Hvidovre Rådhus: a suburban town hall

Our local museum, Forstadsmuseet (the suburban museum/of – or in- the suburbs), has started a summer season of monthly walks in conjunction with Hvidovre Lokalhistoriske Selskab (local history society). The first was to, or rather round, Hvidovre town hall, indviet on 19 April 1955 by King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid and celebrating its 60th anniversary this year:

Hvidovre kommune (council) as we know it today was created in 1901, when Valby and Vigerslev, the areas east of Harrestrup Å, joined Copenhagen (shame!), although Avedøre remained part of Glostrup until 1974.

In the early days the council met wherever it could lay its collective hat, including private homes, schools and local pubs. From 1909-24 it rented rooms at Hvidovre Torv 7, moving to an old school building at Hvidovregade 24, now Bytoften, in 1924:

This building was extended in 1931 and 1948 as the kommune’s responsibilities grew, but with the population reaching 25,000 by 1951 the decision was made to go for a new building, on pretty much open land at Hvidovrevej 278:

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Hvidovre town hall in 1960 (source: Arkiv.dk/Forstadsmuseet)

The new town hall was designed by Helge Schønnemann, also responsible for a church and two schools in the area. Rather than a display of municipal pride the intention was to create a working town hall with a modest exterior. Itself now also much extended, forming a civic centre with the 1970s library and community centre next door, it will be interesting to see how this typical 1950s building will be integrated into Hvidovre’s proposed 21st century town centre.

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Hvidovre town hall, 10 April 2015

Our tour was centred around the 1950s wing at the heart of the building, with a staircase leading up the council chamber and 5th floor roof terrace:

On the first three floors are socialist realist style paintings depicting local scenes, painted by Victor Brockdorff in 1977:

Mayors through the years have not been overlooked. This is the rather devilish looking Toft, Ole Toft Sørensen (1944-58):

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The foyer outside the council chamber retains a 1950s ambience and has been used in several films:

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Inside the byrådssal (council chamber) is an impressive painting by Carlo Rosberg, entitled En kommune skabes (a council is created), featuring Hans Christian Andersen and the story of The Ugly Duckling (full story):

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The view from the roof terrace, on a sunny evening, illustrates some of the problems the kommune is up against. The surrounding area is flat and empty, all the way to Amager:

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Thanks to Anja and Dorthe for a hyggelig rundvisning!


  • 18 April: trying to come up with British equivalents to Hvidovre I tend to use Croydon, however it’s not quite right. How about Droylsden in Greater Manchester? Here’s a blog on its 1970s town hall, the Concord Suite. I visited in the 1990s when I was working in local government, and they still look after one of my many pensions.
  • 19 April/2 May: photos from the kommune’s home page and stories from Forstadsmuseet: Hvidovres første kommunekontor | Kommunekontoret på skolen.
  • 30 November: more info added, after a second visit inside on the first Sunday of Advent, open house day! see also my Flickr album

Flâneur in Copenhagen

Last updated: 10 March 2018

Back on 19 February I attended Flanør, an event hosted by the Goethe Institut and the Forening af Danske Kulturtidsskrifter, co-hosted by (and at) upscale newspaper Information. Speakers were Ricarda Messner and Fabian Saul from Flaneur Magazine (Facebook | Twitter) and Ulf Peter Hallberg, a Swedish writer living in Berlin since 1983. Here are some photos.

Kicking off proceedings Ricarda (publisher) and Fabian (editor) were asked to define “flâneur “. Cue much shifting in chairs, ending up with:

  • Ricarda: doing something without an aim
  • Fabian: dealing with things which could be lost, on the edge of time; ahead of time, avant garde

Frankly I’m with them on this, it is all more than a tad nebulous and open to interpretation, plus it’s really hard not to come over all pseud’s corner. Looking back my notes are pretty gnomic, and I reckon we’d all do better reading one or more of these articles: William Helmreich in Aeon | Paris Review praises the flâneur | The urban observer.

