The three-channel film installation Gifted Men (2015, 67 min) deals with the commercial distribution of semen in Denmark from the perspective of anonymous donors. Gifted Men is the result of a multidisciplinary research-based artistic project on donation practices.
Donations are often regarded as selfless good deeds, and are expected to be voluntary, free and anonymous, though they may raise sensitive ethical questions. The three-channel film installation Gifted Men focuses on the commercial distribution of sperm in Denmark, from the perspective of anonymous donors. Danish legislation (unlike that of most European countries) allows for anonymous sperm donations, leading to increasing fertility tourism from other European countries. Sperm banks operate in a complex grey area on several levels, marketing human sperm as a processed product. Special attention has been given to issues relating to masculinity and fatherhood, and how masculinity is manifested at the sperm banks and clinics. The project and its various outputs (short film, film installation, publication, donation performance) are based on personal interviews conducted with anonymous sperm donors and clinic managers in Copenhagen, Odense and Aarhus in Denmark.
Some of the questions raised in interviews with anonymous donors are: What motivated you to become a donor? How do you relate to the children you will never meet? How would you react if one of “your” children succeeded in finding out that you are his/her biological father? How do you reflect on a future scenario where more men choose to donate and more women select anonymous fathers for their children?
The installation Gifted Men (2015, 67 min) and the short film Made in Denmark (2013, 15 min) were produced with support from the Swedish Arts Grants Committee, Längmanska Kulturfonden, and Konstfack, the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design. Both film versions are visually composed of city views, sperm transport scenes, interior scenes at clinics, and interviews with donors and clinic managers. The montage of interrelated film channels across multiple screens makes it possible to relate different stories to each other. Based on the multichannel editing, the managers’ (fathers’) stories are set against the donors’ (the sons’) stories. Also, all three managers’ different opinions and beliefs are juxtaposed with each other according to their spatial positions. The installation format allows for presenting a more complex view of the topic. Musician and sound engineer Martin Ekman enhanced the installation with sound design, and the graphic design duo at Ritator created a graphic profile for the project. All film versions are subtitled in English.
Many aspects of the project’s overall logic are based on donation, in content, form and concept. Gifted Men, as a work of art, also comes with a conceptual framework for a donation ceremony: every venue, institution, or space where the work is exhibited is offered a special donation of the film in a personally designed, unique ceremonial event.
Summary technical specs:
Gifted Men, 67 min, 2015, multi-HD, stereo, colour, loop, Danish language, English subtitles/captions. Best screened in HD-resolution on 3 adjacent video screens or composited into a 4K DCP.
Timo Menke was born in Germany, and lives and works in Sweden since 1988. Master of Fine Arts from Konstfack, the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design, Stockholm in 1999. Between 2004 and 2014 Senior lecturer at Konstfack and currently working as a visual artist. He is also engaged at Filmform dealing with archiving and distribution of film and video art. His work is represented at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and distributed by Filmform. Numerous exhibitions and festival screenings include Kalmar Konstmuseum and Umeå Galleri Verkligheten (2015), Moscow Biennale (special project 2013 and 2015), Manifesta St. Petersburg (special project 2014), Stuttgarter Filmwinter (2001 and 2011) and Konsthall C (2008).
Nils Agdler was born in Östersund, Sweden, in 1969. He lives and works in Stockholm since 1993, and is currently working as an artist and freelance photographer. Since 2006 he works part time as a teacher/photographer at Konstfack, Arts, Crafts & Design University College, Stockholm.
In their artistic practice Nils Agdler and Timo Menke share a common interest in contemporary social phenomena, storytelling and history. Based on a previous collaboration on electricity and electrical hypersensitivity (Fugitives from the Fields), Gifted Men is a collaborative project.
Filmography Timo Menke
Siberian Trance (2015), Gifted Men (2015), Made in Denmark (2013), Fugitives from the Fields (2005), Skala 1:1 (2003), Testfilm for Festivals (2001), Der dritte Raum/Det 3:e rummet (1999), Der Konfabulator (1997), A l´infintif (1996).