27 February 2010

Bell of the balls

26 February 2010

That was that

Winter is wrapping it up. The lakes are watering up, and blocks of ice are sliding off the roofs all over the place. Yesterday a huge block of roof-ice crashed into a car right next to me. Not the visible kind, that you can look up and try to avoid, but the sneaky stuff, from hidden angles with a twist directed at the parked cars, and the bicycle lanes. I know the meteorologists say we should cool it, and give it another month, but how can you argue with thaw?

25 February 2010

Trash or treasure

Until recently a lot of buildings in Copenhagen was being renovated, and "cleaned up". Mainly because the real estate market was inflating like crazy, and everybody wanted to make a profit. House walls were touched up and evened out, becoming the number one canvas to a new generation of mural painters. There are words of wisdom up there, likely applied upside down, or at least in the dark, probably with no safety measures. And some of this work even has the potential to become landmarks, if left untouched. But of course the very nature of the game is that there are no rules, and nothing is sacred.

As the writing on the wall states, one man's trash is another man's treasure. The opposite is also true today, that what some people treasure, others trash. It is visible all the way from the government, showing blatant disregard for large groups of people, and down to the streets, striking back the same way. However if the objective is to coexist in peace, a mutual understanding is necessary, that some things should just be left alone.

Turning the ordinary into something extraordinary.

The bridge is a landmark, and should be recognised as sacred ground. But so, of course, should
Christiania and the Youth House, and so it goes. On and on.

24 February 2010

Kid cab

Not an official taxi service, but rather a private cargo bike of someone feeling that way. After roaming the internet, I found out it is a Bella Bike, invented by a Danish blacksmith 10 years ago. The Bella Bike web site is in Danish, but if you feel compelled to know more, I did find an elaborate post about it over at Copenhagenize. One of the popular selling points is that you can have the box custom designed. Although I can't really see anything top this one.

Kid cab

23 February 2010

Winter magic

On my way to the flea market sunday, the kids and The Nile were all dressed in white. But when I returned, daylight gone of course, there were rainbows sprinkled all over the snow. Rainbows! I counted a total of four, including the one on the other side of the cross section, and all I wanted to do was tell people to stop what they were doing, and behold the wonders. I did go back to try and reshoot them in daylight, but by then they were already erased by a fresh layer of snow. Such is the magic of rainbows, one moment they are here, the next they are gone.

With a little help from the head and tail lights of the cars behind me. 

22 February 2010

Cold turkey

To the flea market lover, winter is a cold turkey. In the summertime there are several weekly outdoor markets, and I promise I will get back to those, but in the winter we must wait impatiently for our chance to hunt indoors. The indoor flea markets in Copenhagen has all the charm of a dark basement. There are no fancy refreshments or pretty set up's, just rows of collapsible tables, occupied by part professional dealers, and part private sellers. 

The professionals can roughly be separated into two categories: the ones with the foreign supply (French, Belgian, Swedish), such as old wood furniture, posters and industrial looking funky stuff, and the old fashion sellers, with old toys, porcelain, tablecloths, coins, jewellery and stuff they could have picked from your (Danish) grandparents house. For the cost conscious and true hunter, there are the private sellers. The majority of those are far from interesting, but they still serve the invaluable purpose of distracting the competition. 

On the flea market in Bella Center this weekend (the location of the COP15 talks), I got some cool hangers (ah, the vintage Danish clothes hangers, I may just nerd out and make a hanger post sometime), and a couple of heavy and beautiful rolls of furriers woven labels, I have absolutely no use for. Plus at least half of the fun is catching it all in pixels: funny faces, odd pieces of the past, the lost and the loved. I am already itching for the next one...

Foreign supply. As a recent development, many of the professional dealers also sell the goods online.
 Good thing, since I don't spend nearly enough time on the internet... Visit this guy here.

Teaching boards from an old Danish school. You can just tell how much wisdom has been 
sucked right out of those.

Creepy, and oddly fascinating painting of a little girl... 

The granny blanket, no summer house or Copenhagen flea market complete without it. 

21 February 2010

Winter fruits

The extreme weather is forcing us to layer up, and carry around so many extras, that we loose them left and right every day. Kids mittens, gloves, scarves and even the odd shoe, is an everyday sight on the roads of Copenhagen. By now most of us know how annoying it is to find half of the set gone, so when we come across these counterparts, we put them on display, hoping for that unlikely reunion. And this is how the city trees, bushes and fences are all blooming with the winters fuzzy fruit.

