City of Big Shoulders

Postulation? All signs made on cardboard are a social commentary of one kind or another.

Except maybe the ones printed there en masse you might think, but then: not really. It does not matter whether you are picketing a behaviour incompatible with your own, asking for a free ride in a particular direction or soliciting financial compensation for your misfortune. Those are just the actions behind the sign. The sign itself is what you see first: a statement, a bulletin, an intention spelled out as clearly (or misguided) as the designer is intellectually capable of. Find them on the streets, discarded after use or ready at hand, more than often frayed with the incapability to change much if anything. But still and always addressing someones need or willingness to engage in some kind of social contract, to buy, to sell or whatnot and thereby issuing that postulated commentary. Is that reason enough for yours truly to apply artfulness on them? That is as legit a question as anyone and there’s this: as of 2011, fifteen percent (1.000.000.000) of this planets human inhabitants still see to their bodily needs in the open.

↓ Title(s): “En Suite: the right turn, our collective values, their shared advantages and the sound of freedom” (365 x 485 mm, mixed media on cardboard, work in perpetual progress)

ensuiteA

The right turn:
“I am the light!” she yelled and blew her whistle.

ensuiteB

Our collective values:
… that night he kept walking by our windows,
screaming his frustration at his phone: “… but I love you, asshole!”

ensuiteC

Their shared advantages:
“Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities.” (C. Sandburg)

ensuiteD

The sound of freedom:
“The Uniform Plumbing Code, section 409.2.2 requires that all water closet seats, except those within dwelling units or for private use, shall be of the open front type.”

In progress: these are not cardboard signs and I do not work for food.

cardboard
I just work. To still that particular Hunger. Later I’ll cook. Mushroom risotto.

 

Odense to Chicago. Via rohrschmap.com. Mental.

Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago” translated into danish with love, respect and awe.                  And then some.

Up till then my acquaintance with Mr. Sandburg seemed as minuscule as those cars milling by down there like ants at the foot of what then still was respectfully called The Sears Tower. Since then a new tenant has gained the right to deface it by sticking its name to the façade and title. It is now known as The Willis Tower and that only makes sense when it rains, because then it’s wet. The building is still a good symbol for the only line I by then had heard of Sandburg’s poem though: “big shoulders”. On the skydeck at the top of that majestic skyscraper there were a few more lines of the poem and in the following years I collected more lines and I learned what that poem ment to the city and its citizens. When I read it, I get it. I can see, feel and smell Chicago in those lines, I recognize the smiles and I hear the demeanor of its voice. I am very lucky that it welcomes me over and over again. Because I love it. It makes me feel at home.

Being half-bred by a german and a Dane and brought up literally on and around the border of those two nations, makes me belong to a minority in both places always and forever and because of that I like to think that I possess an inherent duality when it comes to, not only the languages, but also in my sense of nationality. The soil of my childhood has my principal pride but the geography of my soul has been taught to be tolerant of others, accepting of differences and sensitive to the bigotry of xenophobia for more or less the same reasons. As all that background to my essential integrity slowly decays in contemporary danish culture, idiocy becoming standard, intellect rendered duller by the second and politics growing backwards to the standards of the Europe of 1940’s,  Chicago steps in with new lessons for me to learn. I travel far just to find myself. For that I’d like to express my gratitude towards this new city-home of mine, where diversity is a virtue and a means to an end rather than a source of discontent and fear, by taking Sandburgs words to one of my mother tongues.

Maybe there’s hope for rotten Denmark. Maybe one day it’ll reconcile with its dwarfishness, realize the sun outside the cave and maybe find a gentle giants shoulders to climb. Maybe this 100-year-old poem can’t be understood by a Dane that hasn’t traveled. Maybe I’ll translate it to german then.

CHICAGO
Du slagter af svin til verden,
værktøjsmager, ophober af hvede,
jernbanens hersker og mellemmand for Amerikas gods.
Du urolige, hæse, larmende
by af brede skuldre.
De fortæller mig, at du er ond, og jeg tror dem,
for jeg har set dine letkøbte kvinder lokke bonderøvene under gadens lys.
Og de fortæller mig, at du er uærlig, og jeg svarer:
Ja, det er rigtigt, for jeg har set dine pistolmænd dræbe
bare for at gå fri og dræbe igen.
Og de fortæller mig, at du er brutal og mit svar er:
På ansigterne af kvinder og børn
genkender jeg de mærker din hensynsløse sult efterlader.
Og efter at have svaret således vender jeg mig atter en gang mod dem
der vrænger af denne min by, vrænger tilbage og siger til dem:
Kom an og vis mig bare én anden by der med løftet hoved synger så stolt
over at være i live og så rå og så stærk og så snedig.
Som kaster sine magnetiske forbandelser i grams,
midt i sliddet af job efter job.
Høj, dristig og hårdtslående har du her en fighter
i lysende kontrast til de små bløde byer;
Glubsk som en hund med tungen ud af halsen, slubrer du efter handling,
snedig som en vildmand der kæmper mod ødemarken,
barhovedet,
skovler du,
du bryder op,
du planlægger,
du bygger, river ned, genopbygger.
Under røgen med støv i hele fjæset, ler du med hvide tænder.
Under skæbnens frygtelige byrde, griner du som kun en ung mand griner.
Latter som kun en uvidende slagsbroder griner, der aldrig har tabt en kamp,
skrydende og grinende, fordi under hans håndled er der stadig en puls
og under hans ribben banker folkets hjerte,
grinende!
Du griner ungdommens urolige, hæse, larmende grin.
Halvnøgen, svedende
og stolt af at være slagter af svin, værktøjsmager, hvedens ophober,
jernbanernes hersker og mellemmand for Amerikas gods.