FENCES_ René Sascha Johannsen

René Sascha Johannsen

Solo Exhibition // Opening hours Wed-Friday 11-16 and Sat-Sun 11-17

Special Guest Opening and Press Preview: 19th March 2022 14.00 – 17.00

Augustenborg_Project is proud to present FENCES – an exhibition of still photography and short film through which René Sascha Johannsen explores the triumph of the human spirit over the limitations of the physical world.

A fence is a structure limiting an area to keep those within it enclosed and the outside world out. René Sascha Johannsen has a problem with fences as restraints. To him fences are to be overcome. Perhaps that is why he has wanted to soar since he was a teen, first through skateboarding and then through his camera lens, which took him across borders not only around the world but also through the inner lives of the people he met. Shot over a 10-year period from 2008 – 2017, FENCES is a tribute to the indomitable souls captured by René’s photography – those who seek to surmount the fences that enclose us.

In a series of photographs from 2014, René documents the search of a group of boys for a scrap of freedom in the world’s most enclosed space: Gaza. Noam Chomsky, “one of the finest minds of the twentieth century” according to the New Yorker, has described Gaza as “the world’s largest open-air prison, where a million and a half people, in the most densely populated area of the world, are constantly subject to random and often savage terror and arbitrary punishment[.] “  

On a day off from shooting the TV-show Monte Carlo Loves the Middle East, Rene met the group of teenagers who styled themselves as “Gaza Parkour.” The meeting was remarkable in many ways. They met at a cemetery, which the boys used as a training ground. “The courage it takes to perform what they do, not just physically in an area with poor medical help in case of emergency, but more so culturally, impacted me deeply, “says René. “The boys often had to hide both from the local police and Hamas, who harassed them on a daily basis for acting ‘differently’ by taking on European pursuits.”  An episode of the ASPHALT series, which is shown in FENCES is dedicated to the boys.  It ends with the heart-breaking, “We don’t have any future”.

René came across humanity razing the fences in Haiti where he found himself in 2008 filming for Unicef. He spent time with kids playing soccer in Cité Soleil, arguably the poorest and most dangerous slum in the Western hemisphere. “The sun went down around 6pm and the power was turned on at 8pm so every day there was a few-hours gap of absolute darkness. One night, while waiting for the power to come, it started thundering like crazy. I put down the video camera and caught a few stills of the lightning striking the shanty town.”  In this place, ravaged by gang violence, René met Andersoncha who attended a charity soccer school to receive his daily meal. Andesoncha could do tricks with anything and the photograph of him playing with a ball in the streets is striking just like the lightning. The ball, as if suspended between the power lines, is tentatively reaching for the sky, beyond the fences of Cité Soleil, searching for another (un)reality.

People overcoming fences from New York to Alicante to Haiti to Gaza touch us from the surface of the photographs – skateboarding, cycling, an injured ballerina dancing en pointe. They all conquer the physical limitations of the human body, our very primal fence, to reach beyond. People soaring through reality, razing its suffocating fences, in search of freedom: flying above graves, above the barbed wire of Gaza, skating above bridges, favelas, and power lines, despite broken bones and bloodied palms. There is no fence tall enough for the human spirit yearning to be free.


René Sascha Johannsen is a renowned documentary filmmaker, cinematographer and producer whose music video for Lukas Graham’s 7 YEARS has over 1.2 billion views on Youtube. The camera has taken René everywhere, from the slums of Cité Soleil in Haiti to the beach of the Gaza Strip, from the Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang to the skyscrapers of Guangzhou, from the forest in Zambia to the UN building in NYC and Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. In René’s own words, “I’ve been around the world more than 5 times, and I no longer feel like a stranger in any of these places.”

After spending eight years between New York and Los Angeles, René returned to Denmark in 2020. In the same year, he released his first international feature documentary funded by DFI (The Danish National Film Institute) featuring the band Lukas Graham. The film explores the musicians’ ups and downs over a seven-year period. The single 7 Years was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2016 Grammy Awards.  René’s feature was nominated for Documentary of the Year at the Danish Academy Awards 2020 (Robert Prisen) and was the best-selling Danish cinema documentary in the last decade.

René has directed more than 30 music videos for artists like Nephew, Suspekt, L.O.C, Oh Land and, recently, five videos for Lukas Graham, including the video for 7 YEARS.

Other credits include the documentary  THE RED CHAPEL  which René shot in North Korea and edited for Director Mads Brugger. The film won Best Foreign Documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival where it was included in the Official Selection.

René  is also credited as co-producer, additional editor and additional Director of Photography of  THE WOLFPACK on which he worked closely with Director Crystal Moselle and which won the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

In FENCES, René brings the world to his native Southern Jutland in an exhibition of still photography through which he explores the triumph of the human spirit over the limitations of the physical world.


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