Walk This Way: Two Sides of the Same Coin

…or at least of the same alley. These two murals were across from each other in a small covered alley in Frederiksberg. They have different signatures, but I have to wonder if they were done in collaboration or commissioned.

Regardless, they’re beautiful and they brightened my day as I waited out the storm!

Check out all the posts in the street art series Walk This Way!

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Virtual Worlds: Where Far-off Events Hit Close to Home

“In high modernity, the influence of distant happenings on proximate events, and intimacies of the self, becomes more and more commonplace.” 

-Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity

The effect that far-away events can have on a person in today’s interconnected world has never been so obvious to me as it is now, as I myself sit far away from all the things that usually affect my self-identity. In the past couple months I have observed a friend’s entire week and self-outlook change in an instant because of a tiny message on Facebook about the death of an old friend who is far away. I have watched a friend go to Egypt to study Arabic because of 9/11, an event that, although it happened halfway across the country and did not affect him directly, was projected so loudly by the media that it’s echo still reverberates in his life today.  From the smallest instance to the biggest world news, we can find out about almost anything almost instantly on the web. All of this new information will undoubtedly become internalized and affect us in some way, though it may not always be so obvious how.

Dear Copenhagen,

I had all intentions of being productive today, I really did. I was all ready to go into studio to get a big chunk of my project done, but when I walked out the door you were there waiting for me, wearing your best and your brightest, begging me to spend time with you. I tried to compromise, saying I’d enjoy your company to it’s fullest on my walk to school, but you would just not stop pestering me with your incessant warmth and clear blue skies until I turned around and walked the opposite direction from school.

But I’m not mad. I’m far from mad. In fact, dear Copenhagen, I just wanted to thank you for today.

A pathway in Assistens Kirkegård

Thank you for convincing me to finally cross the bridge where all the hipsters were out in full force and go explore Nørrebro, the neighborhood I’ve been meaning to poke around. Thank you for leading me with your sunny rays to the beautiful Assistens Kirkegård, the cemetary where the likes of Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kirkegaard are buried. Thank you for convincing me to sit down in the grass by the sparkling lakes and enjoy my lunch while doing some prime people watching, and then showing me the huge flea market down the street, where I met up with a friend and picked up some sweet swag for next to nothing (at least compared to the usual prices around here). And thank you for finally making me throw the idea of work in the bucket and sit by the lakes with my friend, enjoying the last few hours of sunlight before heading home for dinner.

Lakes on the way to Nørrebro

Really Copenhagen, it couldn’t have been better. Let’s definitely do it again sometime. In fact, if you could stay like this forever, I could really see this being the start of something.

With love,

Erin

Virtual Worlds: Can “Honest” and “Political Social Media” Be In the Same Sentence?

With a little over a year left until the 2012 elections in the states, the social media profiles of prospective candidates are already off and running. While these profiles are a great way to keep up with what a candidate is doing, it is pretty common knowledge that the candidates themselves generally don’t update the profiles themselves but instead hire someone to do the job. I often choose not to post comments to the Facebook profiles of politicians or to @ mention them on Twitter, because I have to wonder if my voice is being heard by anyone but the intern sitting at a cramped desk in a corner somewhere. It seems like my thoughts just add to the buzz of the internet chatter and then disappear as if they were never there.

However if Ida Auken, member of the now-reigning party of the Danish parliament, was my politician I would feel much more confident that my online posts really mattered. Taking the social in social media very seriously, Ida tries to use her Facebook, Twitter, and blog to have a conversation with her constituents, rather than just talk at them. She is the woman behind the keyboard on all her social media profiles and really makes an effort to read and respond to any posts or comments made. She has even gone so far as to use an argument tweeted by a constituent during an Parliamentary debate! How’s that for fifteen minutes of fame?

