#6 Munchen |
#10 The Interviews |
#12 Berlin |
#13 Dresden |
#16 Copenhagen |
#17 IFFR |
#18 Riga |
#19 Conceptual Art |
#20 The Swiss Issue |
#21 Aktie! |
#22 Rotterdam Art Map 1.0 |
#23 Bruxelles |
#24 Maasvlakte 2 |
#25 Douala |
#26 Rotterdam Art Map 2.0 |
#27 Tbilisi |
#28 Budget Cuts NL |
#29 Italian Issue |
#30 Rotterdam Art Map 3.0 |
#31 It’s Playtime |
#33 Rotterdam Art Map 4.0 |
#34 Arnhem Art Map |
Editorial (domestic edition)
^Rob Hamelijnk and Nienke Terpsma
Denmark for a Dutch person is not really a that strange a country, more of a confrontational mirror. Except that you can’t understand a word people say. People do seem to do more to counter the (cultural) political reality.
On 6 January we went to Cph for 3 days . Ungdomshuset was still there. When we returned from 7 to 11 March, it had already been demolished and cleared away. Burned tarmac, boarded up shops and slogans on the walls made it clear that this was war: “You cannot kill us, because we’re part of you”. One of the Dutch newspapers wrote: “In Copenhagen there was initially sympathy for the youth. But this has changed in the last few days.” We saw a different picture: on Saturday we took part in a demonstration alongside punks, grandmothers and people with children. There are 850 people in prison. We heard little talk of art these days and much about the city.
Overgaden was 21 years old and celebrated the fact while we were there: 21 years 21 days. It also marked the transition from an artist-run to a curator-led organisation, a change that is taking place in 2 other exhibition venues: Charlottenborg and Den Frie. Meanwhile young Danish painters are earning lots of money in the gleaming new galleries in Valby. Many of them have launched themselves on the market before graduating from art school.
Above our bed in the B&B in Christianshavn hangs a reproduction of a painting of a Brazilian female slave by the Dutch painter Albert Eckhout. Eckhout and Zacharias Wagner were seventeenth-century artists in the service of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange. He hired them during his 7-year rule in Brazil to produce illustrations of the New World. We did not know that Copenhagen’s Nationalmuseum has 24 paintings by Eckhout. Maurice gave the paintings to Frederik III, King of Denmark.
This issue was made at the invitation by Katarina Stenbeck and Johanne Loegstrup of Publik for the project: How do you belong? With contributions by: Kristina Ask, Michael Baers, Søren Berner, Matilde Digmann, Jesper Fabricius, Christian Falsnaes, Nicoline van Harskamp, Lise Harlev, Niels Henriksen, Jakob Jakobsen, Åse Eg Jørgensen, Iben Krause, Maibritt Pederson, Nis Rømer, Thibaut de Ruyter, Judith Schwarzbart, Erik Steffensen.
^Jakob Jakobsen and Henriette Heise
Do not use my culture to wage your war!
^Judith Swarzbart / curator from U-Turn based in Copenhagen
Why at the beginning of the twenty-first century is it again so important to construct a national culture? And are we at risk of losing the autonomy we have won from the Church, royalty and the Nation State? Such questions seem particularly urgent following the aftermath of the publication of The Danish Cultural Canon in January 2006.
While the canon discussion in the English-speaking and academic contexts has been ongoing since the publication of Harold Bloom’s The Western Canon in 1994, it took a national canon to focus and escalate the discussion in Denmark. And it seems, in the end, that the discussion revolves less around who and what should be represented, than what function the canon plays within the current cultural and political context. Harold Bloom’s words that the canon exists “in order to impose limits, to set a standard of measurement that is anything but political or moral” was echoed in the statement by the chairman of the Danish Ministry of Culture’s visual arts committee, Hein Heisen, in which he stressed the timeless and apolitical nature of the selection of the Danish canon.
It is, however, hard not to read this entire project in relation to current politics and to read the selection of art works as supporting a specific agenda. According to the Minister of Culture, we are engaged in a cultural war “about the confrontation we feel when immigrants from Muslim countries refuse to acknowledge Danish culture and European norms. In the middle of our country our own country a parallel society is being developed where minorities are practicing their medieval norms and undemocratic ways of thinking. This we cannot accept”.
In his article in the Finish magazine Framework the Danish critic Simon Sheikh points at the current culturalisation of politics in Denmark. This is, of course, not a uniquely Danish phenomenon it appears in many European political contexts but in Denmark it seeks a specific essentialist notion of ‘Danishness’. “Both the political left and right in Denmark have adopted a language of minoritarian identity politics, claiming Danishness as a particular cultural position under threat in a globalised world, necessitating protectionist cultural policies and a fixed rather than permeable national border.”
It is hard to ignore the function of the canon as a tool in the construction of this hegemonic Danishness, a cultural essence and an ideological construction according to which immigration will always and only be a problem. Bloom is right that the canon exists to “impose limits” and “to set a standard of measurement” but it is not the standards and limits he imagines but rather those that divide a population residents and citizens into two categories: in this case the right and the wrong Danes.
Without disputing the artistic qualities of the selected works, it is obvious that they have not been chosen according to a chain of progressive stylistic developments leading toward contemporary practices, for that would necessarily stress the early twentieth-century avant-garde. Rather the selection reminds us of Adam Oehlenschläger’s poem from 1802 Guldhornene (The Golden Horns), about the ancient horns extracted from the black soil, which tells us about where we come from culturally and spiritually but leaves us without hope for our own time, let alone the future. The past is forever lost and there is only a ruin left for us to contemplate and in which to reflect upon past glory.
