The annual music festival in Roskilde, Denmark may be over but even if you missed Arctic Monkeys, Iron Maiden, and The Strokes et al., the Roskilde Museum of Contemporary Art’s exhibition Trauma 1-11: Stories about the Free University in Copenhagen and the surrounding society in the last ten years continues until September 11.
Established in the spring of 2001 by artists Henriette Heise and Jakob Jakobsen (only a few months before both 9/11 and Danish elections that saw Venstre, a center-right party founded on pro-free market liberalism, defeat the incumbent Social Democrats and come to power in coalition with the Conservative People’s Party), and run out of their apartment, the Copenhagen Free University closed at the end of 2007 with their declaration that We have Won! Having stated in their initial manifesto an intention to “reconnect discussions of aesthetics to the base” and dedicated to the production of “critical consciousness and poetic language,” the Copenhagen Free University sought to take power. When ceasing activities six years later, they pointedly declared that “as a part of the concept of self-institutionalization, we have always found it important to take power and play with power but also to abolish power.”
However, upon the receipt of a letter from the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in December 2010, in which it was stated that Parliament had passed a new law banning all self-organized and free universities, including the Copenhagen Free University, Heise and Jakobsen, under the heading All power to the free universities of the future, used the exhibition in Roskilde to announce their intention to contest the restriction of the use of the word ‘university’ to those institutions authorized by the state to do so by opening a new free university in Copenhagen later this summer, despite knowing, as the Ministry stated, that if ”the Copenhagen Free University should resume its educational activities it would be included under the prohibition in the university law §33.”
Though the activities that transpired under the auspices of the Copenhagen Free University from 2001-2007 varied and included workshops, film screenings, lectures, small exhibitions and publications, the concept of propaganda (consisting of booklets, posters, audio, films, and slide shows) was developed as a mode of presentation for the many exhibitions in which the university participated. Created in collaboration with Emma Hedditch, Howard Slater and Anthony Davies, the Trauma exhibition is comprised of both propaganda and a series of new audio works split over two floors, also accompanied by an exhibition guide.