During her conversation with my Virtual Worlds and Social Media class at the Danish Parliament on Wednesday, Ida stressed the importance of being honest on the web. I would choose a different word to describe Ida and her social media strategy: modest. From her casual outfit of black jeans and a blouse to her relaxed manner in chatting with a room full of American students to the way she presents herself on the web, Ida exudes and air of cool, collected modesty. She is not trying to be a celebrity like many US politicians seem to do. She does not feel she is better or smarter than her constituents, but truly feels she is a politician in order to represent the people.

All of this can be seen in the way she represents herself as a real person on the web. Her posts have a clear, punchy voice and are very conversational. She really makes an effort to connect with her followers by posing questions on her profiles, and her followers have motivation to actually respond with the confidence that their words will be ready by the person they are addressing them to. Ida is so serious about this idea of creating a conversation on the web that she has played with the idea of creating an app or other platform for people to discuss problems with her.

In an ideal world, all politicians would be this genuine on the web. Unfortunately, due to the always-moving nature of the web, keeping up with social media has really become a full time job, especially for someone as high-profile as a politician. Even Ida remarked about having difficulties keeping up with the pace of her followers, and she is dealing with a much smaller demographic than most US politicians. So while I wish all politicians were the ones behind their profiles, I understand why they are not.

Perhaps Ida should be advised to start getting some help as well. Even if she still wants to be the one actually doing the writing, perhaps she can find a compromise. Having someone else keep track of the conversation, post less personal things such as pictures, and think about the social media strategy–which Ida clearly spends a lot of time considering– could open up more time for her to focus on governing. It’s a difficult line to walk on, but it may become necessary to really keep the conversation flowing as her following grows.

And Ida, I’d hold off on that app for now. No need to reinvent the wheel, when you already have several great platforms for conversation! Just work on using them to their fullest!

What do you think about the use of social media by politicians? Do you think it is a useful tool, or just another way for them to advertise their messages to you?

Walk This Way: An Urban Scavenger Hunt

Street art, public art, graffiti, vandalism: call it what you will, but this stuff is all over Denmark in a way you won’t see in the states. Which is lucky for me, because ever since I saw the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop (if you haven’t seen it, you should), I’ve been obsessed with the stuff.

You can imagine my excitement when I discovered that we would be discussing street art in the one-credit class on contemporary art in Copenhagen, including a field study to a street art exhibit which we went to last Wednesday!

Right to left: Andy Warhol's portrait of Basquiat, kickin' it with Warhol and Basquiat, Basquiat's portrait of Andy Warhol as a banana...

After a quick stop at a museum with a really great Andy Warhol/Basquiat exhibition (see image above), we headed down to Køge, a town just a little south of Copenhagen. In Køge there is a museum called Køs that is dedicated to art in public spaces. They currently have an exhibition (if you can call it that), called Walk This Way, which consists of street art spread across the whole town. We were given some hard-to-read maps and sent on our way.

Art, art everywhere!

The exhibit sent us into deserted and warehouse areas that I definitely wouldn’t have gone to on my own, and really made us look carefully at our surroundings in order to find all the art. Some of it was very obvious, other pieces were really hard to find. I definitely wouldn’t have noticed some of it if I wasn’t looking, and I don’t think I was even able to find all of it when I was looking very closely!

Which is art?

The most interesting thing was that it made me really question what was art included in the exhibit, was was art done by people separate from the exhibit, and what was just there but I was interpreting it as art because that was the mindset I was in. For example, is the stack of tires in the picture to the right street art, or just some industrial storage? Going through this exhibition definitely brought up a lot of questions about what art is. Does the fact that these works on on the street make them any less legitimate than the works by Warhol and Basquiat in the museum?

The best part about the experience was that it really made me pay attention when I was walking around, really made me look at things. In an effort to keep this up in my day-to-day life, I’m going to continue the exhibition on my blog with a series called Walk This Way, where I’ll feature images of my street art finds around Copenhagen! Check out the images below to see the art featured in the exhibition and keep an eye on the blog for more public art treasures to come!