Will there ever exist a canon that can tell us about the potential of our own time? Or which acknowledges the fact that there are moments where we relate more directly to contemporary art from Beirut or Beijing than to an early medieval wall painting closer to home? It simply isn’t our war and an apartheid State is simply not our nation!
^Matilde Digmann / curator and writer from Copenhagen
Don’t point your arty finger at us!
In August 2006 a neon sign in the form of an arrow and the word ’Mjølnerparken’ was erected directly opposite the Mjølnerparken residential area in Copenhagen. Mjølnerparken is what you could call a ghetto and has very bad reputation amongst those who does not live there. It has its fair share of social problems and crime; the inhabitants generally have low incomes and uninspiring surroundings. Of the residents 93.7% are from ethnic minorities and 6.3% are native Danes. As such, the neon sign points at something problematic in society (seen from the outside) using an aesthetic that is also employed by American motels and casinos.
Mjølnerparken has been the subject of much negative attention in the media and many different initiatives, including CCTV surveillance and neighbourhood watch schemes, have been introduced in order to improve the area. The neon sign pointing at Mjølnerparken was created by the artists’ group Superflex, which wanted to change residents and outsiders’ perceptions of the ghetto. Many of Mjølnerparken’s residents welcomed the sign and felt it added something luxurious and cool to their neighbourhood. However, in the end, the residents committee decided to refuse the offer of the sign as a gift to the area, arguing that it as was essentially negative. According to Superflex, the important point is why the committee felt the art work signified something negative. Superflex stated that their intention was not simply to point out Mjølnerparken as a bad place, but also to question the public’s stereotypical preconceptions and the area’s bad media reputation.
But good intentions aren’t always enough. Essentially, the sign points at Mjølnerparken, thus spotlighting it. In terms of the psychology of pointing and being pointed at, the artists can be viewed as being rather elitist, as they are pointing from the outside. And what are they pointing out? The wonderful community feeling? The media’s one-sided coverage of the area? Hardly. The fact remains that when it comes to pointing, it is usually the majority or the ‘normal’ that points at the minority or the ‘abnormal’. I know this because I’ve been pointed at before (and I didn’t like it either). Sure, people could be pointing at me because I am amazingly beautiful, but let’s face it when people point at you they usually do so because your pants are ripped, you have something in the corner of your mouth or toilet paper stuck to your shoe. If you were to point at yourself, say because you were a motel, you would have a legitimate commercial reason to do so. But Mjølnerparken is neither a motel nor a casino, and certainly not a zoo.
But what if Superflex is pointing at ‘the act of pointing’ itself in some sort of meta-reflection? Well, that would be another ballgame entirely. But has the art work failed if the inhabitants of Mjølnerparken fail to see this meta layer? This highlights very important issues within public art and touches upon a highly sensitive Achilles’ heel of What and How and For Whom public art exists. Is public art created for the elitist art environment or is it for ‘the people’ in a broader sense? In order to answer this question, of course, you must first figure out who ‘the people’ are. A former teacher of mine at the institute of art history once said that, ”If we leave decisions about public art up to the people, our streets would be filled with utter crap”. In his conception ‘the people’ obviously had no taste, no class, no aesthetic judgment (of any real value), and were suckers for kitsch. According to Kant, however, we all share a common aesthetic sense and according to Plato it is pointless to discuss matters of taste. Personally I have always felt that good art is the type of work that manages to touch something in people, which relates more to content than to form. In the case of the Mjølnerparken sign there is a big difference between appreciating the aesthetics of it and getting the point. Looking at the Mjølnerparken arrow it becomes very clear that in order to really get the piece you need to understand that it does not only point at the ghetto but also points at the very act of pointing if you get my point.
In tune with institutional self-critique?(Track Two)
What are words worth
The culture of do-it-yourself (DIY) at the end of the 20th century worked with notions of freedom to claim space for thinking, acting, loving and fighting in a society of the spectacle completed, or rather tripled, gone mad, entering every part of the life world. An ongoing structural slaughter of utopias and their potentialities has paved the ground on which we now walk.
We still have to do it ourselves, not because no one else will, but because the socio-political climate has become a direct threat to everyone and everything not in line with the crusade of ‘normalisation undefined’ spreading into new territories by the hour. This is not imagined space, this is the art institution employing self-criticism, normalising the city of Copenhagen and disguising the war as a process of democratisation as a transformation of real spaces.
This offensive threat showing its face in warfare and welfare for the few and the privileged in a situation where capitalism is the only free traveller, not accepting any kinds of borders and barriers is formulated as a defence in the name of freedom against things out of control.
Standing in the way of control
The control of whom? And who are we, anyway? ‘We’ used to be civil society, ‘The People’, the workers and the unions, users, abusers and producers in and of democratic societies.
The energies in claiming a room of one’s own and indignation triggering DIY is the historical ground for self-organising with the self as a collective subject. This kind of structural manipulation is in itself subversive, disobedient, a disturbance and interruption; noise where the representative, single subject used to stand in a silent centre. Self-organising is to a large extend dependent on the randomness of collective thinking and on the potentialities in a lack of control. The randomness in lacking control is what feeds movements yet to come, capable of ignoring borders of nation states and barriers of distorted notions of democracy and freedom.
