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Wa(l)king Copenhagen - reflections and videos 30 July-11 Aug. - Metropolis

Wa(l)king Copenhagen – reflections and videos 30 July-11 Aug.

CAN PRESENCE BE POLITICAL?

If there is one thing I have learned from COVID-19, it is to be present, pay more attention to my surroundings, and question the pace of everyday life. I still remember the feeling of suddenly being able to smell the sea from Nørrebro, because the cars did not pollute in the streets. I had not actually noticed that that smell had disappeared from the city before I felt it tickling my nostrils. I remember the record number of frogs that jumped around on the paths in Frederiksberg Garden back in April, and how I thought that now nature is taking its place again. And the stars, which I certainly thought had become more clear and luminous than before, the COVID-19 crisis took off. Sure, the pandemic has separated us, but it has alsocreated awareness about the space between us.

By Mille Højerslev

 

Sound landscapes

When Per Buhl Acs could no longer bear to watch and listen to the news and hear the same story being told over and over again, he began to turn inward and search for the near; the family and the friends he could and was allowed to see. In his walk, he reflects on the emotions, “we have all been through,” as he puts it; “The loneliness, the space between us and the distance”. He listens to the city and creates images of the sounds that come back to him. The landscape he creates with his music, the filter he puts over Copenhagen, is performed live with vocals and a mini-synthesizer. The live composition mixes with the spontaneous sounds from the places he comes by, as well as the sounds he has recorded beforehand. He visits Fælledparken, the venue Mayhem, Den Røde Plads, Thorvaldsens Museum and Hofteatret. “Music is about the time we are in now, have been in and are on our way to.”

 

The sound of running water

“Is there a portal?”, a voice asks. “Under the bridge there is a portal”. Sure, we are neither under nor near a bridge, but in the company of Maria Laurette Friis, it almost feels like being sucked into a parallel world. She emphasizes this feeling by using a collage technique that makes a reflection of the section she frames with her camera. All the content in the image is sucked in towards the middle – into nothing or everything. Friis is a musician, sound artist and composer. But I almost also want to call her a picture poet the way she uses the image and the technology. Her visual interpretations make each video look like a pictorial poem. Of course, the music also creates images, inner images that both support and speak across the filmed. The sound is grand and dramatic. The electronic composition also contains acoustic recordings of instrumental playing and the sound of water splashes and human voices

 

Can presence be political?

Presence is also a central theme for Jacob Langaa-Sennek. During his 12-hour walk, he has invited a variety of people to stand in front of the camera and look into the lens without speaking. “Today’s topic is presence – in all forms and shapes”. The filmed people all react differently; there are shy smiles, a raised eyebrow, a head tilted, a staring gaze, eyes that miss and get tired, deep breaths down the abdomen, contractions in the throat and a chest that lifts. In between the silent portraits that portray presence, another group of people is interviewed, whom we never get to face. We only hear their voices. One woman says, among other things, that presence for her is “looking another person in the eye and just noticing that you are here and I am here. That we are here together can be a great experience”. If we can remain ourselves instead of shutting down more and more, then our world will become more exciting, the conclusion reads.

 

The sounds of the city are changing

“On a walk through a city that does not exist”. Elsebeth Jørgensen has also begun to see and sense the city in a different way during COVID-19. She noticed that the streets were empty and the sound of the city had begun to change. In her walk, she examines the city’s change based on an archive-based and bird’s eye view principle. Instead of filming the city and in the city, she zooms in on visual points on various historical maps and drawings from i.a. Copenhagen City Archives, while the same abstract musical work plays in the background, and Jørgensen reads from various theoretically based texts about walking. I can recognize one detail, because the portrayed landscape is more or less identical with the landscape today: It represents a corner of Søndermarken. The drawing shows a bridge meeting in a high bend. However, the bridge is not the original, but a reconstructed version.

 

Licking a lamppost

“If you want to find new ways, then you have to investigate some things.” Karoline H. Larsen is absolutely right about that. The way she does it is to use her body first. And not just by using her hands, her eyes and her sense of smell. No, the tongue also comes into use. She licks on a lamppost just to find out how it tastes. She also licks rainwater off a leaf because she is thirsty. She lays down on grass and asphalt, on top of a bench and under the same bench. Larsen examines the textures of the city up close. As a human being, but also as “animal, instinct, saliva and grass”. “Where I do not, and where I also, go a little free of some of the definitions and words we have.”

