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.
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
- Retten til rummet – byrum i Frederiksstaden (city centre)
- Examined Examined: welfare institutions in Bispebjerg and Copenhagen NW – “In the 1920s the housing situation in Copenhagen was desperate, which led, among other things, to the City Council building three apartment blocks on Tomsgårdsvej. The apartments were small, 1-2 rooms without baths or hot water.” (på dansk 1 and 2)
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.
- Tømmergraven, Skibbroen, Sydhavn | på dansk & announcement – “small pockets in which time has stood still with old industrial enterprises in the midst of what is at present one of the city’s most active building areas”
- Vestamager and mobile organic gardens | på dansk & announcement – Amager Faelled: “one of the most unique free areas in Copenhagen…the meeting between different kinds of housing, the natural surroundings and the city is one of Amager’s greatest qualities…we ended on the roof of a silo by the waterfront, which has now been converted into apartments, one of the few places from which one has a view over the city”
- By kayak round Prøvestenen | på dansk – bizarre…
- Prøvestenen and the surrounding district in particular – “the part of the Port of Copenhagen designed for the reception of oil tankers and the depositing of lightly polluted soil…the pollution may be one of the only things that can prevent the area from being built up with far too expensive apartments”; another haveforening
- A walk around Amager in cloudy weather | på dansk – Amager Strandpark: “a huge shithole of a manmade beach”, oh yes
- Organisation, Frederikshøj and further | på dansk – “a local plan is at present being adopted for the area, which has existed in a legal limbo since the first residents occupied the area at the beginning of the 1920s”…(haveforening at Sydhavn)
- Fields and the Common | på dansk & announcement – pre-Fields