And stop accepting, repeating and reproducing the structures of the present climate making contemporary art political partout. Art is either affirmative or subversive. It is impossible to separate art from the context in which it is produced and displayed. The artist is herself a role model to a market in need of a flexible workforce. Flexicurity is a definition of labour making the employee eat his hat, jump into a pair of loose jeans and reflect in the mirror of the creative class. These are the ones that are never off, the ones that carry the full responsibility, and the ones that have no place to go claiming any kinds of rights. Just like the old bohemian artist under the eaves, who worked because he just couldn’t stop. It is about language and the words invented to dress up old structures in new seductive garments. But this doesn’t change the structure beneath, only the construction of subjectivity while demolishing collectivity.
Hello, is it me you’re looking for?
Art has a cause in itself, a language of its own. For this language to be heard also as a political message, a question or a statement a distance has to be created to art as an institution with the expectations of an audience attached, which is taught the codes of conduct in the spaces of art. Do we have to keep lying in order to adapt to institutionalised expectations?
To lie has become a legitimate political tool, as unveiled racism is aired in parliaments and on the TV screen. It has become clear to everyone that politics is full of lies the process of democratising Iraq again serves as a smashing international example.
Critical art is not separating the terms of production and the context of display from the work itself. To escape the vacuum of contradictions that has arisen between intention and what is communicated as art, maybe we should rotate the perspective from the inside/outside dialectics and talk about downwards and upwards. Not as a new dialectic, but as a structural term by which to think and act. In this respect there is a lot to learn from movements such as those of feminism, as a strategy for dealing with problematics through organising and producing theory and actions.
But, uh!, upside down, boy you turn me, inside out and round and round. Feminism is a thought phenomenon to put in the limelight ‘we’ have still not recovered from the sight of burning bras and bare tits in public space (in the raw appearance that is). Nonetheless in feminism there is a treasure of conflicts and their possible solution, a lesson for everyone to learn if we dare to stop lying. And let’s also stop reproducing, repeating and affirming structures that limit acting and thinking, potentialities in and notions of freedom and responsibility. That feminism is carefully mentioned is not only to place the image of bare tits (a powerful tool) in the mind of the reader, but also because the patriarchal is the source of many evils. Let’s stop making sense in those terms.
Have you found me yet or am I still wondering around in the imaginable textscape?
Featuring (in order of appearance): George Michael, Michael Jackson, Snap, Laura Branigan, Grace Jones, Madonna, Johnny Logan, Sade, AC/DC, Cindy Lauper, Chicks on Speed, The Gossip, Chic, Lionel Ritchie, Diana Ross and Talking Heads.
^Kristina Ask / artist from Copenhagen
Tramps Like Us
^Michael Baers in collaboration with Rob Hamelijnck and Nienke Terpsma
by Michael Baers
Collective Statement A Day at the Riots or The Social Democratic Carnivalesque (domestic version)
1. It made us think of Ulrike Meinhof’s saying, “to set fire to one car is a crime, to burn a hundred is political action.”
2.The glorious oppression of real needs.
3. Even the omnipresent Politi wagons couldn’t dispel the feeling, though later the police presence came to assume a more prominent position in our recollections.
4. We’re forever discovering the same thing: The totality of capital conceals the impoverishment of daily life behind ideological structures, giving the everyday a smooth appearance. Ungodmshuset and Christiania, on the contrary, are ‘rough’, a synoptic fissure in the smooth totality of capital. Far from its much touted flexibility, capital seems signally incapable of tolerating difference*. Otherwise why would a derelict labor hall, or the squatting of a former military base otherwise be met with such persistent hostility from the “establishment”, to use an antiquated term?
* In Holland there are low-level riots right now. "News coverage here tries to isolate protesters, turning them into the “other”. Government proposals circulating call for the authority to arrest people on the pretext of planning “something criminal”. We were reassured> that in Copenhagen the government response to the rioting is viewed by many as symptomatic: one example of a larger tendency towards the three R’sreification, rationalization, and recuperation.
†Native informants later corrected this impression, calling our attention to the negativity of the television coverage, which we, ignorant of the Danish language, had neglected to watch††.
††news coverage outside Denmark, had also focused on the violence, and uniformly mischaracterized the protesters as “squatters”, but were we wrong for detecting in the news readers a subdued note of appreciation for the daring and ingenuity of the rioter? 5. Like: when considering socially engaged practice, what is the real nature of the art institution in social terms? We cannot deny that art has the potential to generate critical thought and create new audiences. Nevertheless, in many States where institution of the three R’s occurred earlier and in a more thoroughgoing manner, the functioning of the art institution has been well policed to guard against its assuming real political agency. This is not to deny that in certain institutions critical voices have operated, but to remark on how brief the tenure of such voices frequently is.
6. testified by the influx of activists who participated in the street battles and protests*, or the many international demonstrations of solidarity, such as the group of youths in Lyon who, after occupying the Danish consulate, sent dozens of faxes to the offices of Copenhagen Kommune urging a stop to eviction proceedings.
*On the same sunday we left Copenhagen, a week following the riots, police raided three squats in Amsterdam, all of which were found denuded of occupants, who, we suspect, were at the time ensconced in Danish jail cells as a result of the indiscriminate police sweeps†.