20 February 2010


My recent encounter with the street art gallery has taught me that the correct term for anyone spraying or tagging in the streets, is "writer". This "literature" is forced upon you whether you like it or not, and no borough has a greater library than Norrebro. That, and the running with knives and guns, has made people so much more partial to give up on their privacy and consider surveillance. Making this another classic example of human nature: the self-sabotage.

No surveillance on Norrebro

18 February 2010

A cut below

I spotted this bike crammed into a bicycle stand on Osterbro, in Copenhagen. It is an old Swedish brand called Hermes, and there were just so many details calling out to me. In order to get some decent pictures, I had to (!) move it about 5 meters down the street, hoping there would be time to return it before the owner showed up. I was not so lucky. After calming the poor woman down, she told me that she got the bike very cheap at a flea market, and fixed it up herself. The back tire is new, and needs fixing every now and then, but the front one is original to the bike, and has never needed any attention. Even her bicycle repair man has advised her to hang on to this tire, because they just don't make them like this anymore.

No, they don't. Because these days the production of pretty much everything is outsourced. The fancy word for turning a profit on cutting on quality, and underpaying someone far, far away. While the domestic talent is retiring, or just out of work. Even Royal Copenhagen, the brand so famous for their porcelain and silver ware, has closed down the Danish factories, and outsourced the business. The number crunchers just don't get how there is pride and even a soul, in the things made by hand with love. But you can always tell. And 40 years from now, I find it hard to believe that anyone will go teary eyed over a tire, a Danish piece of enamelled silver or an old hand painted cup, that was made today. In China.

I know from experience that the full bike shots don't hold much interest (thou shall not bore). But if you like the big picture, just let me know, and I will keep it in mind for the next one.

17 February 2010

Iceland: 12 points

Immigrants brings another flavour to Copenhagen. Iceland: 12 points.

16 February 2010


Most Copenhageners recognise the life-size paste up's of everyday people, by artist Armsrock. Some have even been peeling them off the walls, and collecting them. He got an early start on his career, in the movement around the youth house (the one sold to the unbending holy mother, remember?), and moved to Germany to attend art school in Bremen. Today his work sells to museums and collectors world-wide, all the while staying available on the streets.

The show "Zettelkasten" is on display in the small gallery "We are related", run by old friends. The life sized characters, inspired by the locals, are caught in charcoal on a roll of very thin newspaper paper, and stuck loosely to the wall in overlapping 3D layers. Walking in to the small space, you almost feel like at part of the work. Close to the feeling you get from his work on the streets, where it is a part of life.

In many ways this gallery is atypical. I finally had the opportunity to talk to someone who defends street utterings in any form. Yes, turds too. It was a hard and good and civilized talk, and it turns out we do agree on some things. The advertising bonanza taking over the public space, twisting our minds, making us feel unhappy about our body image, promoting date rape and all things evil, should go away. And never come back. Only I would like to not see it replaced with tags. Also, I brought up the molestation of the beautiful ambulance, and I almost had him agree it was... maybe not such a good idea.

Another atypical thing about this gallery, is the unwillingness to sell. If they must, it will be as a whole only, at the asking price of 120.000 DKR. If not sold, the exhibition will return to the source of inspiration, the streets, to be enjoyed by everybody. And eventually vanish.

A shared piece still hanging in, in the streets.

The vanishing act.

Armsrock's own blog here.

15 February 2010

Human nature

In the middle of the lakes are small patches of land, for the birds. A sort of unattainable micro islands, just out of reach. True to human nature, nothing makes people more giddy than the prospect of reaching these untouched spots. And claiming them.

14 February 2010

Post trauma

Unless you live on street level, The Danish Post no longer brings letters to your door. It is one of many moves from The Post to cut costs and improve efficiency. Compared to any other country, the danish post service is one of the most expensive in the world, but even so they suffer, and more cuts are ahead. But the mailbox and -mounting business are not complaining. Rows of identical metal boxes are stacked just inside, or in front of most buildings in Copenhagen, so this exception below really made my heart sing. It is placed on a building in the historical centre, and it is just so simple and understated. I am guessing it is an old gasoline container, cut and painted, mounted with a nail and a piece of string. Perfection.