 

The community in a yellow suit

With her Community Walk, Charlotte Østergaard explores how we create physical presence. The designer has created a yellow suit that lights up like a little sun in the gray and monotonous Copenhagen. The suit connects Østergaard with the guest she is walking with. The yellow suit consists of two trouser-like costumes, which are connected by a series of strings. It is not possible to get away from each other, escape the conversation or run away from spontaneous shouts. During the walk, Østergaard and the 12 invited guests reflect on the concept of ‘community’ – linguistically and as physical experience. They talked about the digital community versus the physical, about the committed community, about connections and how connections can change a community, what the ‘community’ means to a non-Dane, how to create a community yourself, and how the long threads in the yellow clothing in a concrete sense challenge the concept of community because they create blockades in the street.

 

Pointing out class society

In addition to creating more presence and awareness about the environment we share, COVID-19 has also clarified who belongs among the privileged in society and who belongs to the vulnerable groups. The proof that Denmark is a class society with big differences came with COVID-19. The inequality in society, I imagine, has inspired Maja Lee Langvad to take as her starting point her own translation of Max Frisch’s book Fragebogen / Questionnaires from 1987. In Questionnaires, the questions fall into categories such as: Survival, Marriage, Hope, Money, Humour, Property and Death. These categories force those involved – the viewer and the reader – to relate to their own social, cultural, political and economic realities and beliefs. She reads from the book while people cycle past her on Dronning Louise’s Bro, on Copenhagen City Hall’s upper balcony, while a lot of sculptural copies listen at Thorvaldsens Museum, in front of the Nationalbank, by Christianshavn Kanal, on a terrace on Amager, on a random residential street, in Østre Anlæg, at the end of Rentemestervej, in a cemetery, and in Emaljehaven in Nørrebro. At the last stop, she reads out the answers that have come up during the day on the questionnaires she made available via a link in the Facebook videos. And so the places put the topics and categories in a contemporary and local perspective. Suzanne Brøgger also visits the walk – though not in person.

 

Hamlet cut herself

The city’s residents play the main roles in Tue Biering‘s walk THE STATE, using Hamlet as a template. Each video is named after a character in the iconic play. The 12 different citizens we meet along the way all have, in one way or another, a relationship to Hamlet’s characters and being a citizen of the state. We meet people from all social classes; from the stateless to one among society’s richest 2%.

“We have all given up some of our freedom to the state in order to receive the security that the community gives us. But are we safe, and do we really agree on anything anymore? And what is left of the STATE?”, Biering asks without really finding an answer. The story that made the biggest impression on me was the one that had been given the name Hamlet. Here, the protagonist told about cutting herself and being sent in and out of psychiatric hospitals before eventually creating a normal life with husband and children. Her narrative was not so much a disease story as it was a story of not being seen and understood and therefore for a period denied the chance to be included in society. Until the day she took back her freedom.

 

The ideological architecture

When I look around the city’s newly built neighbourhoods, I always consider who they are built for. In any case, I will hardly be able to pay to live in the concrete flats that shoot up like weeds, and certainly not if I continue to be as poor as I am now. In the 1930s to ’70s, new construction and architecture were different. Back then, people built for ordinary people and for the community. Architect Tina Saaby and urbanist Niels Bjørn take us on a walk from Copenhagen to Gladsaxe, from the city to the suburbs. “Welfare architecture” is the concept under which they bring together the buildings they pass by. Together, the two look for knowledge that they can pass on to future generations. The words they would like us to keep in mind in the future include: the attention to detail, the sensuous, more resilience, generosity with green areas, and to think public investment such as schools, institutions and grocery stores into urban renewal work.

 

 

Conversation with China

The outbreak of COVID-19 started, as you know, in a provincial city in China. But how are the Chinese artists doing, and how are they coping with the crisis? In Gritt Uldall-Jessen‘s walk, the gaze is lifted, and we are invited to listen as she reads aloud from the correspondence with the Chinese playwright Xiao Jing, with whom Uldall-Jessen has been writing since mid-March. Uldall-Jessen asks questions that have been relevant to the handling of the situation here in Denmark: What is it like to be in quarantine? How has the reopening of society gone? And what is it like to be a playwright and work with the performing arts when the theatres are closed? Xiao Jing says, among other things, that she has had to take a job in the advertising industry. There are no help packages to help her through the dead period without jobs.