†One native informant spoke of an acquaintance, a college professor, who having been arrested at a demonstration, was released (while his les respectable-appearing co-defendants were incarcerated), only to be re-arrested later at his residence, in frontas our native informant emphasizedof his wife and child, after a judge had reviewed his case and determined he should have been remanded to police custody.
7. The quickest route to anomie, is by removing the markers which people use to symbolically orient themselves in urban spacenear Ungdomshuset, away from Charlottenborg. The loss of such markers, like the erasure or surveillance of public space itself, is part of a program which Henri Lefebvre might describe as the withdrawal of the “right to the city”.
8. Ungdomshuset would fulfill the criteria Victor Turner set out for a liminal site, or what Foucault termed “heterotopia”a site at the margins that reflects social relations from the perspective of a carnavalesque exteriority. One can only infrequently describe institutional art space in similar terms.
9. In other words, one which functions as a node of resistance.
10. With regard to individual artists, the arm’s length principle may still be operative. State funding still enables artists to produce critical work without fear of government censure*. Whether this extends to Danish institutions, we aren’t qualified to say.
* This may take some of the sting out of being neutralized in terms of political agency by a government too philistine to concern itself with thinking about art or artists, except how their existence might be better rationalized. A lot of artists we know question why they still live in Copenhagen, precisely because one lives in society and not simply an “artworld”. We tell them, it’s alright, we understand.
This is part of a constrictive process , the outcome of which would be the curtailment of the “rights to the city”, described by Lefebvre as urban tolerance for the marginal and dispossessed.*
We never made a Paris issue of Pist Protta
Dear Nienke and Rob,
The Berlin issue, Pist Protta #25 we made in 1995. Frans Jacobi and Lise Nellemann were living in Berlin at that time. Lise is still there doing a lot of work with the art project gallery Sparwasser HQ. They asked us (the Pist Protta staff Jesper Fabricius, Jesper Rasmussen and Åse Eg Jørgensen) if we should make an issue about the art scene in Berlin, which they had come to know quite well, but probably also use the magazine to make new contacts and friends. They collected a lot of stuff and sent it to us. We edited it, actually only a few things were not in the issue when finished. I was quite happy with it. Åse was trying a lot of new things in typography inspired by the American magazine Emigre. I myself did a kind of stupid cover with ‘Berliner Pfannkuchen’. It’s maybe not the right word for it, any way it’s a kind of pastry which is called Berliner in Denmark and the title and issue were drawn in Gothic typography in think-bubbles and printed in green and red which actually made the ‘Berliner’ brown in a quite realistic way. There is a lot of very good stuff in, a lot of it made directly for us. Adib Fricke did some stamps for us so that there could be 2 words stamped in originally in each copy. In a quite long interview Maria Eichhorn did, we spelled her name with only one h, and she didn’t like us for that.
The London issue, Pist Protta #30 was done 2 years later. Jakob Jakobsen and Henriette Heise (who later formed Copenhagen Free University) asked if they could collect some artists and projects for an issue about London, where they were living at that time. Similar to how the Berlin issue was done. This issue contains a much more text-oriented content with only 6 contributors. We did text in both English and Danish except for Fiona Banner’s Point Break, which is a 15-page long typographical installation for Pist Protta. It’s a very good work, which I still love very much. We also did an insert Say NO to the Millennium from the East London Section of the Psychogeographical Association.
The design of this issue is quite minimal, if there were pictures they were printed in the same colour for each article (purple, blue, orange and green, and the cover was yellow and red typography). We had a very good article by David Burrows about his chewing-gum sculptures: “An astonishing sight. Glued with Spittle to the window pane was the bubble gum head of Sir Thomas More; gnarled and chewed, it was unmistakably Holborn’s utopian priest and philosopher, rendered in colored sugar and saliva. For the next five days I chewed vast quantities of gum, 18 kilos in all, hoping to produce an array of historical figures: Hegel, Luther, Freud, Erasmus...”
The New York issue, Pist Protta #47 was made in 2001. Frans Jacobi had moved to New York. He was very impressed by our London issue, which he said was much better than the Berlin issue, which he took part in then. This time he selected some artists from NY to participate and then asked them to choose some more artists for the magazine. In all 12 artists participated. In this issue everything was printed in 4-colour printing, except for the cover which is dark red paper with a hole through which you can see: Pist Protta 47. Specially made for this issue is real chewing gum gluing the last page and the cover together as a part of a project made especially for this issue by Norwegian artist Cecilie Dahl.
Personally I feel that this issue is not so concentrated and clear as #25 and #30, though it contains very good contributions by Mary Beth Edelson and A.S. Bessa. Frans did a lot of the lay-out this time and I think he didn’t managed to get a whole out of the good but also very varied material, and the 4-colour printing does not make it easier.
All the best, see you next week
Freestyling in Christiania
^Nicoline van Harskamp
I met Lise Autogena in the summer of 2005 during a residency in Berlin. The curator Georgia Ward had urged me to apply for a new research programme in Christiania, which Lise had initiated. I knew of the free town from my days working in a left-wing bookshop while at art school in The Hague. I did not take it as a compliment when Georgia said: “It’s really something for you.” Hadn’t I since outgrown that squat culture?
I was not having such a great time in Berlin. I had the Project Studio of the Fonds BKVB, a wonderful apartment and lots of money at my disposal, and yet I did not enjoy my work. I had developed ‘residency fatigue’; the hit-and-run mentality of writing a proposal, executing the work and exhibiting it within a few months was starting to wear me down.