But the magazine is a lovely thing, internationally focused and published in English. Each issue explores a single street, so far in Berlin (review), Leipzig, Montreal and Rome (video review), with Athens coming up in the autumn (update: now plus Moscow and São Paulo). If they would like to tackle Copenhagen I’m inclined to suggest Valby Langgade. Each issue deals with some oddity, confusion or disruption, with an overall theme emerging during a two month research period.

Moving on, Ulf Peter Hallberg was born in Malmö and now lives in Berlin. I came across him too late! from a Facebook post by Politikens Boghal. He’s another one who blends fiction with real life – see his latest, Strindbergs skugga i Nordens Paris (2012), which intertwines his own background with August Strindberg’s stay in Copenhagen from 1887 to 1889 (published på dansk as Det store tivoli in 2014).

He also walks, and wrote the seminal Flanörens blick (The flâneur’s gaze, 1996; på dansk as Flanørens blik, 2000; Kristeligt Dagblad). It’s an essayroman; quotes from all the usual suspects, photos…I now have an autographed copy : D. Mind you, it’s par for the course that the first book in Danish I might _really_ like to translate is actually Swedish…

Ulf’s flâneurie habit started with childhood visits to Copenhagen with his father, in particular to the auction houses on Bredgade. His father was a collector, along with the flâneur one of the social archetypes in Benjamin’s Arcades Project, and sought inter alia wooden statues from Africa. This approach to life, the attempt to create – curate? – a universal order, is reflected in the novel Europeiskt skräp (2009) – published in English in 2013 as European trash: fourteen ways to remember a father (Amazon | “blends memoir, essay and fiction in an evocative journey through his late father’s world of collecting the European trash”).

And so time was up, before I could get my question/statement in on Kierkegaard (Denmark’s ultimate flâneur), and everyone rushed off looking at their shoes as per usual.

For me Copenhagen is just not set up for flâneurie, or Danes to be flâneurs; it’s not just the hygge, it’s also the over-planning and regulation in both public spaces and personal lives – and not least, the fact that the bike is king. Can you be a flâneur on a bike? Every time I go into ‘town’, ie central Copenhagen, I’m reminded that cyclists rule. While car drivers have become accustomed to giving way on crossings, the rules of the road vs pavement etc, these cyclists just aren’t bothered. The lack of crossings doesn’t help – you can be left standing wondering just how fast those bikes are going, and what direction the next one is going to come from. It’s disturbing for someone with a serious jaywalking habit. But I digress.

Also of interest was the fact that flâneurie’s partner in crime, psychogeography, never came up, as it also didn’t on a recent Danish podcast about Sebald. (And did Asger Jorn, a founder member of the Situationist International and a close friend of Guy Debord, not indulge in the dérive?) Why is this? A quick check of bookshop Saxo brings up zero for Danish translations of Messrs McFarlane or Sinclair, gosh, and while there are translations of Sebald’s The rings of Saturn (1995; translation: 2011) and Vertigo (1990; translation: 2012; see review), Austerlitz (from 2001) will debut in translation in December. Double gosh. And Sebald seems to have a Spanish following, so it’s not just an Anglo/German thing.

But hov, what’s this? On 26 March Mette Kit Jensen (interview) gave a ‘performance lecture’ at Nikolai Kunsthal with the title Ongoing flâneuse, complete with turtle (sic), or perhaps, tortoise. I assume the shelled one was given full respect, I’m not totally comfortable with that aspect…anyway, I was otherwise engaged, and go for the literary turn rather than performance/interventions in any case, however Mette looks interesting. Last year she exhibited Flaneuse de l’Europe, an audiowalk and book at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde, as part of their Museum in the city project:

an audio walk conceived through research the artist has carried out in several larger Europeen cities, such as Rome, Athens, Paris and Istanbul using sounds, impressions and narratives. The short stories are joined together in one long story, which connects to places in Roskilde. Local sound scapes recorded in Roskilde are mixed with global places and episodes in one total sound collage where proximity and flash backs alternate.

An article in Kunsten.nu gives a bit of background (in English here – scroll!) and a map, plus there’s an audio version should you find yourself in Roskilde.

