5 most shocking Danish artworks

Posted on 31. Aug, 2014 by in Art

A sizeable number of Danish kunstnere (artists) seem to think that kunst (art) is all about provocation. The more people you can provokere (provoke), the better. I’ve never been able to figure out why this is so, but here are 5 really provocative Danish works of art (or ”art”, if you prefer!)

NB! I’ve left out the story about the infamous ”Muhammad cartoons” on purpose. There’s no need to rehash something that hurt so many people’s feelings, all over the world.


5. Uwe Max Jensen’s urine painting. The town of Brande is known for its gavlmalerier (house end paintings), so Mr Jensen thought he would revolutionize the art by peeing on a house end as if he was painting a picture. The public happening took place in 2005, and earned him the nickname ”Gavltisseren” (the house end urinator) as well as a 1000 Kroner fine.


4. Marco Evaristti’s guldfisk (gold fish). In 2000, Mr Evaristti shocked the Danes by turning blendere (kitchen blenders) into aquaria for live gold fish. The catastrophe was inevitable: A visitor to the exhibition turned on one of the blenders and an innocent fish lost its life in the most horrible manner.


3. Bjørn Nørgård’s hest (horse). In 1970, astounded tilskuere (spectators) watched Mr Nørgård killing a horse on a field in Sjælland. The artist then proceeded to chopping the horse into minor pieces, which he stored in syltetøjsglas (marmalade jars). The jars with hestens kropsdele (the body parts of the horse) are now on display at the Aros Museum in Århus.


2. Mads Brügger’s Ambassadøren (The Ambassador). In his 2012 movie, Mr Brügger takes documentarism to a new level. Through bribery he achieves a fake pas (passport) as a Liberian diplomat to CAR (Central African Republic). He fakes his name and manages to fool the CAR authorities. During the weeks of the filming, Mr Brügger enjoyed the wasteful lifestyle of a powerful diplomat, while buying diamonds, dishing out racist comments about pygmies, and tricking poor village people into believing that he was there to help them build a match factory. A lot of people thought the film was really cool and did a good job exposing corruption in Africa, while others were appaled by Mr Brügger’s dishonest games.


1. Kristian von Hornsleth’s efternavn (last name). In 2006, Kristian bribed 307 poor people in the Ugandan village of Buteyongera to add ”Hornsleth” to their last names. He paid them in goats and pigs. Afterwards he photographed the new ”Hornsleths” and used them for udstillingen (the exhibition) We want to help you, but we want to own you.

The Battle of Stereotypes

Posted on 30. Aug, 2014 by in Fun, Society


Thanks to Niels Elgaard Larsen at Wikimedia Commons.

Jylland, du er hovedlandet”. Jutland, you’re the main country. Ever since Danish national bard H.C. Andersen wrote those words (in 1859), people from Sjælland (Zealand) have resented him for it. Andersen himself was from Fyn (Funen), the middle island, but spent most of his career in København, so why couldn’t he see that the island of the capital was ”hovedlandet”, instead of some backwater-ish peninsula where noone really went anyway?

Foreigners are sometimes surprised that Denmark is so diverse. If you leave Copenhagen and go to, say, the West Coast of Jutland, the culture and the atmosphere really change. A friend of mine once went into a McDonald’s in Western Jutland, accompanied by a Copenhagener. The Copenhagener wanted to order something. The girl at the counter kept asking him what he was saying? True story.

Før eller siden, sooner or later, you’ll encounter the regional stereotypes of Denmark. There is a kind of love-hate relationship between Jylland and Sjælland. Jyder (Jutlanders) call Sjælland Djævleøen (The Devil Island), and often make jokes about the whole island being ”Copenhagen” or even a part of Sverige (Sweden). To many people from the capital area, however, Jutland is a faraway land of dimwitted farmers. It’s almost easier to take a plane to Thailand than getting on a train to provinsen (”the province”).

Now I’m being unfair towards people from places like Roskilde or Køge, but the stereotypical sjællænder really is a københavner. He talks a lot, at least twice as fast as his Jutish friend. He’s smart (clever) and fræk (cheeky). He likes to boast and exaggerate things with gestures and colourful language. He enjoys honing his swear-word skills. He’s very direct, and never misses a chance to throw a witty remark at the lady in the bus. He finishes a lot of phrases with ik’? (not?)

