City in Translation

Vesterbro in Copenhagen. Photo by Erinç Salor. 

Vesterbro in Copenhagen. Photo by Erinç Salor. 

I am so happy to announce that following up on my residency in Copenhagen, I have now launched a new website: City in Translation

It is very exciting to be able to show one's work to the world. You put all your heart and energy into something, do your very best to make it look good and accessible to as many people as possible, and then, you feel vulnerable because after all, you've put some part of yourself out there. That's a bit what City in Translation does to me. It is an exploratory project, based on research, but the interpretation of the city through its languages is totally personal and subjective. Which is why I like doing it so much, and also why I feel a bit naked when sharing this city of my imagination with you. 

So, to help you navigate through the stories, I have also separated fictions and resources, these two sections go hand in hand to provide complimentary perspectives. Fictions features creative writing and other expressions by myself, Resources provides a collection of material from within and outside academia aiming to contextualise the work of this project and aid in future research.

City in Translation starts in Copenhagen, but I do wish to expand to further cities in the coming months and years. I would also like to develop other activities around the theme of exploring languages in urban spaces, in the forms of workshops and other events. This is a starting point of a journey, which I hope you will join. 

Residency Gear

I wrote earlier I was finally looking into the material I collected from my residency in Copenhagen. While doing this, I found some photos of me in action, and this made me want to share some information about the practical side of my process.

So, what does one need when hunting for languages in a city?

Apart from good energy and motivation to walk and walk and walk (endless walking), and impermeable clothing (yes, even in the rain and in the cold you keep walking, because time is limited on a residency, and in Copenhagen, even in May it can be chilly), you need a good camera, a sound recorder, something to take notes (digital and/or analog, that's up to you, I do both) and an internet connection (3 or 4G if no Wi-Fi) for social sharing and on the spot research. You can have all these incorporated in one device: my iPhone 6 truly is perfect and I used it a lot for sharing photos on Instagram. I also recorded some sound but I think I will mostly use it for research purposes, but again, I am still looking into the material I collected so I may change my mind. The iPhone 6 is also great for filming, I have fewer films and I have no idea for now what I will do with it.

Next to my iPhone 6 I have my SONY RX III for everything that needs better quality images as well as further thinking and exploration. Here again, because I have no planned outcomes I rather have very good quality images on hand. Another important point is that photographing with the SONY requires different skills and another approach. I don't photograph the same way with my iPhone and working with the SONY pushes me to look at my environment differently. It also allows me to zoom, which I will get to in a later post. 

Clothes. It may sound frivolous to talk fashion, but it is no luxury to be prepared. I live in the North of Europe so I know Spring is not always sunny and dry. But Copenhagen is even further North than Amsterdam, so I had to be prepared. If you go on a residency to Copenhagen, bring a raincoat, a scarf (don't be afraid to have one with wool mixed in), comfy shoes (my Clarks were great for rainy days, my Converse for the sunnier ones) and a big messenger bag to collect flyers, brochures and more on the go.  

Also, keep it cool when you meet a giant bull in the heart of Copenhagen.

Below are a few pictures of me taken by Erinç Salor who accompanied me during some of my explorations, here in Superkilen and in centre Copenhagen near the university. 

Resurgence from Underwater

The Merman with Seven Sons, sculptures by Suste Bonnén. Photo by Canan Marasligil. 

It's been eight weeks since I've been back from Copenhagen.

I haven't worked on the materials I have collected during my one month residency at the University of Copenhagen, I haven't written or even put any order into all the media I brought back.

Photos, videos, sound recordings, digital notes, analog notes, flyers and brochures, books... and thoughts.

Many many thoughts.

When I got back, I felt a bit drowned under all these materials and everything I learned. It was an extremely rich residency. The people I met through the University and all that knowledge I collected has been very inspiring and motivating. 

Then I was back in Amsterdam, a place I for now call home. And I decided to leave those thoughts, ideas and all the collected material on the side for a while. And so it took me eight weeks to be able to start - yes, only start - to look back at what I experienced in Copenhagen. 

