21st CENTURY BOHEMIA:
TSUNAMI & THE UZUPIS IN CHRISTIANIA, COPENHAGEN
- CABARET TOXIQUE dedicated to
100 THOUSAND POETS FOR CHANGE
Reporter: Henrik Aeshna, late September, early october 2012
* see full album, poems and the Uzupis Constitution at the bottom
Freetown Christiania, the legendary commune & autonomous republic situated at the heart of Copenhagen, founded in 1971 out of the WW2 remains & transformed into the biggest squat in the world. The very Zone envisioned by Andreï Tarkovski in Stalker now occupied by free thinkers, outsiders, artists, musicians & bohemians of all sorts. In short, the dream city for anyone who has Freedom as principle & doesn’t think life in society is all about competition, exploitation & inequality, but a cooperation-based free-access structure without pyramids, kings & servants. And this pirate dream’s been sailing on for 4 decades, braving governmental pressures & unscrupulous house state agents, a.k.a. the number 1 enemies of every form of liberty & self-sustainability, the ones who have been responsible for the blasting away of all bohemian sites & utopias through the ages, the same filthy Midas who turn cultural neighbourhoods & countercultural spots such as, i.e., Cabaret Voltaire in 1910’s Zurich, the Quartier Latin in Paris, the Greenwich Village in NY & practically everything into throwaway temples of greed & consummation such as McDonalds, Wall Streets & thousands of other big stores.
And it was on the free town’s 41st anniversary we arrived, willing to plunge into all that flow and effervescence and breathe in the true pollen of anarchy so as to contaminate other steppenwolves & pirates across the globe with the same spirit. – Michael Rothenberg, the organizer of global event 100 Thousand Poets for Change, had put me in contact with Tomas Chepaitis & the “mysterious” Užupis, another republic of artists which gives name to the old town district of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and which has often been compared to Montmartre in Paris & Christiania itself. The Republic of Uzupis declared its independency on April 1st, 1997 (April Fool’s day!). Having been a forgotten area of the Lithuanian capital since its dawn, back in the 16th century, and later torn down during the Holocaust, the district would become a haunt of eccentric bohemians, outsiders, homeless & prostitutes during Soviet times, and when Lithuania broke away from the Soviet Union, in 1990, the district’s residents reclaimed the area as their own. By the time of Uzupis’s independence, in 1997, British newspaper The Guardian wrote “they tore down Lenin’s statue and raised one to Frank Zappa”, due to the American rocker’s influence on those renegades who had spent most part of their lives trying to dig a “tunnel” away from the Communist regime – The MasterKey to the Fields! All being put, what matters more is that, past 15 years since its independency, our Uzupi comrades from East Europe stay firm & strong, and in my opinion they are one of the most originally vibrant art collectives in this sell-out Europe, and in the world as well, mostly when referring to these incredibly boring times when all is gentrified & seems to have lost its power of both triggering new radical perceptions & inspiring others to brave the eye of the hurricane, and plunge into it, if possible, to reveal us all the sound & the fury of things.
Anita & I cross the main gate of Christiania on a slightly rainy morning yet burning with agitation; the village celebrates its 41st anniversary. Carnival in the air. More people rushing in, old & young libertarians alike, alternative tribes, street musicians busking around, neo-punks, rockers, jugglers, eco-hippies, tramps, weirdos, ragged intellectuals, tourists, families, children, pets. Christiania is a large open playground but also a refuge for Copenhagen locals who come over to explore the community’s large green area full of forest tracks, installation-like eco houses & a lake, & learn more about self-sustainability & solidarity with the Christianites, see friends, stroll around, check out what’s going on in one of the many alternative garage clubs & theatres that make up the zone, smoke weed (only hard drugs are forbidden, as well as weapons in general, thievery & violence), eat & drink the cheapest food & booze in all Denmark, or just hang around to meditate, read a book, paint, relax & live like the Christianites.
