DANISH ROYAL PROTESTERS
Site-specific performance, 2011
Every day from May 17-June 5 two actors dressed in formal Royal attire who were look-alikes of the Danish Queen Margrethe and Prince Consort Henrik walked along Ålekistevej Street in the Vanløse district of Copenhagen and held protest signs for any Danish citizen who had a complaint.
Interview with Jon and Ben:
How would you describe your project?
BK & JR Our project will take the form of a daily performance spanning two weeks between May 17 and May 31. Actors dressed in formal attire to look like the Danish Queen and Prince Consort will walk along Ålekistevej in the Vanløse district of Copenhagen holding protest signs for any Danish citizen who has a complaint. Everyone is invited to participate, though we expect the real voice of the project to come from the residents of this particular neighborhood. We are interested in finding a unique form of broadcasting one way in which any city or district identifies itself — through its grievances, both big and small. As Americans, the fact that Denmark has a royal family that lives a lavish tax-supported life is a remarkable and curious spectacle. The project casts the Royals as public servants giving voice to daily members of the populous. Also, the project will give pause to the constant flow of traffic that moves up and down Alekistevej, a place where many live but few seem to stop. Anyone will be able to participate in the project by locating the look-alike royalty and submitting their protest. The Queen or Prince Consort will then publicly carry your message for several hours along Ålekistevej. Protest statements could take the form of a personal complaint, national debate, global fear, whimsical declaration, absurdist rant, private desire, etc.
Why are you “interested in finding a unique form of broadcasting one way in which any city or district identifies itself”? And what exactly do you mean by “one way in which any city or district identifies itself”?
BK & JR What we mean by that statement is that there are a lot of ways of looking at a city, or even a neighborhood, and that the lens you use to view that place changes the way you will see it. In this project we are using the lens of complaint and looking at the big and small things that people would like to see change. The medium and context of a broadcast inherently changes and charges the message. Using the form of the traditional “protester with sign” is a very specific approach, which keeps the message local (as opposed to using social media for example). In this way we hope to focus the conversation to this neighborhood. By having the Danish Royals present citizens’ protests, the statements automatically get magnified through their social authority.
Does it make a difference for the project that you as artists are foreigners, thereby looking at the neighborhood from a different point of view than a “native”? What are the challenges and advantages of making a site-specific art project for a place you were not familiar with earlier (compared to working in your own region)?
BK & JR While definitely challenging, it is sometimes nice to work in a completely unfamiliar place. It allows you to experience the world around you with a fresh perspective – to see it with a fresh set of eyes. When you become acclimated to your environment this is often a difficult place to return, so entering a foreign space allows you to see the mundane, everyday acts of life with a new appreciation. Everything is new to you and in many ways this is the type of experience you would want to evoke in any viewer of your work. The nature of being an artist, even in your own city, is to be an outsider – someone who works within the seams of society is therefore able to move fluidly between different situations, almost like a voyeur. Certainly there is a history of writers claiming this perspective and I think it applies to artists as well. The challenge of working outside of your home base is that you don’t fully know the culture and social dynamics of the place you are entering. This however can happen even in your home town, where once a project is initiated, the response to it often reveals values and opinions that you might previously have been unaware of. With this project (and all of our work) we are trying to create something that is simultaneously site-specific and universal.
Mette Jensen (Queen), Hans Greve (Prince Consort)
Ben Kinsley, Jon Rubin, Jessica Langley
Jens Axel Beck, Heidi Hove, Louise Trier, Marie Bruun Yde