Katrine Borup

Gyldenløvesgade 21, 4th
1600 København V — Denmark

+45 53 34 83 89
katborup@gmail.com

Danish Back

DRAWING THE LINE (2006-07)

"Drawing the Line" addresses the issues of national identity and what it means to be Danish. Some of the works in the project are ambiguous, hinting at the contradictions and dilemmas inherent in much of the debate about Danish identity.

VERY DANISH I AND II
Col xl uhyggeligt dansk i

Very Danish I

Candle wax

Col xl uhyggeligt dansk i  h nd

Very Danish I

Candle wax

Col xl uhyggeligt dansk ii

Very Danish II

Candle wax

Col xl uhyggeligt dansk ii  fingeraftryk

Very Danish II

Candle wax

Col xl uhyggeligt dansk ii  finger

Very Danish II

Candle wax

VERY DANISH I AND II

"Very Danish I" and "Very Danish II" are tiny candles that can be worn as rings – a sort of signet rings. The rings refer to one of the clichés about the Danish character: Danish "hygge" or cosiness. They also represent an image of national identity as something fixed and stable. At the same time, the rings suggest that the national identity is open to change, and that Danish identity is constantly renegotiated: If the rings are lit, they melt and lose their current shape, transformed into a liquid substance that is close to the sealing wax that signets are traditionally pressed into.

The rings "Very Danish I" and "Very Danish II" are made using different techniques: casting and hand-dipping, and I draw on the symbolic meaning of these techniques.

With its cast, identical rings, "Very Danish I" represents the notion that the individual must adapt to a pre-existing set of criteria in order to claim that he or she is Danish – those failing to meet the criteria are excluded. The rings in "Very Danish I" can be viewed as a sort of "Dane test": Being a real Dane requires having at least one ring finger with a diameter of 17 mm to fit the "Flag ring". At first glance, "Very Danish I" looks a bit like a birthday cake and refers to the common use of the flag to mark festive occasions. "Very Danish I" also refers to the flag burnings during the Cartoon Crisis in the winter of 2005/06.

With its hand-dipped, one-off "rings", "Very Danish II" refers to the idea that there are many different ways of being Danish. The rings are all based on the same basic recipe and are thus related, but no two rings are the same. The recipe leaves room for considerable variation. Long wicks were dipped alternately in red and white wax, and afterwards the "candles" were cut to make rings that are shaped like small hills or islands. The rings are attached by the wick and thus fit all finger sizes. Where the candles have been cut, each hill/island has a pattern resembling both a fingerprint and a tiny topographical map. This suggests a link between person and place – my place, my country, my island, my hill.

THE DENMARK FAMILY
Col xl familien danmark

The Denmark Family

Paper and silk cord

THE DENMARK FAMILY

"The Denmark Family" is a series of "identity cards" that play with the notion of a direct link between national identity and appearance, and with the notion that Danes share a set of common features like the members of a family.

With reference to Hans Christian Andersen, the work features silhouette cuts of randomly selected Danes in profile, all equipped with one characteristic common feature: a big nose that is shaped like the eastern tip of Jutland, which in Denmark is often referred to as "Jutland's nose".

"The Denmark Family" was also inspired by stories in the press about a growing number of people from non-western countries who are undergoing cosmetic surgery to obtain western noses. In size and shape, the "identity cards" are similar to the national ID card, and like this card they can be viewed as membership cards. The ID card entitles all Danes to a series of free welfare benefits, including selected plastic surgery procedures.

"OF COURSE I KNOW IT DOESN'T MAKE ME UNIQUE THAT THERE'S A PLACE IN DENMARK CALLED MOUNT KATRINE"
Col xl jeg ved da godt  katrinebjerg 1

"Of course I know it doesn't make me unique that there's a place in Denmark called Mount Katrine"

Silver

Col xl jeg ved da godt  katrinebjerg  h nd

"Of course I know it doesn't make me unique that there's a place in Denmark called Mount Katrine"

Silver

Col xl jeg ved da godt  katrinebjerg annebjerg knudsbjerg

Mount Katrine, Mount Anne and Mount Knud

Silver

"OF COURSE I KNOW IT DOESN'T MAKE ME UNIQUE THAT THERE'S A PLACE IN DENMARK CALLED MOUNT KATRINE"

Language plays a crucial role for the sense of national cohesion. It takes a certain familiarity with the Danish language to be amused by place names such as Lille Høm, Lem, Sæd, Øllebølle, Gammel Dejbjerg, Bredballe and Pothøj (which can be read as Little Poo, Knob, Semen, Beer Thug, Old Dough Mountain, Wide Buttocks and Pot Hill) – and maybe it takes a particular type of humour, too.

Among the common clichés about Danish identity is the notion that Danes are humble and modest people, who comply with the first rule of the Jante Law: "Thou shalt not believe thou art something". With this cliché in mind, it might seem surprising that so many Danish place names end in -bjerg (mountain), since Denmark's highest mountain is little more than a large hill. "Of course I know it doesn't make me unique that there's a place in Denmark called Mount Katrine" addresses and challenges this cliché of the humble Dane.

"Mount Katrine" is a signet ring based on my own fingerprint, which has been treated as a topographic map and transformed into a three-dimensional contour map or a small "mountain" of silver. As an object, there is some Lilliputian and humble about "Mount Katrine", but as a ring, "Mount Katrine" is large and heavy with an underlying concept that is anything but modest.

