Gender seminar – days 5 & 6
Well, the internet finally caved in, and I was left out of the digital grid the rest of the seminar, so this is a belated account of days 5 and 6.
The rest of the nominees for the Montana literary prize were introduced at the morning assembly. They were Pia Juul’s ‘Radioteatret’, Anders Haar Rasmussen’s ‘En bold ad gangen’ and Thomas Boberg’s ‘Hesteæderne’. With a small introduction to every work, and the committee’s nomination text, extracts were read to us, one of which (AHR’s) was read by the author himself.
Then came a talk on the sitcom ‘Klovn’ (Clown) by comedian Frank Hvam, and director Mikkel Nørgaard. Their show has, ever since it first aired on Danish TV2, gotten a mixed reception of approval, disbelief and critique and has contributed to the debate about men and women, their behavior and relationship to each other. There were two things I locked on in the talk. One was when Frank Hvam said that one of the explanations to the character Frank weird and toe cringing situations he ended up in (often with his girlfriend) was that men were brought up in a feminized space, where there was a shortage of role models, and therefore women in great part were to blame for these weaklings they ended up living with. While I understand that a relationship built on a woman trying to parent and control a man is not healthy, I was surprised by this harsh statement, because I got a feeling that he wasn’t trying to be a smart ass or generalizing the topic. It was as if men/women relationships and men’s self respect could be saved if women would just back off. There seemed to be a blind spot in relation to where the male role model fitted into this logic. The second thing was the statement; we leave the interpreting field wide open, so that each and every one can put their own reading on the show. Given the fact that the show is seen solely through a man’s POV and many see this show as proof of the askew relation between the sexes in favor to the female sex and that there is something completely rotten in the state of Denmark genderwise, it’s hard to stipulate that there is an open playing field on this subject. They explained that their work process was built more on observation, recreating scenarios they pick up on and letting all the interpreting in the hands of viewers. But I am not so sure that this is true of the very reasons I stated earlier on POV and feminized space. I started thinking about the lecture the previous day by Henrik Jøker Bjerre who said that irony was maybe not always so innocent as it cloaked itself to be, because with irony you could close any critique of the matter before it got started by stating it’s non-seriousness.
After dinner there was a panel discussion on the previously introduced nominees. The panel consisted of Lars Bukdahl, Camilla Löfström and René Jean Jensen. It was a bit weird listening to the panel discussing these books that I had not read yet, and I couldn’t really say if they made good points or bad ones, but there was no doubting that they felt the three nominations were valid. They talked about the different qualities each work possessed, like how there is a polyphony of voices in Juul’s ‘Radioteatret’ that deal with all sorts of problems, and how longing for something and remembrance is a recurrent theme – as a child Eliza C. longs for adulthood, as a grown up she longs for childhood – and there is a certain criminalistic undertone in Juul’s writings, there is something dark lurking in this very longing that keeps the text vibrant. They mention a passage in the text where Eliza C. and her mother talk about the ocean, where Eliza C. asks if the ocean is coming closer, and her mother replies, ‘not if you have been good’. About ‘Hesteæderne’ Bukdahl talks about a hard-boiled noir – reminiscent of Raymond Chandler. The language is ugly and the depicted society is in shambles. Everything is decomposing and poetry and prose are in a battle with each other. The anger in the text manages to be both diffuse and concrete. And finally there is the tennis-docu by Anders Haar Rasmussen whose style Löfström says is radically new from journalistic sports books across the board.
In the evening there was a concert with Jomi Massage. When we came into the music hall there was a girl with two huge braids sitting on stage surrounded by bird chirping. Reminded me of a Heidi meets Snow White meets Lady Gaga meets Danish milk maid. The concert was one hour long and consisted of this one person playing on piano, guitar, drums, and some sort of distortion/echo microphone. I talked to some people afterwards and most of them felt that she had a really good voice that they had wished she really played on instead of all the instruments.
And then came the last seminar day. We started with a two part critic’s salon where Tue Andersen Nexø and Elisabeth Friis lead in a debate about Josefine Klougart’s ‘Hallerne’ and Rasmus Graff’s ‘Folkets Prosa’. Klougart started the salon by reading from her book which was done in a rhythmic and raw fashion. While Friis made connotations to French literature and its lust literature (Marguerite Duras for example), Nexø was reminded of internet porn. ‘Hallerne’ is about a voyeuristic sado-maschocistic relationship between a man and a woman where dialogue is on the minimum. They have transcended language possibilities. The woman who is narrating is this empty, worn vessel that is very brutally described as something outside herself, as is the clinical depiction of the sex act. She is just available and the story becomes this cleansed physicality. The story alternates between the city which is alive and filled, and the apartment where the man and woman are in this dead and empty space.
After a break Graff read from his ‘Folkets Prosa’, a piece of conceptual literature built on phrases picked from the Danish-Danish dictionary of Gyldendals røde ordbøger. (As you can see on the picture, as a part of his reading, he is pointing straight at me at the time I took the picture, which led to me getting a bit flushed, ’cause of my “yes, I am taking a picture, but no, I don’t want you to know or notice it”-syndrome.) It was really fascinating because the more he read, the more the language opposed itself, made everyone so aware of itself and ended up being absurdly comical. Nexø proposed three types of reading strategies: looking for clues or constellations in the text, or as an ideological critique where you transpose a piece of text from one setting to another to give new meaning to language, or the last one where it says something about literature. Friis read a passage up where she had used the first strategy by underlining sentences in two different ways, and a language pattern arose from this single page that could be read as critical towards how we construct language and how we use it. Nexø remarked on the title that he saw it as an ironical hint at the language snippets taken out of the dictionary, because this was not the people’s prose, but rather the language of linguist nerds and academia.
After dinner Susanne Christensen, critic and columnist, held a speech on feministic and queer critique. The field of criticism according to Christensen is much better of going at its subject matter following a lust principle rather than a morally judgemental stance. With regards to queer critique it is a more subversive nature and can bring avantgarde into criticism – it does not confirm identities but alliances between identities. Queer opens up the possibility for men and women to be seen as individuals. She brought many good points to the table and added to the already stocked depository of gender debate issues from the last days.
This sixth day was also prize winning day, where the audience prize that we had voted on and Montana’s literary prize were to be handed. At 5 p.m. we made our way over to the music hall where we all crammed into a tiny, but very cozy intimate setting and awaited the big reveal. The first one up was the Montana prize and after a short speech given by Montana’s representative the winner was revealed: it was Pia Juul with ‘Radioteatret’. A visibly moved author entered with the soundtrack of applause and whistles and received flowers and the prize. Camilla Löfström and Elisabeth Friis held a speech explaining the pick and commended Juul’s style. Anders Haar Rasmussen won the audience prize which consisted of a case of champagne.
After this we all mingled, talked literature, prizes and ate appetizers while sipping champagne, waiting for the three-course meal that awaited us in the cantina. And a little after 6 p.m. we sat down to a feast that lasted several hours with singsongs, wine, lavish food and afterwards the party kicked in with dj DameUlove.
The seminar was at its end, and all the different inputs had been introduced and were now mingling around and inside us. I am truly looking forward to next year’s seminar already.