I kept thinking what I could start with, and I remembered that underwater sculpture, The Merman with Seven Sons in the heart of Copenhagen I took a picture of on a sunny day.

The sculptures were made in 1992 by Danish sculptor, photographer, and author, Suste Bonnen, based on the famous story found in Danish folklore: Agnete and the Merman (Agnete og Havmanden in Danish). The group of bronze sculptures is located underwater in the Slotsholm Canal next to Højbro (High Bridge). They portray a merman and his seven sons with outstretched arms, begging Agnete to return home. 

Mermaids and other mer-people are recurring figures in traditional Danish lore. Hans Christian Andersen's popular story The Little Mermaid inspired the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, a most popular tourist attraction. 

Doing some light research on the subject, I found out different versions of the story, which has the same basis: a merman and a human, Agnete, fall in love, live together underwater, have children. One day, Agnete hears church bells coming from land and desires to go back, promising her husband she will come back. There she finds the family she had abandoned, her mother and sisters, and learns the bells are actually for her father's funeral who killed himself after having searched for Agnete for so long. 

No matter what exactly the story tells, how many children they have, if Agnete speaks to her real mother or a ghost because time passes differently underwater than on land,... the sculpture makes you feel the tragedy. These underwater statues reaching for their mother, the merman reaching for his loved one, in vain. Then there's me, looking from up the bridge, trying to decipher these figures. And now, looking at the photograph, feeling quite overwhelmed but also extremely excited about a new challenge that I will take with me in the coming months, going through all the materials and thoughts I've gathered in Copenhagen. It will be a long journey, and I want to take my time, even if I may now and again feel underwater. I will end up catching my Agnete's hand. 


My Instagram Copenhagen

Here's a snapshot (or 10 screenshots to be more exact) of my Instagram feed throughout my Copenhagen residency between 17 April and 17 May 2015, there's a couple of Berlin pictures in the first batch - preceding my CPH trip, and there are some Barcelona shots in between - as part of my residency at Copenhagen University I participated to a seminar on critical practices. Next step is to explore what's/are the story/ies I tried to tell through this Instagram feed, and compare with the 1497 other photos I took with my SONY RX III, awaiting for me in Lightroom - those will tell a rather different story I believe...   

Podcast France Culture : Je vous écris de Copenhague

Dans l'exposition des trésors de la bibliothèque royale du Danemark, lettre et dessins de Karen Blixen. Photo : Canan Marasligil.

Trois semaines que je suis à Copenhague. Il me reste encore une semaine pour continuer mes voyages dans la ville et dans ses langues. J'ai plein de notes, énormément de photos, des lectures et des podcasts... Oui, je suis encore en mode exploration.

Je partage avec vous ce très bel épisode de l'émission "Carnets nomades" sur Copenhague, datant de 2013, avec notamment une visite à la maison de Karen Blixen, aujourd'hui un musée, et un extrait d'un entretien avec Blixen des archives de France Culture. Des extraits de La ferme africaine ponctue le reportage. 

Vous pouvez aussi lire des pages de ses carnet et manuscrits, notamment de Out of Africa dans les archives numériques de la bibliothèque royale du Danemark

City immersion continued... through architecture

Just like in the very first days of my arrival, I have been photographing buildings in my quest for languages in Copenhagen's city scape (and I will write more about this particular quest  and my findings at a later stage). I really enjoy this exploratory mode of my residency, walking with the only purpose of getting immersed in the city, through its architecture, its languages, its life, and stopping to observe and take photographs. It is a wonderful way to make the city my own in a way... and the writing which will follow the visual aspects will make this connection even deeper, I feel. More on that later... for now, enjoy the views... (click on a picture to start viewing the gallery): 

These buildings are around Copenhagen University's campus near Islands Brygge, some are part of the university, some are housing (including student housing like the round one).

