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Anne Bennike (DK)
Birds under the bridge

Birds fly over the concrete under the dark railway bridge on Ålekistevej. The decorations give new life to a forgotten public space. But the bird paintings also exemplify how troublesome it is to realize projects in public space, says Anne Bennike. She was born and raised in Vanløse and now lives at Jyllandshuse on Ålekistevej where she also organizes exhibitions in the window of the administrators’ office.

How would you describe your work?


Anne Bennike
The old railway bridge on Ålekistevej seems run down and neglected, nothing but advertisement and random graffiti seem to have left a mark on it since it was built. I was inspired by the birdlife in the area and painted great big portraits of birds on the sides of the railway bridge. I wanted to embellish the bridge, to create a special experience when passing under it and remind people that colours, life and local initiatives could easily have a more prominent presence in the neighbourhood. In general, as a regular citizen you haven’t got a lot of influence on public space, which may also mean that we do not interact as much as we could.

Which problems do you see in public space?

AB The bureaucratic system makes it far too difficult for private individuals and artists to influence their surroundings. It is a pity that a public place like the railway bridge is left to decay and that those who live right next to it are not even allowed to do anything about it. The authorities and various organizations should take the people who live in and around their constructions into consideration and make it easier for them to influence their surroundings.

How did you, yourself, experience these difficulties when decorating here?

AB Getting the authorization to realize the work was a long and complicated process. For instance, I initially wanted to paint the entire bridge and invite the locals to participate in the selection of motifs. But when Banedanmark (the Danish railway enterprise), who owns the bridge, wanted a sketch before giving their permission I had to tone down the collective, unpredictable part of the project and decide the motifs and the design for myself. Moreover, I was unable to paint the original background as the funding for the project fell through. I wanted the entire bridge to have skies and nature as a background but the current expression gives a more accurate rendition of some of the problems in our society. Advertisement billboards are legal, but graffiti is illegal – it is like a visual war. Just one artist, Ib Spang Olsen, has been allowed to decorate one of Banedanmark’s bridges. They should decorate much more!

Why did you choose birds as a motif?

AB Because they contribute to the local environment of Vanløse in a positive way – as opposed to the cars, for example. They sing a wonderful song, are beautiful to watch, they give life to the area and they constitute a local focal point that people enjoy looking at. Birds also symbolize freedom, which to me is far too absent from public space.

The railway bridge between Lyngholmvej og Herlufsholmvej. Fully accessible.

Photo: Malene Nors Tardrup