Artist Josefine Günschel painted left her mark on some of the trees around town.

Yarn bombing is a bit of a new public art trend, and it's pretty amazing what these people can do! The work here was done by Stickkontakt.

Swoon, a more well known street artist, does her thought-provoking work on thick, parchment-like paper that she pasts up on the walls and then let's weather as it will. I think one of her drawings may have been entirely gone because of wind and rain.

Pink army was probably my favorite artist there. The main thing they do is take the little plastic army figures, paint them bright pink, and then hide them around the city. I didn't see many of them because of how hard they are to find, but they had larger pieces too, such as the submarine by the harbor (right) and the pink army housing (left, and yes that is a trampoline).

I love Koge for it's support of public art! Work here by Papfar.

Everybody’s got an opinion–what do you think about street art?

p.s. If you want to see more, this Flikr set has some great pictures of some of the art I didn’t get!

Visual Tour of Jutland

One of my favorite things about the DIS program is the integration of study tours–basically field trips–throughout the semester. Sure, the trips are tied to a class so they are academically focused, but it means I (a) get to go cool places instead of sitting in a classroom, (b) get to see things I probably wouldn’t have known about on my own, and (c) don’t have to pay for it (or at least, I paid for it all up front). So I think it’s a pretty sweet deal.

Most of these are day trips, but last weekend I went on the first of two longer tours with my Urban Design program. The tour through Jutland (the main peninsula of Denmark), included visits to Aalborg, Århus, and Kolding.

Although a lot of time was spent looking at talking about buildings and sketching (because apparently that’s what architecture students do), we got to see some pretty interesting stuff. I’ll refrain from sharing any of my sketches, as my photos are much better. Enjoy (and click on the images if you want to see them larger)!

Our first stop was Enghøj Kirke, a very interesting church in a small town on the way to Aalborg. While the outside of the church wasn't my favorite, it was certainly something different. The inside, however, was stunning and incredibly peaceful.

Our next stop was the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art. I actually really didn't like the interior of the museum, and the exhibit was strange to say the least, but the sculpture garden was lovely and it was a beautiful day. The fountain in the picture would stop every once in a while to allow people to walk into the center of it, before starting up again around you. Pretty cool installation!

Our final stop for the day was the Utzon Center in Aalborg. The center was designed by the same guy who did the Sydney Opera House and he was inspired by the boats his father built when he was a child.

The next day we got to spend a lovely morning walking around the grounds of Aarhus Universitet. Aarhus is one of the few campus based universities in Denmark, and they really did it right. Their campus was stunning, with a duck pond in the center, rolling hills, and ivy all over the buildings. The only problem was, we were there on a Saturday morning so there were no students around and there was trash everywhere from parties the night before. Come on, people, take care of your beautiful campus!

Next we visited Aarhus Rådhus, the townhall of Arhus and one of the ugliest buildings I have seen in Denmark (center picture). It's only saving grace was the spectacular views of Aarhus from the top of the tower. We even got the catch an aerial view of our next stop, the Aros Museum (picture on the right).

The big-ticket item at the Aros Museum is the rainbow panorama on top, by Danish-Icelandic installation artist Olafur Eliasson. The piece was certainly unlike anything I'd seen before, and it was interesting to look at the city through the different color filters. My favorite piece, however, was another work he did in the museum. I couldn't take any pictures, but basically, it was a room full of smoke that completely obscured your vision beyond a foot or so. Using lights, he made it so your entire field of vision was taken over by color. It was one of the most bizarre feelings I've ever experienced: my vision was restricted like it would be in a pitch-black room but I was seeing vibrant colors instead.

There were some other fun things to see in the museum too! From left to right: a view through the rainbow panorama (because I love taking pictures of people in love in Europe), my bizarre Danish shout-out to Egypt, and the discovery of Nasty Jack's cheeky cousin from down under (or up north). Note: for those of you who don't know, Nasty Jack is the Jackalope head that hangs in my apartment in DC. Long story, just don't ask questions.

