dansk

“999.999” or “There is a lovely land”

Stress-testing
fundamental cultural values
in a homogenic society1

This work of art consists of three homogeneous objects, identical in appearance and constructed in the same material and to the same dimensions. The objects share a footprint of 0,4356 m2 (66 x 66 cm.
26′ x 26´= 4.6888 ft2). The base and cap of each are of a chalk-white semi-gloss acrylic polymer composite2. The top half of each object is constructed of bullet-resistant untinted glass. The caps all conceal 4 LED light fixtures3 illuminating the interior of each display box with a strong bright white light. This will be the only light available in the otherwise darkened exhibition room. They will be placed in immediate proximity to each other, the distance between them equal to one-eighth of the longest dimension of the exhibition space. Each base will have one side containing an interface from which spectators can operate and/or interact with the object. This side must face north regardless of the general layout of the room. No sound will emit from the boxes except for those mechanically generated or as otherwise indicated herein. There will be no signage other than the bare minimum required to work the interfaces. The exhibition space itself must at all time be climate controlled and adjusted to exactly match the temperature and humidity as recorded by the weather station at Kastrup, Copenhagen4. The equipment used to maintain the environment must be able to keep olfactory conditions absolutely neutral.

Fig. a: “Glass Bell”

Made and cut from crystal lead glass5, transparent with no trace of color, hanging at eye-height, appx 185 cm or 6′, from the cap inside the box. An aluminum arm is attached via a pulley to the bell. It holds a hammerhead at the far end, cut from Danish granite of the type “Hellets Granit”6, polished to a semi-gloss. A thin metal wire running over a series of pulleys activates the hammer. The wire exits through an aperture placed at absolute center in the bottom of the display box.

On the side of the base facing north and at waist height, no more than 100 cm or 42′ above ground, a single-fingerprint scanner is installed just above a white-on-black 6-digit liquid crystal display counter7. The scanner and its electronics are set to operate the wire system: for each 3 identical right hand index fingerprints read, it lifts the hammer a millionth of a fraction of its full pendulum (see fig. 1). Each identical fingerprint can only be read these 3 times and must be scanned with at least a 3-day interval between scans. The scanner accepts only right hand index fingers; attempts at using any other fingers will not be read. Each successful read will prompt an electronically generated four note chime (F#maj78and the third and concluding scan will prompt the box to print a receipt, which will be signed by the artist upon request. At the millionth registered and confirmed set of prints, the box will cut the wire causing the hammer to fall and smash the Bell.

The deconstructed Bell will be replaced with a new and identical Bell constructed and installed as the original and thereby starts a new cycle. This cycle cannot end. The remaining shards of the smashed Bells will remain in the box.

Fig. b: “Umbrella”

This box contains a small transparent umbrella made of heavy clear vinyl9 mounted on the bottom of the display box. On the day of the exhibit opening, the umbrella will be at a fully folded stage. The umbrella unfolds as does a normal umbrella by extending springs and ribs within its construction, albeit its operation is linked to close interaction with the mechanical, and computer system contained in the base of the box and controlled by the interface mounted on the side.

The interface is similar to that of an automated telling machine: it accepts all known international credit and debit cards, adhering to all legalities concerned. Through this payment device, spectators can unfold the umbrella by buying any number of increments of extensions, at the rate of DKK10 1,00 = 1 millionth of an extension. At the time the audience has deposited exactly 1 million DKK in to the account linked to the payment device, the umbrella will be fully extended. Spectators will be prompted with the typical requirements of entering Personal Identification Numbers, desired amount and currency. A thermal print receipt will be the approved document for the transaction and will be signed by the artist upon request.

Once full extension of the umbrella has been reached, it will collapse to its original state and start a new cycle of unfolding. The funds generated will be transferred to the business account of the exhibition museum and can only be used to procure a new piece of art to be made by the Artist. Any revenue generated through interests that exceed DKK 999.999,00 may only be used to supplement the maintenance of the art herein specified. All legal information including the full text of the Contract will be printed on the back of each receipt that is generated by the artwork.

Fig. c: “Surveillance Camera”

Mounted inside the display box at a height equal to the Umbrella and the Bell sits a standard professional Surveillance Camera11. It is fitted to a motor capable of moving as close to 360˚ as possible. The high-def lens of the camera is at all times pointed towards the room outside the box in order to register all movement in close proximity to the box. The general motion of the camera follows a random search pattern based on an algorithm simulating the flight of the common housefly12.

When the camera and its built-in system registers a person moving into its field of view, it will stop its search pattern and lock on to the face of the spectator for appx. 30 seconds in order to register the color of the spectator’s skin. If this color-value is determined by the camera and computer to be more than 15 on the von Luschan scale13 the LCD counter will add the determined von Luschan scale-points to its count. If the spectator moves before the value of the skin color is established by the system, the camera will abort its scan and continue its search pattern. At every successful count a receipt will be printed. These receipts will contain information showing instructions on how to request an official apology for any personal discomfort the spectator may have experienced. The Artist will then sign this receipt.

Upon collection of von Luschan points equaling 1 million, the cycle starts over in reverse and begins subtracting points, counting down to zero. The cycle of adding and subtracting points will never stop.


1. Danish national anthem: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Der_er_et_yndigt_land
2. Corian: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corian
3. Minimum luminous efficacy: 80,0 lm/W or 8.7 W LED
4. EKCH 55-37N 012-39E 5M: weather.noaa.gov/weather/current/EKCH.html
5. Glass with high refraction: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_glass#Lead_crystal
6. Typical Bornholmian granite: trgranit.dk/index.php?item=19&newsid=2301&nid=2301
7. Transflective display: australia.rs-online.com/web/search/searchBrowseAction.html?method=getProduct&R=5326824
8. Nondominant seventh chord, F#, A#, C#, E#: pianochorddictionary.com/chords/fsharp/major7.shtml
9. PVC: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyvinyl_chloride
10. Exchange rate: xe.com/currency/dkk-danish-krone
11. CCTV: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveillance_camera#IP_cameras
12. Musca Domestica: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Housefly
13. Skin color classification: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Von_Luschan_scale

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.