Past a few metres from the entrance we got into a building allured by the music coming from the third floor. We crashed into the cave & ran upstairs where we came across a round-up of artists completely abandoned to their paintings. Both intrigued & excited, I asked one of them what was going on, and she replied: “We are the Uzupis! Let me introduce you to our ambassador Tomas Chepaitis”. Tomas had just popped back in & we got on well quickly. He held a chalice of Russian vodka & we began talking about Michael (Rothenberg) & 100 Thousand Poets for Change. He shows us then a poster on the wall with the Uzupi constitution & a photo of himself below, some photography books produced by the collective, and introduced us to the rest of the group: most of them from Vilnius, but also some from Norway & Christiania. They were painting together for the main exhibition, which would take place 3 days later at the same local, a restaurant-bar-gallery…
We spent about 2 hours there buzzing around & sipping on some “poisoned” liquors, exchanging facts about the Uzupis, Christiania & our own work in Paris. Anita & I then popped out to explore the rest of Christiania & the carnival which was taking place outside & everywhere within the limits of the free town, yeah, down to Pusher Street we go…. We would come back to see the Uzupis the day after to talk some more & even paint a few works before the exhibition, and although we were well installed somewhere at the heart of Copenhagen, actually just a stone’s throw away from Christiania, we would spend most of our 8-day stay in Denmark in the free town, walking around, trekking, haunting the local clubs & bars, writing exquisite corpses, and practicing our favorite sport: Parkours Poétilique.
The exhibition was awesome, crowded with profane cows cats crows & twisted clocks from Transsylvania, Lithuanian musicians playing hallucinating accordions, totally in trance, lost foreigners, music blasting out - What a fanfare! Following the introductory presentation Tomas invited me to take the mike, and I screamed out one of my mash-up poems. Then Anita took a guitar & began singing old French toxic songs, from Ferré & Brassens to Gainsbourg & Frehel. Some people were entranced, and other musicians stormed in. They were also screening a very interesting video from the Uzupis district in Vilnius, and we met everyone there, took pics, waltzed, drank & disturbed the gods! Night came down, the moon was out blazing over the dark forest & we all left for a nearby club where there was some live music, hot beehoney, Latin spice, salsa & sweat...
ALBUM (by Henrik Aeshna & Anita Volk)
Special thanks to: Michael Rothenberg & 100pfc, Tomas Chepaitis, Vygantas Wind (Vejas), Lars Nordmand, Isabelle Ullman, Giedrius Bagdonas, Saule Urbanaviciute, Danielius Rusys, Henrik Shutze, Marius Neboisia, Annette Steinhart, Kirsten Larsen & all Christianites.
WRITINGS & OTHER FLOATING BALLOONS
CADAVRE EXQUISZOPHRENIC ( Henrik Aeshna & Anita Volk )
Christiania, sunset, September 30
les Goliards sans patrie
les totems aux lèvres fleuries
le bout de paille hors des tétines lac lac vert et roseaux un grand hangar
au bord de Mars
d’un lac pot d’or crépuscule incendie
chiens noirs blancs et rouges
peaux vertes grise lumière crépusculaire
canailles bouteille trinque vélo vintage
velvet black samurai
Goliards sans patrie
mâchant des fables ordinaires en langues arabes
les vieux loubards avec les jeunes roublards tas de bois
ah la vieille usine requinquée par milles couleurs et trekk traces main de l’homme
et patte du rat nordique en peau kérosène & feuilles d’automne
zig-zag en vélo
vers les Northern Lights
les chemins du sable gris léché grenouilles
mer gorgé d’algues et d’ambre calme
sans moteur juste les roues qui tournent et joie du vélo en l’air
les oies sauvages s’envoleront cet hiver
København Blues ( by henrik aeshna )
wee hours Copenhagen
incandescent ruby windows
in whiskey lakes
darky sombre silent streets
bikes flash by
sleeping swans shrouded
in the cold fog of
strawberry dreams are hers
rosy nipples under pink t-shirt
in crystal chalices
oozin’ from extraterrestrial cactuses
I drink her eye’lands & dreams
thru a milkshake straw
breathe in the brine
of her fingerprint-stained aquarellas
as we walk off the light
to swing along pine-lined paths at night
whisperin’ oddly drunken choruses
down rainy streets past canals boats mansions
lookin’ for a cheap bar
or whatever other shabby excuse to keep dreamin'
coz we’ve never believed
(h Aeshna, Copenhagen)
The Yellow Lights of Waiting
(poem for Christiania, by Tomas Chepaitis
Written there on occasion of 100 TPC, September 29-th, 2012)
There's a traffic light somewhere in Copen,
Where all signs are yellow and still.