Update: had a go at Det store tivoli (Information: excerpts another & last | review | Berlingske); apparently CPH was dubbed the Paris of the North after the World Exhibition of 1888; Hvidovre Bibliotekerne kindly lent me their new copy, but after three renewals it was time to hand it back – often an issue with library books. The main character is Strindberg’s secretary Knud Wiisby (1865-1941), hired by Edvard Brandes to spy on what August gets up to. (Ulf made Wiisby up, but connected with him on some level, and also has a vague family connection with CPH at that time. Or something.) Wiisby has a close relationship with Swedish author Victoria Benedictsson, who just happened to have unrequited love for Georg Brandes. And why not? Rather more worryingly there appears to be a parallel story set in LA in the present day, but there’s a sticker over that part of the cover.

Update, March 2017: Swedish app merchant Guidly launched a soundwalk about Victoria in Copenhagen at KBH Læser (FB event). The 90 minute walk, with some parts på dansk, runs from Axeltorv, where she met Brandes in 1886, to Kongens Nytorv, where she killed herself in a hotel room two years later.

Update, March 2018: Fabian and Mette resurfaced at #kbhlæser; no sign of Ulf.

Below: scenes from my drift in central Copenhagen, prior to the Flanør event.

At the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Updates: Peggy, the biog | The unfinished palazzo (excerpt)

On our first day in Venice we visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, located in her home of 30 years, the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal. Peggy’s father went down in the Titanic, leaving her a tidy fortune allowing her to pursue the life of an arty libertine until her death in 1979 at the age of 81. Most of the collection was created between 1938 and 1946, with works embracing everything from cubism to surrealism and abstract expressionism. Wife of Max Ernst, lover of Samuel Beckett, Peggy was also fond of lhasa apsos and winged sunglasses.

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There’s something about a curated collection that sets it apart from a standard art gallery, and not just because of the stories it can tell. As well as a small room of paintings by Peggy’s daughter Pegeen there were some splendid Jackson Pollocks (another of Peggy’s alleged lovers) and an olive tree in the garden, a present from Yoko Ono.

Piazza (1947-48), a Giacometti bronze inevitably caught the eye:

However closely we may inspect the figures we must know that they are as if seen at a distance. The four male figurines are positioned in such a way that they would not meet even if they were magically to proceed. This need not be taken to indicate urban alienation, but simply the nature of a public place of intersecting passage.

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A temporary exhibition was dedicated to Azimut/h, a gallery and review founded in 1959 by Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani. Manzoni, who died at the age of 29, spent some time in Denmark, specifically in Herning, where he was invited twice by local art aficionado and shirt manufacturer Aage Damgaard.

The HEART Museum owns the world’s largest public collection of Manzoni’s works, many of which question the nature of the art object and use alternative materials. His Socle du monde, a pedestal placed upside down, turns the world into a work of art with its base in Herning, while in Venice you could buy one of his more infamous works and try to get a good shot of a fluffy ball on a pedestal:

Audio walks: Frederiksberg, Hanstholm and getting lost

A clutch of audio walks has come along of late. Three main types:

Falling more or less into the first category, I’ve just listened to a series of 10 audio files from Frederiksberg Stadsarkiv about the area during the First World War – see Syndikalister, kunstnere og gullaschbaroner (map). (Frederiksberg is an enclave with Copenhagen, a separate municipality, which means it does its own thing culturally.)

Part of the recent Golden Days Festival, the files are also available as an app, which does offer a map, but they work just as well as podcasts. At over eight minutes in some cases they might feel too long to listen to in situ, where there were also pictures and text on stands during the festival. Content heavy, I don’t feel I’ve retained much in the medium to long term, and I’m more likely to go back to the text versions which popped up on the blog.

Bill Aitchison highlights a feature of this sort of audio tour: “You look on the map, walk to number 1 then press play and listen. When that’s finished you look at the map, go to number 2, press play and so on.” More effective, although more onerous to create, are tours which offer directions and a commentary at the same time, “so that you walk with it and it talks to you throughout”.

An example of this type of audio walk is the Energy Walk at Hanstholm, a small town on the north west coast of Jutland with several claims to fame. As well as its fortress bunker, Europe’s biggest fortification from the Second World War, the town has the largest industrial harbour in Denmark, with ferries to the Faroes and Iceland, and is a centre for marine energy. Traces can be found in the area from both prehistoric times and the Vikings.

