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Daniel Svarre (DK)
Copenhagen Benches

In the centre of the only green recreational area of Ålekistevej, three Copenhagen benches are stacked one on top of the other. Daniel Svarre’s work distorts the bench as a symbol and indicates, that while the bench still has the same aura as it did in the 19
th century, the surrounding world has changed.


Would you start by introducing your work?

Daniel Svarre My work takes the “Copenhagen bench” as its point of departure. The work is a sculpture and a public piece of furniture, which consist of three Copenhagen benches stacked closely together. The Copenhagen bench is the preferred public bench in the parks and recreational areas of the Municipality of Copenhagen. And so, it is also to be found at Ålekistevej where, e.g., it is placed in front of Vanløse Skole (the School of Vanløse) in the small green area facing the street. The work is placed in context with other Copenhagen benches. The origins of the Copenhagen bench go back to the 1880s, which is traceable in the design of the bench, most clearly in its heavy cast iron sides with curves, ornaments and wealth of detail. Visually, the bench is part of what I would call a romantic tradition that points back in time as opposed to other municipal benches, trash cans, bus stops and other municipal design with a more functional design without superfluous details that to a larger extent signal a contemporary design. My work deals with the aesthetic signals of the bench and it challenges the ways we perceive benches.

Why stack benches on top of each other? Which meaning arises out of this constellation?

DS I primarily want to create the illusion that the benches are functionalist pieces of furniture that are stackable, organisable and storable in a relatively small area. This, of course, is a sculptural tactic because the bench is not stackable in its original form.  [It is only possible because Daniel Svarre changed the construction, Ed.] In this context, moreover, I want to give the impression of an activity relating to the bench, that it is being packed up or unpacked.  Hereby, I hope to indicate that the Copenhagen bench is not a stationary piece of furniture in a public space but mobile in its position with regards to municipal politics of creating and suppressing green areas.

Because the bench promises accommodation in surroundings that really aren’t that welcoming?

DS Because municipal green areas as changing spaces are subject to regulation, control and discipline. In relation to my own and others’ use of the benches, they are temporary spaces but their position is constantly open for debate. This can be seen with regard to who uses the benches, e.g. in relation to the consumption of alcohol, and the environment it creates or in relation to the areas’ openness.

How does the work relate to the site? Do you perceive a tendency to a threatened public space here?

DS Ålekistevej contains an interesting story with many tales of lives and an active local environment. It is my impression, however, that it has been more distinctive than now. Now, it resembles so many other streets and locals I have talked to regret this development. Ålekistevej suffers from modern urban planning and, today, I guess it has the reputation of yet another thoroughfare. My work is inspired by this development and indicates the changeability of the city and green spaces.

The park between Klitmøller and Lønstrupvej. Fully accessible

Photo: Malene Nors Tardrup