To make a ring based on one's own fingerprint flies in the face of the Jante Law "Thou shalt not believe thou art something", exacerbated by the fact that only a select few can have a ring made out of their own fingerprint. It requires having a first name that is included in one of the following place names: Annebjerg, Bodilbjerge, Catrinebjerg, Eskilsbjerg, Frederiksbjerg, Fru Mettes Bjerg, Gunildsbjerg, Ingesbjerg, Jesbjerg, Kajbjerg, Karlebjerg, Katrinebjerg, Keldbjerg, Kirstinebjerg, Kjeldbjerg, Knudsbjerg, Lisbjerg, Mariebjerg, Sinebjerg, Svensbjerg – a particular group of place names featuring a Danish first name and the suffix -bjerg.

SITE UNSEEN
Col xl kort fortalt  kbh   rhus   lborg

Site Unseen

Photo paper, silver and silk cord

Col xl kort fortalt 2

Site Unseen

Photo paper, silver and silk cord

SITE UNSEEN

"Site Unseen" is a series of medallions based on topographic maps of Denmark from The National Survey and Cadastre in a scale of 1:100,000. In principle, a medallion can be made for each of the 5x5-cm squares that Denmark is divided into on the map.

The medallions are tiny contour maps made of photos of the specific site taken by people with a personal link to the site. However, the print side of the photograph faces in, and the medallions may be seen as jigsaw puzzle pieces that make up a clean, white and abstract image of Denmark. The individual photographers' subjective perception of the sites has been suppressed in favour of the desire for uniformity. A Denmark consisting of medallions with visible images would be less uniform and more confusing but also more diverse and open.

"Site Unseen" plays with the traditional medallion design, for example by having the photo paper face the public, while the silver is concealed on the inside. In traditional medallions, a hinge makes it possible to open the medallion. "Site Unseen" has hinges on all four sides, making it impossible to open the medallion. It has been hinged and sealed with red silk cord, a reference to the latitudes and longitudes that keep the pieces of the map puzzle together and to the cross in the Danish flag. When the medallions are distributed among different wearers, the community and cohesion continue to be marked by the red silk cord.

WHO IS MOTHER DENMARK? (FINGERPRINT/COAT OF ARMS)
Col xl hvem er mor dk fingeraftryk rev 1

Who is Mother Denmark? (fingerprint/coat of arms)

Painted brass

Col xl hvem er mor danmark  v benskjold

Who is Mother Denmark? (fingerprint/coat of arms)

Painted brass

Col xl hvem er mor danmark  ring krop

Who is Mother Denmark? (fingerprint/coat of arms)

Ring, painted brass and silver

Col xl hvem er mor dk broche nr. 29 1

Who is Mother Denmark? (fingerprint/coat of arms)

Brooch, painted brass

Col xl hvem er mor dk broche nr.xxx 3

Who is Mother Denmark? (fingerprint/coat of arms)

Brooches, painted brass

WHO IS MOTHER DENMARK? (FINGERPRINT/COAT OF ARMS)

"Who is Mother Denmark?" consists of 42 numbered brooches, corresponding to the lines in an enlarged fingerprint that have been sawn out in brass and painted white. The 42 lines or brass sticks can also be arranged to form a stylised landscape with hills, valleys and water – the image of Denmark that we see in the coats of arms of many Danish municipalities.

"Who is Mother Denmark?" invites a debate about who or what should define what is truly Danish. The brooches play with the notion that national identity is determined by some overriding agency: "Mother Denmark"; in itself a complex and internally contradictory image. However, the brooches also suggest that it is possible to imagine many different versions of national identity, depending on who is allowed to "draw" with the 42 lines. When the brooches are worn separately or in twos or threes, the fingerprint image ceases to be visible, and the individual is free to reinterpret the object and imbue it with new meaning.

"Who is Mother Denmark?" also comes in a red version, where the 42 lines of the fingerprint have been soldered on to silver rings like signets.

DANSKER (DANE)
Col xl dansker

DANSKER (DANE)

Plastic

DANSKER (DANE)

DANSKER is the Danish word for Dane; it is a word that is immediately comprehensible, but it hardly means the same to all Danes. Nevertheless, we talk about being Danish as if it were a clear-cut concept. DANSKER is a series of name tags that carry the letters D A N S K E R in various combinations. This game adds diversity to the concept of Danish identity and gives rise to a series of surprising new identities that play with the pre-existing clichés about Danish identity in various ways.

PATRIOTIC LOVE IS BLIND (YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT)
Col xl f drelandsk rlighed g r blind  finger

Patriotic Love is Blind (You are what you eat)

Potato and silver

Col xl f drelandsk rlighed g r blind 1

Patriotic Love is Blind (You are what you eat)

Potato and silver

Col xl f drelandsk rlighed g r blind

Patriotic Love is Blind (You are what you eat)

Potato and silver

PATRIOTIC LOVE IS BLIND (YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT)

"Patriotic Love is Blind" is a "signet ring" that mixes various images of Denmark. Pictures in postcards and tourist brochures paint an image of Denmark as an old-fashioned farming nation. In contrast to this image there is the one that the press, experts and politicians often draw of Denmark as a modern knowledge society populated by visionary, innovative and creative entrepreneurs.

Potato printing is a familiar creative pursuit – albeit probably not the sort of creativity that will provide our future livelihood. The signet ring "Patriotic Love is Blind" is displayed on a base of potato-printed dots arranged according to Louis Braille's alphabet. Most exhibition visitors will of course be "blind" to the fact that the base of the display case reads "DANMARK", because it is written in braille. The use of braille here is symbolic, an indication that our national images and conceptions are largely constructed, thus requiring a certain "blindness" to the reality of everyday life. For example, it is still a common belief that the potato is a staple of the Danish diet, although in fact, many Danes rely more on rice and pasta.