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Europe Communique #2: Rum46

October 28, 2007

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We took a day trip to Århus (the 2nd largest city in Denmark, but still fairly small) thanks to Barbara and the great folks of Rum46, an artist group and space there. Rum46 is a group of 9 artists that originally came out of a university context but are now independent. First we went on a wild goose chase looking for the Danish Poster Museum, which has a large web presence, but seems to not have a stable physical space. We eventually found the location of their current exhibit, which was buried in the far reaches of the Danish Old City, a bizarre tourist attraction and reconstruction of a 15th or 16th century Danish town! The exhibition was on the posters of Danish industry, so basically a history of advertising. Some of the older posters were extremely well designed and printed, like a beautiful one for an old wall paper factory which had giant sheets of wallpaper emitting from the factory smokestacks. Turns out that like most Western countries, the Danish have their own long tradition of racist and colonial advertising, with a pile of orientalist products and coffee and foodstuffs hiding behind smiling African faces. On the flip side there were some great posters for bicycle and windmill production that you would never see in the States.
After that excursion we went to the Rum46 space, which was reminiscent of YNKB in Copenhagen. A smallish, but clean and open, front room for discussions, presentations and exhibitions, then a second room with desks and workspace for the artists involved, and then a back room with a small kitchen, a table to eat or driink coffee at, etc. About 20 people showed up and I gave a short talk on the history and ideas behind the Celebrate People’s History Poster Series, we had a short discussion and break, then people wanted to hear more, so I gave another short presentation, this one on the history of propaganda, state control of public space, and grassroots resistance to that control via different forms of street art actions. Rum46 have been working both collaboratively and individually in public space, so it led to a good conversation, and they shared with us some of the materials they’ve been producing, including a postcard set of a great series of billboards they recently produced and installed.
Århus was also not immune to the struggle around Ungdomshuset, and the streets were painted with a fair number of 69s. We also found the strangest Communist bookstore we’ve ever seen (even though it was closed and we could only peek through the window); it appeared to be largely a music shop, with a ton of folk and classical music, and then the walls were covered with framed abstract expressionist art. After the talk Barbara, Sixten, Icky and I all went out for a delicious meal and we got to learn more about the political and art scenes in Denmark.
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