The conversation is staged i.a. with Uldall-Jessen filming at the Chinese Pavilion in Frederiksberg Garden and the Chinese area in Tivoli, and here a connection arises between Copenhagen and Beijing – although it is artificial. Xiao Jing was supposed to have come to Copenhagen to present a new piece. Instead two actors read her translated text aloud and dramatize it. They do so while sitting down on two chairs in a relatively empty hall with no elements that disturb the eye. I feel both far away and close to the experiences that are being told, just as the world feels both smaller and bigger, because through Xiao Jing’s testimony I get a personal look at the current situation in China – or rather Beijing. I can recognize myself and my own COVID-19 life in their conversation. Uldall-Jessen’s (and my own) experiences and everyday life are made global – where the personal and societal conditions can be compared, of course. The places we pass on the route are places that Jing would have liked to experience in Copenhagen, which opens up another personal layer in the conversation between the two artists. That way, it feels like she’s here anyway. The correspondence in its full length is also published in the online magazine Bastard.blog as a performance text.

 

Galactic track through Copenhagen

The future seems very far away because the present is so extreme and strange. But to Naja Lee Jensen, the future is near. “Somewhere in Copenhagen. Somewhere in space”, it is written across the screen in Jensen’s videos to remind us that tEarth is just a stop on the Milky Way. “Behind the blue sky is the infinite universe. The Earth is one of many entities found in the solar system,” she says. “I need the galactic perspective in my life”, Jensen explains, and thus leaves a galactic track in the city, where she has the optical solar system in Copenhagen,

“Behind the blue sky is the infinite universe. The earth is one of many bodies found in the solar system, ”she says. “I need the galactic perspective in my life”, Jensen explains, and therefore she leaves a galactic track in the city, where she draws the solar system in Copenhagen, so that in the future she can be reminded of the Earth’s location in the solar system and get another more proportional view of life as a human being. The stones she takes with her on her walk around the city do not come from space, but from the interior of the Earth. They tell a story about our relationship to stone. For example with us using them to engrave our loved one’s names, date of birth and date of death on. “Friends raised this memory”, it says on one of the tombstones that Jensen films in her video. “Mother” on another.

It is quite natural that Trevor Davies, who is director of Metropolis together with Katrien Verwilt, gets to finish Wa(l)king Copenhagen and put an end to this text. On his walk, he gathers the threads. It is both exciting and fascinating how many words he has inside him, and the time that the platform has given him to explain the project and its content. A newspaper or radio interview would not have been able to include as many perspectives and go as much into detail as he does here. He talks about the creation of the festival, the curatorial framework, the contributions and the themes that connect them. For those who have followed the blog and my reflections, one might be able to recognize some of the descriptions. My words get body, a new sound and new meaning as they come out of Davies’ mouth and footage on the film. The same applies to the artists’ own interpretations, which are also used. Like the video walks, the texts are also part of the project, and therefore it makes sense that they are given space in this sum-up. Davies’ journey is more than just a personal contribution that shows places he has an affiliation with. To him the walk is a way to start the archiving process of the enormous amount of material that is Wa(l)king Copenhagen.

 

30 July: Charlotte Østergaard
31 July: Per Buhl Acs
1 Aug. Maja Lee Langvad
2 Aug.: Gritt Uldall-Jessen
3 Aug.: Tina Saaby
4 Aug.: Naja Lee Jensen
5 Aug.: Karoline H. Larsen
6 Aug.: Jacob Langaa-Sennek
7 Aug. Elsebeth Jørgensen
9 Aug.: Maria Laurette Friis
10 Aug.: Tue Biering
11 Aug.: Trevor Davies

 

SELECTED VIDEOS

30 July: Charlotte Østergaard

31 July: Per Buhl Acs

1 Aug.: Maja Lee Langvad

2 Aug.: Gritt Uldall-Jessen

3 Aug.: Tina Saaby

4 Aug.: Naja Lee Jensen

5 Aug.: Karoline H. Larsen

6 Aug.: Jacob Langaa-Sennek

7 Aug.: Elsebeth Jørgensen

9 Aug.: Maria Laurette Friis

10 Aug.: Tue Biering

11 Aug.: Trevor Davies

 

See all walks in the archive on www.metropolis.dk/en/walking-copenhagen