which she was admitted in 1995), she continues to fulfil that instinct, albeit to a lesser extent.

Through her variety of work in different artistic mediums, Petersen has politically examined the contemporary representation of women. In addition to offering artistic readings and exploring alternatives, the artist experimented with tangible socio-economic models in the 1970s, during which she was one of the leaders in an action occupying and inhabiting the island of Livø, in order to pursue an alternative, meaningful way of working and living. Alternative models also governed the founding and operating of Eks-Skolens Trykkeri (Eks-Skolen’s Printing House), which is still running, is still owned by the workers and continues to be a satellite venture to her artistic endeavours and those of her husband Bjørn Nørgaard.

By looking into the role of subjectivity and personal history and occupying a unique artistic position that challenges conventional paradigms of gender, female representation and artistic production, Lene Adler Petersen has, unsurprisingly, significantly influenced a generation of younger Danish artists by paving the way for the making of conceptual and feminist art in Scandinavia.

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