The Energy Walk, developed as part of the Alien Energy project (Facebook | fanzine) running at Copenhagen’s IT University under its Energy Futures banner, brings all this together. Launched on 6 September in Hanstholm – see the photos or listen to the audio (English and Danish) – until 1 November you can collect a digital walking stick at Færgegrillen in Hanstholm, should you be passing, and follow the walk that way, although it works fine as a podcast.

This one takes a more lyrical approach, with the English version narrated by ethnographer Laura Watts, who blogs at Sand14. I have to admit to finding it a tad tiresome in places, although traces have stayed with me.

Finally, coming up on Friday 3 October at 18:30 BST is Fracture Mob, an audio led flash mob by artist Jennie Savage, who is inviting people all over the world to get lost simultaneously:

This audio walk invites you to become lost in your familiar geography and the fictional sonic landscape of the audio guide, where you will encounter street markets, shopping malls, beaches and birdsong recorded in enigmatic locations. The artist’s instructions to walk are the same for us all, however each of us will interpret her directions, walk at a different pace, become lost in familiar territories and, of course, inhabit different landscapes.

The walk can be followed live on the day or downloaded as a 30 minute ambient soundscape in three flavours: wanderer, idler or drifter. Meet points have been set up at various locations, including Christianshavn metro. The walk was commissioned by Plymouth Arts Centre and coincides with the opening of the Walk On exhibition, still doing the rounds – hear Jennie talk about it and her other work on Talking Walking.

While I’m getting the intention behind all this, the performative aspect is troubling and when I’m walking I like to be in the moment, it’s kind of the point. But getting lost, or waylosing, is turning into one of those tropes – see the experimental travel tag. On the day I will be in Venice, however if you are tempted to participate do let me know how you get on. Update: Bill Aitchison on following the tour in Beijing, and hear Charlotte Spencer and friends describe Walking Stories, a similar performance undertaken by groups of 20 in a park.

B_Tour Belgrade

Quick look at B_Tour Belgrade (Facebook), from the team which brought you B_Tour Berlin and ran from 26-28 September:

The festival examines current needs of urban life and how artistic strategies can be used as a tool to explore possible answers to these needs…The tours deal with civil participation in public space, urban life and its socio-historical context. They are led either by the artists in person or the artists’ narrations in the form of audio tours, instruction guides/texts or maps.

12 tours by international and local artists, plus two talks, on local cultural urban initiatives and their artistic practices, and on the politics of public space and the idea of a participatory city.

Tours of particular interest:

  • Audio walk: Savamala – the story of an elderly resident of Savamala who retells its history through the memories of his childhood, comparing its past with its present and inviting the listener to think about its future; see Spuren Suche
  • B-B – Berlin and Belgrade, “two cities that have much in common but are yet so different. The tour will take you through two cities at once: one visited ‘live’ and the other presented interactively through visual and audio material, showing some surprising similarities and highlighting the transformations taking place. Can we feel one city while walking through another?”; see vid for some nice overlays, esp at the Reichstag (at around 0:45)
  • B-mapping – audio tour of the everyday, created from the stories, experiences, ideas and dreams of anyone who has a connection to Belgrade; see also have you ever been to Belgrade? and the JIAC B-mapping Belgrade project
  • I’m a stranger – “on the one hand the city is a site of meetings and exchanges, criss-crossing networks of personal routes and private maps; on the other it is an environment where one can easily get lost among the boundless number of strangers; this tour allows participants a double experience and a dual role: first as a map-maker, recording their own path; then as a map-reader, following a stranger’s route and seeing the city through their eyes”
  • Reversed cartography: from online map to the streets of Vracar – the participants of the Days of Remembrance workshop who made the Vracar map will come out of their virtual presence to tell their stories in person (also seen at Living Maps April)
  • Temporary viewing platforms – visiting places that offer a wide or interesting view; usually not accessible to the public, such as private apartments and public buildings with limited access, flat rooftops and open terraces, seeing the same landscape from different angles; takes place in two peripheral residential areas
  • The better the coffee the longer the queue – mapping the effects of the Belgrade Waterfront redevelopment project on the Savamala area and its historic coffee shops, as well as Belgrade’s culture in general; “through history Savamala embodied a specific spirit, not only as a border area between two empires (Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman), but also a place of great importance for a growing Belgrade”
  • Die Wohnung – Bauhaus in Belgrade?