The meeting with Lise was somehow unforgettable and I was immediately convinced by what she was doing. She was not the dreadlocked type that I had expected, but a petite London professional. She was full of stories about the free town where she had spent her early years. Like me, she had exchanged her life as a squatter in a small country to study in London. And like me too, she had continued to live and work there, but also maintained contact with her hometown. Lise could see that ‘her’ Christiania was coming under increasing pressure from Denmark’s new rightwing government and feared that it would soon be closed down.
So, she and fellow Christianite Emmerik Warburg set up the Christiania Researcher in Residence Program (CRIR). Before it was too late, researchers, architects and artists from around the world would be able to benefit from the thirty-five years of experience built up within Christiania. The participants would also be able to breathe new life into the discussion about Christiania, both internally and externally.
A condition of taking part in the CRIR was that you had to make your research public, both within and outside Christiania. In return, the researcher was given a house in one of the free town’s prettiest courtyards called ‘Melkebotten’ (dandelion) and assistance from Emmerik. The thousand other Christianians were available as a source of information. There was no budget, no travel expenses, no partner institution, no exhibition, no protocol and no fixed tenure. It was a residency in the purest sense of the term: simply a roof over your head.
At the time I was producing, amongst other things, booklets in the Little Guide to Guards series, inventories of different law enforcers on the streets of European cities. I had done quite a bit of research into the social and political aspects of law enforcement, focusing on the personal side of surveillance. Lise’s invitation to Christiania was a great opportunity to study a security system based on social control and informality that grew out of a voluntary, independent social experiment of thirty-five years duration, and to find out more about self-government and self-policing in the free town.
Christiania is better in reality than it is on paper or in the stories you hear. I remember almost nothing specific about my first four weeks there. Each day I did a little DIY on my house (a house in Christiania is never finished), did some videocam interviews and went to the shared bathhouse. I left Christiania very rarely and learned almost nothing about the rest of Copenhagen. I met a few local artists who seemed, like most other Danes, a bit blasé about Christiania. But Elisabeth Delin Hansen, director of Kunsthallen Nikolaj, invited me to present the results of my residency at the gallery.
Living in Christiania is the way to discover that ‘freedom’ in a free town means above all responsibility and self-motivation. Emmerik helped me find my way but then it was down to me. I was sometimes painfully aware that my neighbours had to pay the ‘Christiania tax’ for my house and had to teach me to chop firewood. I felt a great pressure to do something in return. But the temptation to do some sort of ‘Christiania promotion’ was knocked on the head by the CRIR. I had a responsibility to maintain a critical distance.
The members of Christiania’s community finance a house for an outsider in order to criticise them. This contrasts sharply with the city of Copenhagen where, until six months after the CRIR was set up, there was no official residency. More money is spent sending Danish artists abroad than on bringing foreigners to Denmark. The Danish Arts Council tried to place some of the artists from their residency programme within the CRIR, but Christiania refused as it does not accept government funds on principle.
To fulfil to the conditions of the residency I returned in the summer of 2006 to show the edited interviews to eighty-odd people from Christiania and the Danish art world. The Christianites criticised me for presenting such a ‘troubled’ image of their free town. The artists thought that I was brave to defend my work outside the trusted realm of the art world. Later the challenge came precisely from within that realm: in lectures and conversations about the project I had to defend Christiania against criticism. Sometimes I felt like an ambassador.
I had taken the Eurolines bus to Denmark in November 2005 with an open ticket, no money and no concrete plan. I had no idea how long I would stay or what I would do. But everything went so well that it was as if I had planned it that way. The nature of the CRIR programme suited me well: its mix of freedom and responsibility, engagement and the lack of the hit-and-run. In the autumn of 2006 my finances were also sorted out when the Fonds BKVB agreed to sponsor the production of a new video.
Around Christmas 2006 I took a small film crew to Christiania. I could now permit myself a good steadycam operator, who was sympathetic towards Christiania. Emmerik acted as sound technician and our go-between during the filming. We could work wherever we wished, even in Pusher Street where hash deals are done and where cameras are normally strictly forbidden.
In March the work was shown at Casco and I organised the discussion ‘Freedomism’. Still in ‘freestyle mode’ I interviewed Dutch people involved in anti-parliamentary politics. I asked each respondent to describe an envisaged society without a State. I found anarcho-capitalists and libertarians via the internet and the anarchists through my old network of leftwing bookshops. Bringing them together within the art world, I understood even more why Lise had wanted to set up the CRIR.
LINK to residency in Christiania:
Goodiepal from Farø Islands, did a performance with a table full of geographical objects in De Player III, in Rotterdam, at the first opening night March 30. He sang songs from Iceland, Norway and Denmark.
Walking with Nis Rømer
Saturday March 10. We meet Nis Rømer at Nørrebro station. He will take us on a walk through the neighbourhood. We are sitting outside the station in the sun on three plastic crates from the 7-Eleven shop where we bought coffee.
Rob Can you tell something about Free Soil?
Nis My art practice is about how art can enter the public sphere and have an active role in society. Consequently it involves a lot of collaborations. Free-soil is one of them. Free-soil is an international group of four people; Stijn Schiffeleers from Belgium, Joni Taylor from Berlin, Amy Franceschini from San Francisco and me from Copenhagen. We deal with environmental issues relating to culture, politics and urbanism. Free-soil has a second function as a Blog for activists and self-organised groups that work outside the gallery system. Because we think this is where the most interesting things are happening.