The stereotypical jyde is rolig (quiet) and sindig (sober-minded) and a bit slow. He talks slowly and his dialect doesn’t ”jump” so much as the Copenhagener’s. He enjoys quiet life and nature. He rarely says things directly, preferring silent empathy. He finds the Zealandic way of communicating a bit arrogant or even effeminate. He uses words like træls (irritating, tiresome, laborious) and københavneri (”Copenhagen-ry”, too much focus on the capital). He’s very trustworthy. For that reason, the guy talking about gardens in Danish Television is often a jyde.

The stereotypical fynbo is happy and meek. He has little of the Jutish melancholia or the Zealandic urgency. The Funen dialect is a bit singsong, so that’s probably why we have this stereotype. Fyn is also a very nice and charming ”garden” island. As the saying goes in Danish: Fyn er fin. (Funen is pretty.)

I don’t know a lot of stereotypes about bornholmere, people from Bornholm. They eat a lot of røget sild (smoked herring) and their dialect is almost Swedish, due to the fact that this part of Denmark lies closer to Sweden than the rest of the country.


BTW. Do you know the comic Scandinavia and the World? It is drawn by a Dane, and it makes a lot of fun about stereotypes! It’s mostly about countries, but here’s a drawing of the different Danish regions! :-)



Birthdays in Denmark

Posted on 31. Jul, 2014 by in Traditions


Thomas Angermann at Flickr. (Modified according to the Creative Commons License.)

Thomas Angermann at Flickr. (Modified according to the Creative Commons License.)

Tillykke med fødselsdagen! (Happy birthday!) Since July is crowded with birthdays in my family, I thought it would be nice ending the month with some facts about fødselsdagsfejring (birthday celebration) in Denmark.

Danes are the most birthday-obsessed people I’ve come across yet. For many børn (children) their fødselsdag is just as important as jul (Christmas), if not more so. In Christmas, after all, you have to share the pool of gifts with your søskende (siblings) and forældre (parents). A fødselsdagsbarn (”birthday child”), on the other hand,  gets all the gaver (gifts) for himself.

Being a ”birthday child” isn’t just for children, though. Far og mor (mum and dad) have to get gifts on their birthdays too, and so it goes on the entire life – even though some have invented the word fødselar [foselARE] for the more mature celebrants. Especially important are the runde fødselsdage (”round birthdays”): 25, 30, 40, 50, 75 etc.

Even shops and institutions celebrate their birthdays in Denmark; it isn’t uncommon to come across a supermarket that’s full of red and white Dannebrog (the Danish flag) because de fejrer (they’re celebrating) their 25 år, for example.

Besides gaver, flag and gæster (guests), another important ingredient in a fødselsdagsfest (birthday party) is kager (cakes). Some parents bager (bake) a kagemand (”cake man”) to their little child. As the name says, it’s a cake shaped like a mand (man) – or a kvinde (woman). Kagemanden is decorated with glasur (icing), slik (candy, sweets) like chokoladeknapper (”chocolate buttons” like m’n’ms), and tiny lys (candles).

For older kids and adults, all kinds of cakes or boller (buns) can be used as fødselsdagskage (birthday cake). The most common one, however, is the classical Danish lagkage [LAOWkay] (layer cake) with flødeskum (whipped cream). Lagkagen is also lit with tiny lagkagelys (”layer cake candles”). There’s usually one candle for hvert år (each year [in the life of the celebrant]). The fødselsdagsbarn/fødselar is now expected to blæse alle lysene ud på én gang (blow out all the candles at once). If there are any candles still aflame afterwards, they’re often said to represent something, like for instance how many kærester (girlfriends/boyfriends) the child is going to have.

An indispensable part of a proper Danish fødselsdag is singing fødselsdagssangen (the birthday song). There are a couple of different songs to choose from; the one that’s most widely sung starts like this:

I dag er det Oles fødselsdag, 

hurra hurra hurra

Han sikkert sig en gave får,

som han har ønsket sig i år

og dejlig chokolade med kager til.


Today it’s Ole’s birthday

hooray hooray hooray

He’ll surely get (himself) a gift

that he’s been wishing this year,

and delicious hot chocolate with cakes.


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