Lots of audio, and history, to ponder. See also the Belgrade Sound Map and Kulturklammer (again).

Vestegnens Kulturuge 2014

Update, Jan 2015: Glostrup will not be participating in this year’s Kulturuge, following Brøndby in leaving the intiative, which they don’t feel has “taken flight”. The event is funded by the members of Vestegnens Kulturinvesteringsråd to the tune of two kroner per head of population, but as a result of Glostrup’s departure this will go up to four kroner per head.

A quick look back at Vestegnens Kulturuge 2014 (Facebook | Regionalavisen coverage), a local festival which took place from 6-14 September, and a good opportunity to pull together some local history about areas we explore on our walks and beyond. More than 150 events hosted by 140 organisations in seven kommuner, some shared with Golden Days. Second time out – see post re 2013 edition,

Vestegnen is the name given to a flexible group of kommuner at the top of the Køge Bugt – see Visit Vestegnen for more. Mainly suburbs built on villages/landsbyer (there are usually some traces) after WW2 to provide housing for the burgeoning population, now with a 19% invandrer population. No fairytale towers or harbour baths here. Putting all the kommuner together gives you a population of over 250k, perhaps in a better position to offer services and cultural support akin to that in Copenhagen ‘proper’. Maybe more joint initiatives could make for a more dynamic area able to attract investment and undertake some creative redevelopment.

The programme for the week was available via Issuu or Kultunaut, hele Danmarks event calendar, with search, display by day or on a map. A lot of the events were child/family oriented, but the following had some appeal.

Avedøre and Hvidøre

Denmark’s oldest airfield (photo: 1001 Fortællinger)

Sunday saw the biennial family oriented Aeronautisk Dag at Avedøre Flyveplads (Facebook | Forstadsmuseet). Tucked away between Brøndby Havn and a motorway is Denmark’s oldest airfield, dating from 1917. It was used by the Danske Luftfartsselskab for test flights in the 1920s, and by the Nazis to test motors from 1943. Best story: a US B17 made a emergency landing nearby in 1943, thinking they had made it to neutral Sweden.

Closed in 1945, the airfield was used as a store by the military and Hvidovre highways dept, but reopened in 2001, thanks largely to the support of enthusiasts, with a limited number of flights permitted each year.

As well as a grassy runway the site consists of two red hangars from 1917, listed in 1986, constructed in timber so they could be burned down in the event of war, and a 100m long engine testing facility from 1943, made up of a row of 10 interconnected testing halls. The biennial display includes vintage planes and cars, hot air balloons, kites. It’s also a nice area for a walk.

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Stjernestøv: en stedsans/Stardust: a sense of locality on Hvidovre Torv

Less successful is Hvidovre Torv, a surviving part of the original village opposite the old church, one of those public spaces which hasn’t really worked. Frequent articles in the local paper bemoan the lack of life and ambition on the square, with this week the news that five of its 10 chestnut trees have succombed to kastanieminermøl and are to be felled. I tend to the sceptical about the urge to fell, but in this case the trees are to be replaced with “large” tulipantræer, and the gravel which teenagers persist in throwing into the fountain, blocking it from doing its thing, is to be replaced with shrubbery. Hurrah!

During the festival the square was transformed into a Norse mythology inspired art installation (review) by Karoline H Larsen in conjunction with Hvidovre Produktionsskole, who brightened up the nearby shopping centre with Fra Ingenmandsland til Allemandsliv last year. There was also Mobil Lyd, a pop-up musical something or other from Yes DR Far, and folk dancing. (Shudders. One day I’ll work out what Danish folk dancing is about.)

In the shopping centre itself pupils from Langhøjskolen and artists Cold & Butt (it’s their names…) mounted Save the Apple, an installation “questioning the way we as a society perceive packaging and food waste”, ie making apple juice and pancakes. There’s a video, showing off the increasingly forlorn shopping centre.