Rob Can you give an example?
Nis The most recent was in Silicon Valley. We were invited to do a work for the symposium ISEA: Inter-Society for Electronic Arts. The ISEA Symposium is an international conference on electronic art that is held every two years in different locations around the world. This time it was in San José, in the middle of Silicon Valley. We immediately thought about researching the influence and consequences of the high-tech industry on the area and the landscape. Silicon Valley is the most polluted place in the USA because of this industry. Contrary to expectations, the production of computer chips requires a lot of chemicals that end up in the ground. The research took a year and we worked with different organisations such as the Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition, which have been working for twenty years with these issues. So we used ISEA to distribute information in the art community. We did a bus tour with a former school bus that served as a mobile classroom, made an exhibition and published the Free Soil Gazette a newspaper with research on the utopian beginnings of Silicon Valley as ecological currents. It will be online soon.
Nienke To what extent is it activism and to what extend is it art?
Nis The whole project was activism and art. I’m happy to be able to shift roles between a more political position, the position of an activist or that of a more art-based and public intellectual. I agree with Group Material from New York: we should collectively question the culture we take for granted. When you see this as a mission you can have many outcomes. But in general as an activist you become very goal oriented. That is maybe why I work mostly as an artist. An artist should always have the possibility of failing.
We take a picture and Nis covers the 7-Eleven logo on his coffee cup. He tells us a coffee story. In New York he met two coffee activists: Reverend Billy, a fake priest who sings the anti commercial gospel in Starbucks, and the woman from Mud café, who started her business by selling fair trade coffee from small trucks in front of Starbucks and 7-Eleven shops.
Nis I just came back from a symposium about art and politics in Birmingham.
Nienke They seem very much connected in Copenhagen.
Nis When the government cut the funding for experimental art we realised nobody was speaking for the experimental arts, the most active part of the art scene. The artists’ organisations BKF and Akademirådet (academic council) were only concerned with their own interests and were not so affected by the new legislation. So in spring 2002 art workers formed a union: the UKK Unge Kunstnere Og Kunstformidlere (Young Art Workers), which was important in formulating opposition. One of the first successes was that, through a massive campaign, UKK succeeded in keeping a special fund that supports artists travelling abroad.
Rob Why does UKK find it important for Danish artists to travel abroad? Do you also think it is important for foreign artists to come to Denmark? In other words, is there an exchange?
Nis There was a concern that with the nationalist party (Dansk Folkeparti) supporting the government, support for arts and culture would also be nationalistic. However: throughout the ’90s a lot of younger artists had great success abroad while many of them didn’t show work in Denmark because institutions just weren’t interested. Getting out was the main concern. Until recently there was no residency in Copenhagen, so in order to exchange with other artists you had to travel. This has changed quite dramatically: now there is DIVA (the arts councils residency program), the Christiania Researcher in Residency (CRIR), Learning Site and Copenhagen AIR. This exchange is a great and necessary improvement for the artistic climate.
Rob Is the influence that the UKK wants restricted to the art world and art politics?
Nis That is a good question. There are a lot of issues that members care about like immigration and the war in Iraq. It has been heavily debated how far UKK can go. My idea would be that we talk about issues in society but at the moment it stays within the realm of art and art policies.
Nienke In Rotterdam the city council is now trying to use art as a tool to solve social problems. Art has to take care of ‘participation’, the more positive word that now replaces the mono-directional ‘integration’.
Nis This is also very clear in the art policy in Denmark. There is a lot of protest at the instrumentalisation of art, and I am also deeply against it; politicians should not have a say in what sort of art is produced. Art is important and can discuss things and can go places that politicians cannot. The Danish prime minister said in a speech that politicians can do only so much with legislation, what matters most is to win the ‘cultural battle’, as he called it. He also said: “we don’t need judges of taste” meaning the left wing intellectuals. He rapidly got them out of office and put in his own right-wing people in. I agree with him on one thing: the importance of culture.
Mimersgade Borgmestervangen Mjølnerparken
We are looking at a building owned by Maersk, one of the richest men in Denmark. To the left we see Mjølnerparken. The piece of land next to us is the largest unused area or wasteland in Nørrebro, the former Fragtmandshallerne grounds. Nørrebro is characterised by the highest density of people, the biggest ethnic mix and the least square meter public space per inhabitant in Denmark. Here there are almost no green areas, trees or parks. It is here where the riots started.
Nis Publik did a project last autumn in this street: Mimersgade. The artists’ collective Superflex made a nice work. It was a big neon-sign in the form of an arrow saying Mjølnerparken. When talking about ghettos in Denmark Mjølnerparken is always mentioned. It is a social housing estate with a lot of immigrants. As you can see it isn’t scary and the houses are quite big. In Nørrebro there has been some resistance against gentrification. That is why it is still a nicely mixed neighbourhood.
Nienke We heard Superflex offered the sign to the neighbourhood after the exhibition, but they didn’t want it.
Nis Yes it’s true. They didn’t want that kind of attention. Superflex’s first plan was to make a big billboard saying “Honk if you are a foreigner”, or maybe it was “Honk if you are Danish”.