And the people, so called Christianians
Are like onions, but onions sweet.
Green is the Chakra of Love,
Red is the Chakra of action.
Love and act, but inside,
and outside, learn to wait,
learn to see what is coming ahead.
Take your time, pass a joint,
ride a bike, grab a Tail of the Fox
On the road that is leading to heaven.
There's a girl on a bike and a babe in a box,
and the dogs unexpectedly friendly.
There's a pusher, a puller, a smith and a swan,
all are waiting in movement, in action.
So today I proclaim the culture of waiters -
Red/Green waiters on Yellow streets.
Waiters, serving the clan of predators,
waiting when they will turn to sheep.
When it'd happen, all traffic lights here in Copen
would burst with a fireworks of the Yellow-Red-Green
and the rest of the story I'll tell afterwards,
when you'll come to Vilnius, blin.
The Uzupis Constitution (by Romas Lileikis & Tomas Chepaitis)
Everyone has the right not to be distinguished and famous.
Everyone has the right to look after a dog till one or the other dies.
A dog has the right to be a dog.
Everyone has the right to be unhappy.
Everyone has the right to have faith.
« La constitution d'Uzupis en français »
- L'Homme a le droit de vivre près de la petite rivière Vilnalé et la Vilnalé a le droit de couler près de l'Homme
- L'Homme a le droit à l'eau chaude, au chauffage durant les mois d'hiver et à un toit de tuile
- L'Homme a le droit de mourir, mais ce n'est pas un devoir
- L'Homme a le droit de faire des erreurs
- L'Homme a le droit d'être unique
- L'Homme a le droit d'aimer
- L'Homme a le droit de ne pas être aimé, mais pas nécessairement
- L'Homme a le droit d'être ni remarquable ni célèbre
- L'Homme a le droit de paresser ou de ne rien faire du tout
- L'Homme a le droit d'aimer le chat et de le protéger
- L'Homme a le droit de prendre soin du chien jusqu'à ce que la mort les sépare
- Le chien a le droit d'être chien
- Le chat a le droit de ne pas aimer son maitre mais doit le soutenir dans les moments difficiles
- L'Homme a le droit, parfois de ne pas savoir qu'il a des devoirs
- L'Homme a le droit de douter, mais ce n'est pas obligé
- L'Homme a le droit d'être heureux
- L'Homme a le droit d'être malheureux
- L'Homme a le droit de se taire
- L'Homme a le droit de croire
- L'Homme n'a pas le droit d'être violent
- L'Homme a le droit d'apprécier sa propre petitesse et sa grandeur
- L'Homme n'a pas le droit d'avoir des vues sur l'éternité
- L'Homme a le droit de comprendre
- L'Homme a le droit de ne rien comprendre du tout
- L'Homme a le droit d'être d'une nationalité différente
- L'Homme a le droit de fêter ou de ne pas fêter son anniversaire
- L'Homme devrait se souvenir de son nom
- L'Homme peut partager ce qu'il possède
- L'Homme ne peut pas partager ce qu'il ne possède pas
- L'Homme a le droit d'avoir des frères, des sœurs et des parents
- L'Homme peut être indépendant
- L'Homme est responsable de sa Liberté
- L'Homme a le droit de pleurer
- L'Homme a le droit d'être incompris
- L'Homme n'a pas le droit d'en rendre un autre coupable
- L'Homme a le droit d'être un individu
- L'Homme a le droit de n'avoir aucun droit
- L'Homme a le droit de ne pas avoir peur
- Ne conquiers pas
- Ne te protège pas
- N'abandonne jamais
« L'Ange d'Uzupis », statue
Cette Constitution, élaborée par le réalisateur lituanien Romas Lileikis, est traduite dans huit langues différentes et exposée sur la façade d'un mur proche du café Dans Nos Murs, le plus connu d'Uzupis