13 February 2010

Sweet and sour

The outsiders fascination of the Copenhagen Fashion Week appears to be fading. 2 huge screens transmitting the shows live and non stop, come equipped with a loud sound system, and between the shows a high pitched voice from the sponsor urges you to buy the new Max Factor mascara. The deafening sound leaves the otherwise so crowded spots bare, as people rush by, faces turned away. Advertising in the public space is borderline headache inducing. Especially with the large flickering screens and the sound. The SOUND. Please?

On the brighter side, the best confectionery in Copenhagen, La Glace, who really deserve a post of its own, pays tribute to fashion, inviting a danish designer to create a cake and a window. This time the honour bestows Rikke Mai, from the colorful labels Stories, and the result is an over-the-top 3 tier fantasy-cake, and a custom colored french macaroon, too yummy for words. It is also one of the only things in fashion week you don't have to wait 6 months to get. That, and a headache.

Fashion and lifestyle magazine VS. on the jungle drum. Get the online version here.

A real crowd pleaser.

12 February 2010

Copenhagen vs. Amsterdam

The fashion week has brought my friends from Amsterdam, and naturally they have rented bikes for the stay. Both Copenhagen and Amsterdam are famous for being bicycle friendly, but there is a big difference. In Amsterdam the bicyclist is king. The drivers know it, the pedestrians know it, and if they are tourists, they will learn fast. The bikes are allowed to enter the big cross sections along with the cars, on separately marked lanes of course, and it is a happy co existence, once you learn the moves. But adapting (half of) that set of rules to any other city, means trouble. Especially in Copenhagen. Because here, the hierarchy is different.

The self appointed king of Copenhagen is the pedestrian. Especially in the more populated areas. He will move without looking up (likely busy on the cellphone) crossing red lights, expecting traffic to stop. The drivers of Copenhagen unwillingly submits, but show very little patience with both pedestrians and bicyclists. The benefit of that rule is that we all are pedestrians at one point of the day. And if you encounter trouble as a bicyclist in the pedestrian kingdom, you quickly dismount, if just for a minute, and gain the benefits.

However, if you pull your Amsterdam moves here, you get the-horn-and-the-middle-finger. As my friends will testify. But if you are up to speed on the line of succession, Copenhagen really is a peaceful place to ride your bike. Just know your place. And your hand-signs.

11 February 2010

Buying power

Copenhagen Fashion Week has officially kicked off. All hotels are fully booked, and every night brings a party and a show. It is not an event that includes the Copenhagener as such, as it is mostly a visitors game, by invitation only. The fashion business never fails to fascinate the outsider though, and the shops and the night spots are quick to make a profit on the concept.

But the real entertainment is to be had when the visitors hit the streets on sunday, all hyped for the big spending spree. To anyone who has ever seen a headless chicken run in circles, you know what I mean. Because come sunday, everything is closed. Everything. Welcome to Copenhagen.

10 February 2010

The Birds

Winter is hard on the urban wildlife. The swans are build in such a practical way that they can switch to the slow burner, and live on the internal storage for up to 6 weeks. That of course also means there is no energy to spare for chasing or fighting for food. You must aim the food directly at them, and if it does not land on the beak, it is dismissed.

Feeding the water birds in Copenhagen is not for the timid. Really it is a two man job. One to keep the seagulls from pulling a Hitchkock on you, and the other to power feed the ducks and the swans. The seagulls will attack any bird with food, including each other. The trick is to throw a strategic lump of bread as far as you can, and let them fight it out. The distraction will buy you maybe a full minute to feed the more peaceful ducks and swans, before mayhem returns. A two man team would be able to repeat as necessary, but if you are alone... you get the close encounter. Real close.

Today I found a relatively peaceful spot, the swans had a good feeding.

Begging at the table. If you are not up to speed, you get the hissing sound.

The Birds, too fast for focus.

09 February 2010

A good sign

As promised the post on the kindergarten wall. One of the things I like so much about this wall is how it lets you know what is inside. Not a farm, that is, but a place for children. Back in the day, a visible and almost cartoonish sign was hung from the facade of most stores, making them instantly recognisable. Some signs are still hanging in, like the bakers pretzel, the hairdressers giant scissors or the barbers candy striped tube. Other and more rare signs are the big hat, and the wooden boot. This kindergarten, or pre school, looks after children up to 6 years of age, and it is named after the facade: "the chicken yard".

It took me another go to get at full and undisturbed frontal (but with snow this time, you just can't get it all). This was caught in the 2 seconds it took before the car that pulled away, was replaced by another. With me yelling in the middle of the street, to get my clean shot.