Sound Walks: Visiting the Harbour

The Danish Architecture Centre has a number of good quality "podwalks" (that's how they call it) in Danish and in English. These are audio commentaries on various aspects of the city's architecture, from the harbour to the Metro, given by guest guides. Below is a very nice example: they have asked Richard Swett, a former ambassador of the USA to Denmark, who has lived with his family in Copenhagen between 1998 and 2001, to guide us around the harbour. Swett mixes facts and personal anecdotes, which makes this walk even better, offering an alternative perspective to discovering the city's very rich architecture. 

Den Sorte Diamant

Copenhagen is well-known for its architectural gems, and the Royal Danish Library, also known as The Black Diamond (Den Sorte Diamant in Danish), is one of them. 

The Black Diamond is a modern waterfront extension to the Library's old building on Slotsholmen in the city centre - right behind the Jewish Museum of Copenhagen. Its nickname - which is almost used as its 'real name' by everyone - you will more likely hear "I'm going to the Black Diamond" rather than "I'm going to the Royal Library", is due to its polished black granite cladding and irregular angles.

Click on an image to start viewing the gallery.

The building was designed by Danish architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen and was completed in 1999 as the first in a series of large-scale cultural buildings along Copenhagen's waterfront.

More than a library, the building is also a cultural centre proposing concerts, debates, writers' talks, exhibitions and more. The National Museum of Photography is also hosted there, as well as a very small space dedicated to cartoon art.

The Library hosts a surprising exhibition on its treasures... More on that in a next post. 

In the podcast below you can hear former American ambassador in Copenhagen talk about the Black Diamond - this is part of a series of podcasts along the harbour, which you can listen via The Danish Architecture Centre's Soundcloud channel

Architecture (a first glimpse)

Navigating the city looking for languages also means appreciating its architecture. There are many architectural gems in Copenhagen (just do an image search typing "Copenhagen Architecture" and you'll see). They are not all collected in this photo gallery (yet). What you see below is a few shots I took while walking in the centre mostly, so many are historic buildings. I find this city very beautiful, colourful and original without being too overwhelming. Walking here is just a pleasure.

I will continue taking more pictures during my daily walks in and out of the city. 

For now, enjoy this first gallery (click on an image to start viewing): 

Settling in: the University of Copenhagen

I arrived in Copenhagen on 17 April. I had time to settle into my new apartment in the heart of the city (thank you Airbnb!) and wander in the streets of the sunny and lively city. On Monday, I got to the university, where I am Writer in Residence until 17 May. I've been given an office to share inside the Amagur Campus of Copenhagen University. It is a gorgeous campus, very close to the city centre - a 35 minute walk from where I am. The library and many working spaces are just amazing. But more importantly, being based in the department of art and cultural studies, I have the chance to interact with excellent researchers, lecturers and students. We are currently planning a few exchange moments on a variety of topics dear to my heart, around contemporary literature, languages and comics. This is definitely my favourite part of a residency, the opportunity to learn from people working locally but also to share my own experience of the spaces I interact in. 

Here are a few pictures I took during my first visit on campus (click on the image to view the gallery):

Residency in Copenhagen

I am extremely happy to announce that I will spend a month in Copenhagen from mid-April to mid-May as part of a residency organised by Culture@Work.

The Culture@Work Project aims to develop an international platform for the circulation of artistic work and for the collaborative training of professionals in the cultural sector. It is coordinated by the Lisbon Consortium - Catholic University of Portugal, and includes the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen and MACBA - Barcelona Museum for Contemporary Art in its networks. 

Needless to say I feel very proud to have been selected. 

During my residency in Copenhagen, I will explore the “City in Translation”, taking languages and the city's public space as a starting point to explore how the process of translation happens and how people interact with the languages in their city. Throughout my residency, I will go on a hunt for stories behind these words and languages. 

I will also go to Barcelona on 24-25 April to talk about the work I'll do during my residency at the Circulating Critical Practices workshop .  

I am looking forward to this new challenge and will share my experience as usual here and on social media.