Mimersgade Nørrebro Park
Nis There is a tradition of self-organisation in Denmark, dating back to the co-op movement, which I like to connect to. I curated a show for Publik last year The hot Summer of Urban Farming. It was a local project here in Nørrebro, where I also live. The project was about using the few open spaces that are left for more social functions.
Rob Was it about reclaiming space?
Nis The idea was to discuss social or agricultural uses of small pieces of land in the city. The project explores ways in which gardens and small-scale farming can be integrated within the city. Over the summer eight artists and groups made plantations and temporary gardens in Copenhagen’s less-used spaces. It functioned as a forum for spreading the idea of art and public space and connecting different organisations that work with these topics. There are many ecological benefits to growing your own food in the city.
Right turn on Nørrebrogade to small garden in Søllerødgade We’re in Søllerødgade, one of the ‘hot spots’ of the riots of the last weeks.
Nis Here we are at a small garden I made together with the people who live here. We chose the plants and made a cookbook with recipes and stories of utopias connected to agriculture.
Rob That looks like a roadblock it definitely looks like a roadblock!
Nis Yes that’s what the inhabitants agreed upon when they renewed the street. They didn’t want normal benches because they were afraid people would hang out here in front of their houses, a problem of fear and public spaces.
We go to Stefanos Delikatesser on the corner of Julius Bloms Gade to get warm and have another coffee. Everybody loves Stefanos; he is an immigrant and has ecological food.
Søllerødgade across the car park through the location where the Ungdomshuset (the Youth House) once was
There are a lot of people, police, flowers, candles, and notes saying: Ground Zero, 69 Forever reminding us of the deaths of Theo van Gogh, Pim Fortuyn and Princess Diana.
Nienke So where are we now?
Nis This is at the back of the Youth House. They had a nice communal kitchen garden. In terms of urban space this was really important.
Rob The police moved all the flowers here, they were down the street at the fences.
Nis Last night there was a party here with more than a thousand people. But what will come out of this the eviction of the Youth House and demonstrations and riots is that the city will become more diverse, and there will be more free spaces.
Rob So this is the sacrifice?
Nis You have to look for something good.
Nienke There is a lot of support. From all kinds of people.
Nis There were so many people using this space.
Rob They demolished the house so quickly there’s nothing left of it.
Nis Yes but the battle was going on for five years.
Nis Shall we go and see some very bad public art and then meet up with the demonstration?
Nienke Yes, that would be lovely!
We crossed the Assistentens cemetery, passing Kierkegaard’s grave, Griffenfeltsgade, Folkets Hus (TV.TV) and Folkets Park, the hidden gardens at Stengade, Blågaardsplads where the ice rink is and the Womens’ Day demonstration was the day before, the Copyshop of Superflex, to the Dronning Louises bridge to catch up with the demonstration.
LINKS to more Art&Activism:
Pist Protta is published by Jesper Fabricius, Åse Eg Jørgensen and Jesper Rasmussen. The first issue appeared in 1981. The most recent issue, no. 58, entitled Atlas was published in 2006.
"It should never look the same." says Pist Protta.
"To play one needs to invent one’s own rules." In the conversation we found out about some of theirs, and one is that formally everything should be different from issue to issue: the format, the typefaces, the binding, the printing techniques PP sometimes has handmade linocut covers, sometimes hand binding. Pictures are not explained, and pictures are not illustrations.
The logic of the design and editing is very much related to the content though, if not in an illustrative way, in a meaningful way. “We make a point of showing things.” There is also a very important rule about co-operating: the veto a plan is only worked on if it has the agreement of all three.
One thing is always the same: a list of publications issued by Space Poetry. Space Poetry is Jesper Fabricius’ publishing house for artists’ publications, a growing list that now contains 117 titles. Åse Eg Jørgensen is a graphic designer. She uses the experiments the magazine allows her to feed into her designs for other publications. “Sometimes the two cannot not be related.”
Some of the issues are very conceptual; others are more like a standard magazine. Pist Protta is a space for exhibiting work and invites people to make pieces specifically for it it is a laboratory. “Sometimes our theme will be very specific and sometimes not, and sometimes others propose an issue to us.” They make only two issues per year and some take longer. Often an idea takes a long time to develop and they take their time: “We never set a date for an issue to be finished.”
Last year Pist Protta was invited to exhibit in Overgaden. Pist Protta: “A magazine is a place in itself and after you have done a magazine for so many years as we do it is an institution. A museum is therefore inviting an institution with its own space and its own means. You have to find a form for that, or else it will be a bookstore.”
1995 issue 25 on Berlin
1997 issue 30 on London
1999 issue 36 on Paris2001 issue 47 on New York
See covers, and order back issues at:
At the beginning of April at Casco in Utrecht there was a debate between anarchists of the extreme left and extreme right, with completely opposing ideas about the organisation of freedom and a world without governments. They were brought together by Nicoline van Harskamp under the title ‘Freedomism’ to coincide with Casco’s showing of her video installation To Live Outside the Law You Must be Honest. This piece had first been shown at Kunsthallen Nikolaj in Copenhagen in February.
A large projection shows a man walking through Christiania. He talks slightly agitatedly and without pause directly to the camera. The monologue is assembled from interviews with Christiania’s residents about self-government and self-policing. The same man also delivers a monologue in two smaller projections. In one he is seen wearing a suit, somewhere in the City of London; the other is filmed like a video diary in a bookshop. These two monologues are also assemblages: one of conversations with rightwing libertarians, the other with leftwing anarchists.
