Gåafstand’s State of Exception

State of Exception/Undtagelsestilstand from Gåafstand, part of Copenhagen Art Week, explored the world of international diplomacy, embassies and the legal exceptions which apply on their enclosed territories. I had planned to go, but being home alone with the beags all weekend even I couldn’t face three walks in one day. Lightweight! Luckily there was a review in Information, plus a report by Gåaftstand.

Charlotte Bagger Brandt of Råderum, curator of Copenhagen Art Week, gave Information the rationale for their guided tours: public space is more than just a space, it’s also a political space for personal expression. A walk can be an intervention, with all its participants contributing to the knowledge the work creates. By walking and thinking together one is part of a creative process. Urban space is both a physical and a mental space created by our thoughts and glances. When you walk you relate yourself physically to the space in a conscious way. She didn’t mention the soul moving at three miles an hour, but still.

During the walk Palle Roslyng-Jensen (Saxo Institut) threw in some pearls on the history of Copenhagen’s embassy quarter, for example that the British and Spanish embassy buildings were built by gullaschbaroner during the First World War, and that the American embassy, opened in 1954, followed Bauhaus principles. The British embassy, the stronghold of the Nazis during the Second World War, is today one of the most fortified – I can confirm this. Arriving just outside office hours to pick up my new passport I felt like I was in an episode from The Americans. Embassies are both islands and oases – a reception at the Belgian embassy in April was a cultural shot in the arm.

The tour followed Ho Chi Minh Sti (more), a path between Lipkesgade and Bergensgade forming a shortcut from Kastelsvej to Kristianiagade, originally conceived as a boulevard. Dubbed thus during demos at the American Embassy in 1970, the path was also used by diplomats to go discreetly from one embassy to the other during assorted international crises in the 1980s. (Update: Politiken’s Bagside for 14 Nov 2020 came up with the following additional info: Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi at Kongens Nytorv 1, the site of a demo on 4 Sep 1970 on the night of a World Bank dinner in Hotel d’Angleterre across the square, previously bore graffiti with the words ‘Ho Chi Mihn (sic), still to be seen in the form of ghost graffiti.)

The tour finished at Kastellet, where Nis Rømer explored the philosophical background to states of exception as defined by Nazi lawyer Carl Schmitt, who saw dictatorship as the purest form of legitimised power. States of exception can also be found in the contemporary Danish state, in particular in the practice of surveillance and monitoring in (undefined) states of war.

In one of those coincidences you can’t plan for, created by the plethora of events in Copenhagen over the summer, the Danish army was celebrating its 400th anniversary at the fountain, so Nis spoke in front of a physical background of tanks and armoured personnel carriers, plus the inevitable øl og pølser. The city showing its layers again.

Wish I’d gone…on a more mundane level I’m interested in issues of semi-private space as states of exception, and frequently reflect on no dogs signs on streets, at shopping centres, as a metaphor for this. Dogs on leash only signs, however, are more likely to be ignored.

At the last Still Walking festival in Birmingham Danielle Blackburn led a loiter, testing the boundaries of access to public space, encountered on the Copenhagen walk with its green metro fences and a newly built wall in a graveyard necessitating a new route.

Byens Hegn, unadorned (photo: Din By)

Gåaftstand is a walking group organised by artists Nis Rømer and Pia Rönicke (profile | ugens kunstner). The blog has posts from 2005-13, with translations on Walking Distance from 2005-10. HEART! We’ve covered many of the same places, such as: airport | Albertslund | Amager | Djursholm (SE) | Indre By (esp on surveillance) | Nokken | Prøvestenen | Sydhavn


2011: Nokken | Nokken: hvad er det?


2009: three walks inspired by Denmark’s anti-terror legislation and its relation to the judicial, the legislative and the executive powers: Present the evidence Intelligence – dvs surveillance/CCTV The architecture of anti-terror – see report. På dansk: Fremfør beviset | Efterretninger & Anti-terrorens arkitektur.

2008: The scene of the crime | Gerningsstedet & announcement (Sydhavn)




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s