The next day we got to visit Koldinghus in Kolding, which is an old castle that they have done some very interesting restoration work on. If you look carefully in the left picture, you can kind of see how the new architecture (the wood and metal bridges and railings) interacts with the old building structure. It was fun walking around the castle (see the library in the center), but of course my favorite part was getting to take pictures of the impromptu tango lessons going on in one of the main halls (on the right).

Finally, we stopped at the Traphold Museum of Art. It was a beautiful museum and there was an interesting exhibit going on about Danish furniture design. Tell me those chairs on the left don't look like they would be incredibly fun to sit in...

The trip was a great preview for my weeklong study tour to Germany and the Netherlands coming up in only two weeks! It’s hard to believe how fast the time is going by here (I’m already a fourth of the way done), but I’m excited for everything that’s happening in the coming months!

You’re Never Fully Dressed Without Et Smil!

Me and my host mar!

Last evening I had the undeniable pleasure of getting a night out on the town with my host mom, Gitte. After a delicious Indian meal we went to Det Ny Theater (one of Copenhagen’s two main theaters) to see Annie…in Danish!

Now, not many of you may know this, but when I was a kid I was a musical theater fanatic. I wanted to be an actress, I wanted to be on Broadway, and I wanted to be in Annie. It was my favorite, and I performed at least three of the songs from the show at some point in my life. All this to say, I know the show well. So even though my Danish is still limited to basic phrases, food words, introducing myself, ordering, counting, the days of the week, the months of the year, and the colors, I was still able to understand what was going on in the show. It even helped me pick up a few new words, the most notable being i morgen (tomorrow, as in ‘the sun will come out’). And I still left beaming along with the rest of the audience, and was singing the songs the whole way home (in English though).

I realized as I sat there that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a full production of Annie on the big stage with big-name (Danish) actors and a live orchestra. So, the evening was both a very sentimental experience for me as well as an interesting cultural one. Here are a few differences I picked up on:

  • At the restaurant before the show my host mar confirmed a terrible rumor I’d heard floating around; Danes don’t bring leftovers home from restaurants. So either you finish your food or you forfeit it. This is really upsetting to me, since leftovers are one of my favorite things in life. Does anyone know if this is limited to Denmark, or have others experienced this travesty elsewhere?
  • My host mom kept talking about how tickets are kind of expensive, but I found them to be relatively cheap to what I’m used to in the states. My ticket cost me about $40. We might have gotten a deal since Gitte knew someone in the show, but even then and $80 theater ticket is pretty good for a big production. I think I have heard that theater tickets are subsidized here to make them more accessible, which is really great.
  • Danes like to clap in unison. All the time. Maybe it was just the audience I was in or the show I was seeing but there were two odd clapping patterns I noticed. First of all, the audience would get really into the songs and clap along with them, which I don’t think I’ve ever experienced in the theater. At a concert, yes, but not a play. When I really got confused was during final bows. Where in the states people will generally clap on their own time and die down between bows, the whole audience continued to clap in unison for the entire sequence of bows, with only the occasional whistle or shout out to a particular actor breaking the pattern. I kept wanting to speed up my clapping tempo to show how much I liked the actors, especially as the bigger roles came up. But I would have been the odd-American out, so I stayed in sync.
All in all, a great start to an exciting week! You (and I) have a lot of things to look forward to! I am going on a really cool field trip with my art class today that I can’t wait to share with you all. Tonight, I am going to the first rehearsal for an international choir at the Copenhagen Business school that I’m going to give a try. Friday I’m planning on going to a concert at Roskilde University to hang out with some Danes. I’m still going to post about my trip to Jutland this past weekend. I have so many food posts in the works.

And, drumroll please, plans for a two week journey around Spain in November are a go! So send me anything you know about where to go, what to do, and what to eat while in España!