Day 9: Ceci n’est pas mon corps*

By Sofie Henningsen

Day 9 foto 1
Just before the opening of art installation “Ceci n’est pas…” at Gammel Torv the square is full of children trying to catch big soap bubbles blown by one of the entertainers next to the glass box. In the art history the soap bubbles is often an allegory of impermanence. This is opening is perfect for today’s topic.

When the shutters go up green high- heeled shoes appear on a lady sitting naked in a transparent chair. She looks likes she is in her old age judging from her skin on her body. When it comes to the breasts and her face those parts look younger, especially her face. Or is kind of a mask?

As soon as the box opens the place is crowded to find out what this is about. It is rather quiet around the box as people are paying much attention to lady inside. Many people in the audience ask if it is a real person or a robot. Several families are here. A little girl with her grandmother are standing in the crowd: “I am having a nightmare tonight”, the girl says and looks at her grandmother. Another girl with her mother is so surprised by the sight that she screams when they reach the front of the box. A father and his little boy stop to take a closer look. The boy is asking what it is, but the father wants to leave. The boy pulls the father towards the front and point towards the text: ”Something is written over there! What is it?”  The father says he can explain it to him when they leave. It seems like both some children and some adults are a bit frighten of today’s image. Teenagers in particular. A Swedish school class passes as they say: “ This is so scary! Is it a robot or a real person?” They continue to walk, but stop a 7/11 to watch the installation in a safe distance with their teacher. Some young people are taking their time though to read the text and discuss the image: “It is about the fact that the body is aging – watch she is all wrinkly”. It seems like several of the young people do not like the though of getting all old and wrinkly and that the mask scares some of them a bit.

Many senior citizens are stopping today and are highly represented today. Three elderly ladies are guessing the age of the woman in the box: “She must be around 60 years old. Look at her legs. Is it mask she is wearing? It is not consistent with the rest of the body.” A man arrives and asks the ladies what is happening. They explain that it shows something about the fact that the body is aging. The ladies are laughing and having a good time it seems like: “She is brave to sit here in front all these people.” Another group of seniors stop to see the woman in the glass box. The women go straight to the text on the side of the box. The man is waiting a bit away from the crowd with his crutches. The women return to him: “it s about how the body ages and how models get younger and younger. “ The seniors seem curious rather then offended by the image of today unlike many young teenagers. One of the frequent visitors of the installation arrives and explains to some young men the context: “Notice that old body and then look at her face, which is a mask. It is about the fact that we all age even though we don’t like to show it. Like in the model business, where they only use young people. And they get even younger and younger.”

Most people, at least for the Danish audience, discuss whether the person in the box is a man or woman. Therefore the discussions today also include the transgender question taken up at day 6 and questions about plastic surgery. The audience do not seem to be offended of disturbed by her nudity but a bit put out though. The woman in the box starts to take her hand up her arm very slowly and up to her face to remove some hair. The hair is blond and thick. As she moves the hand a crispy sound is heard outside the box as if her skin is dry and chapped. She is sitting with her legs crossed, but changes legs on in a while in slow motion.

When the shutters go up for the last time today the woman is lying still at the floor. Her hair covers most of her face. The image causes some reactions from the new audience. Some shake their heads. Others look troubled at her while standing as close to the glass as possible. When the shutters go down several people stay there unlike the other days.


 Ceci n’est pas mon corps*
The human body starts to show signs of ageing after the age of 20. Degeneration occurs as a result of free radicals attacking the body, which damages the DNA structure. Wrinkles are caused by repetitive motions of the skin, like the act of smiling. The reduced level of elastin creates a larger skin surface, for example under the chin.

The average age in Denmark is 41, and this age is increasing. Professional models keep getting younger and younger. Ideally they start their careers when they are between 14 and 19 years of age.

* This is not my body

Ceci n’est pas mon corps*
Den menneskelige krop begynder at vise tegn på aldring fra 20-årsalderen. Degenerering opstår som følge af frie radikalers angreb på kroppen, hvilket skader DNA-strukturen. Rynker skyldes repetitive bevægelser af huden så som smil. Det reducerede niveau af elastin skaber en større hudoverflade, f.eks. under hagen.

Gennemsnitsalderen i Danmark er 41, og den er stigende. Professionelle modeller bliver stadigt yngre og yngre. Ideelt set begynder de deres karriere, når de er mellem 14 og 19 år gamle.

* Dette er ikke min krop

READ MORE about the Metropolis Festival and the artist Dries Verhoeven’s concept of “Ceci n’est pas” in this background article or on Københavns Internationale Teaters webpage.  Also check out the newspaper articles in Berlingske and Politiken