Albertslund and Vallensbæk

Opstandelseskirken, Albertslund (photo: Ib Rasmussen)

Opstandelseskirken, Albertslund (photo: Ib Rasmussen)

Slightly further afield is Albertslund, an area which doesn’t have the best of reputations but makes the most of what it’s got. Named after a French count who fled to Denmark in 1802, most of the area was laid out in the 1960s in best modernist style, with the population growing from 3000 to 30,000 over a period of eight years. Inspired by the Garden City Movement (again) it’s strictly zoned and emphatically low density, made up of terraced houses and a network of separate roads and bike/pedestrian paths. Another feature is the canal quarter, which aims to make an attraction out of the drainage system.

Moving swiftly on from Har du lys til at vandre? (a play on ‘Fancy a walk?’ and ‘Got a light?’, involving a bonfire, warm soup and goodnight stories) from the local library, Kroppedal Museum offered På tur gennem Albertslunds historie, a walk through the area’s cultural heritage, from Opstandelseskirken (church, 1984) to the rather older Statsfængsel (state prison, 1859). There was also a guided tour of Skulpturbank Hyldespjældet, a sculpture gallery in an area of public housing. It seems that sculptors park their work at Hyldespjældet until it is sold or sent to an exhibition, how about that?

Other arty things on during the week included Streetart with William Hjort (the brains behind Roskilde Festival Graffiti) on the viaduct between Vallensbæk Sø and ditto Mose on the Køge Bugt motorway to the south of Albertslund; same kommune but two motorways away from DIAS (Facebook), Vallensbæk’s digital arts gallery, which offered Sound Treasures and video workshops, culminating in a Videoextravaganza and lounge on Saturday. DIAS receives support from the Danish Art Fund and DSB, an interesting initiative all round.

street, Albertslund (photo: Gåafstand)

street, Albertslund (photo: Gåafstand)

Revisiting a 1968 dérive undertaken by a group of artists in Albertslund walking group Gåafstand wrote in 2010: “[the] lack of horizon makes one feel a bit disoriented and can cause a loss of sense of direction”. Certainly the streets tend to be empty and devoid of much life, but could expansion and renewal be an alternative solution to the prevailing redevelopment rhetoric of stacked egg boxes with minimal space to breath? An issue though is that these developments were built quickly with little attention to quality, meaning that at a time of low house prices it’s often cheaper to pull individual houses down than renovate them.

On the beach

More art if less walking from Copenhagen Art Run (Facebook | preview | coverage; oi Copenhagen, get yer own art run), a 5km run (walking also permitted, mind) for body, soul and all the senses, held along the beach at modern art gallery Arken in Ishøj. Artists are invited to submit works for display or to entertain along the route, and the race is not timed.

The beach in question is the 7.2 km long Køge Bugt Strandpark, stretching from Avedøre Holme to Hundige Strand, a wholly artificial construction complemented by four small marinas and six salt water lakes. The idea for the beach was first mooted in the 1930s but did not become a reality until 1980, after 5 million km2 of sand had been pumped out of the sea bed. This stretch of coast is a mixture of suburban overspill, summer houses and caravan sites, a legacy of the feriekolonier set up for residents of inner city Copenhagen, who followed the road from Valby to Køge by rutebil/omnibus or bicycle during the summer holidays.


on yer bike! (photo: Forstadsmuseet)

This period was celebrated in Sommerliv langs Gammel Køge Landevej, a bike ride led by Forstadsmuseet’s Lisbeth Hollensen from the site of Flaskekroen at Åmarken Station, one of a series of former roadside inns, to Brøndby Strandhotel. The road (Køgevejen), laid in the 1720s and running from Valby to Køge, is now synonymous with car traffic, with the Køge bus discontinued a couple of years ago.

Telling local histories

The local museums and archives do a great job of preserving Vestegnen’s history, which is also kept alive through the revived tradition of oral storytelling. Vestegnens Fortællerkreds held its annual festival on the last night of Kulturuge, and Hvidovre libraries is offering Hvidovre FortælleLab, a free course, over the autumn.

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, 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. 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)