We saw the videos in Copenhagen and also attended the debate in Utrecht. In Copenhagen we noticed that lots of artists’ groups have the word FREE in their name. We asked Nicoline whether this art work, and her interest in Freedomism, was connected to her stay in Copenhagen.
Airplay Street Gallery
A small playground at the corner of Ravnsborggade and Sankt. We have a short conversation with Karen Toftegaard, curator and co-founder of AirPlay. All board members were educated in modern cultural communications at the University of Copenhagen. Karen graduated from the Humbold University in Berlin and has been involved in numerous theatre performances. She recently formed Miss Kato Productions.
AirPlay began on 8 April last year with a core group of five people; some other people joined later. The project was initiated by the local residents. They wanted something better then the run-down square with a rusty basketball cage and invited an architect Morten Wassini from the neighbourhood to make a plan. The local residents asked his wife Lotte Röhe to do something extra with the place something ‘arty’. She undertook the initiative for a street gallery, invited the other four and together they developed the idea and the name AirPlay. One of the starting points is to explore an inter-disciplinary art field.
The City of Copenhagen and a large fund for constructions financed the hardware the construction of the square. AirPlay raises additional funding per project. AirPlay owns the equipment the video beamer and the sound installation but nonetheless each screening costs money: the light bulbs, the electricity and also the personnel to operate it. The sound is totally incorporated within the architecture of the square; under the very benches we sit on, the subwoofers are placed in the stairs next to us and more speakers are hidden in the goals. It is a complete Dolby surround sound system. We ask if it is only for art, or also for, let’s say, a neighbourhood film festival on summer evenings. Karen: “It would be a smart move to have more popular things as well.” But their primary vision is to communicate contemporary art to people in a public space, without having to go to some secret gallery in the outskirts. Currently resources are limited, there is no money and nobody gets paid for their time, so they focus on that.
The architecture can sometimes be a bit limiting for the art because the football and basketball aesthetic is very dominant. It would be good for the architecture to be slightly better attuned to the art, which is a slightly odd thing to say considering that AirPplay was initially inspired by the square itself. On the other hand the different functions of the place assures an integration of art in to the life of the ones who uses the places for other purposes.
AirPplay may be no more then just a projector in a shiny metal case on a pole, a hand painted white square on the wall of the house opposite and a Dolby surround sound system, but as soon as the bug in the system is fixed, it will again be possible to operate it from a PC elsewhere or from your mobile phone standing on the square, or as Karen says: “there are many possibilities and some complications.”
* According to the Danish poet and scientist Piet Hein (1905-1996) :
“Man is the animal that draws lines which he himself then stumbles over. In the whole pattern of civilisation there have been two tendencies, one toward straight lines and rectangular patterns and one toward circular lines. There are reasons, mechanical and psychological, for both tendencies. Things made with straight lines fit well together and save space. And we can move easily physically or mentally around things made with round lines. But we are in a straitjacket, having to accept one or the other, when often some intermediate form would be better. To draw something freehand such as the patchwork traffic circle they tried in Stockholm will not do. It isn’t fixed, isn’t definite like a circle or square. You don’t know what it is. It isn’t esthetically satisfying. The super-ellipse solved the problem. It is neither round nor rectangular, but in between. Yet it is fixed, it is definite it has a unity. ”
Though he is often credited with its invention, Piet Hein did not discover the super-ellipse. The general Cartesian notation of the form comes from the French mathematician Gabriel Lamé (17951870) who generalised the equation for the ellipse. However, Piet Hein did popularise the use of the superellipse in architecture, urban planning, and furniture making, and he did invent the super-egg or superellipsoid by starting with the superellipse.
City planners in Stockholm, Sweden needed a solution for a roundabout in their city square Sergels Torg. Piet Hein’s superellipse provided the needed aesthetic and practical solution. In 1969, negotiators in Paris for th e Vietnam War could not agree on the shape of the negotiating table. Piet Hein designed a huge superelliptical table which accommodated all parties. The superellipse was also used for the shape of the 1968 Azteca Olympic Stadium, in Mexico City.
Robert Hamelijnck & Nienke Terpsma
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Fucking Good Art was first published December 2003 and is published in print and on the internet. Our trusty A3 folded A5 pink pamphlet appears every two months on an irregular basis and is distributed for free as hand-out in selfless service to our community.
The paperback editions FGA#10 The Interviews and FGA#12 International edition / Berlin are co-published and distributed worldwide by episode-publishers Rotterdam and Revolver in Frankfurt.
English Translation/copy editing
De Boog Rotterdam
We like to thank
Kristina Ask, Michael Baers, Søren Berner, Matilde Digmann, Jesper Fabricius, Christian Falsnaes, Nicoline van Harskamp, Lise Harlev, Niels Henriksen, Jakob Jakobsen, Anders Gaardbo Jensen, Åse Eg Jørgensen, Koh-I-Noor, Iben Krause, Johanne Loegstrup, Maibritt Pederson, Nis Rømer, Thibaut de Ruyter, Judith Schwarzbart, Erik Steffensen, Katarina Stenbeck, Karen Toftegaard
Fucking Good Art Copenhagen FREE edition was made for How do you Belong? five art projects in public space, organised by Katarina Stenbeck and Johanne Loegstrup from Publik