I have become unclear on how I am defining work. Allan Kaprow would be proud of me, as the art/life boundaries are very blurred. In action research Judi Marshall refers to this as living life as inquiry – which can pose real problems for the artist's overdeveloped work ethic and the work/life balance.
I begin to see all of the ways people here encounter each other as contributing to the social and cultural capital of the community. I wish I could speak Danish. When they can't find the right word to describe Christiania they hold their arms to form a circle, like an embrace.
The Greenlanders are the only ones here allowed to have their own house. I think the Inuit are to Denmark what the Native Americans are to the USA, with the same legacy of social disintegration and health problems. When I worked with the 'rootless' in the past it was called community care, but felt more like social cleansing. We were paid of course, even though it wasn't very much.
I slept badly last night. I started reading fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson before i went to sleep and I blame it on him. Dark stuff! He's a national icon now but unhappy in his life – rejected by conventional society in Denmark at the time because of his low beginnings. The national symbol of Denmark is the swan. Christiania is full of ugly ducklings.
I reworked some of Christiania's symbols yesterday. I embellished the Christiania flag which is red with three yellow dots, to connect our brands and develop a commemorative plaque that marks this collaboration on the Academy’s Happiness in the Workplace Awards. The backdrop is the woodstock outside where I am staying – every house has one, but I don't know who does all the hard work for the artist house supplies. I used it last night to make a fire in the woodburner. It's July but freezing. There is a special word in Danish – hygge – something like cosy, as a state of mind and a physical thing. It was very hygge.
Today I began to imagine what it's like to stand in the shoes of people working in Christiania.
These are the shoes of Ingrid who works in the art gallery. She has four pairs of shoes with her at all times to respond to different aspects of her work. She has tiny feet and beautifully pedicured painted toenails. She first lived and worked in Christiania in 1972. She is very proud of the new linoleum that has been put down on the kitchen floor. She feels like cleaning it now.
The gallery sells posters of all the work made by artists to advertise all of the events that have taken place in Christiania over the last 37 years. Business men bring their corporate clients here for group talks and tours so that they can see how free-thinking Copenhagen is.
I was reading today that aesthetic leadership is currently seen as a key concept for management studies, where aesthetic workers can provide critical insight on crucial concerns and alternative ways of thinking about problems and received wisdom.
Perhaps I need to pay attention to my feet if I am to make a spectacle of myself. Visual communication is significant and accounts for over 70 per cent of the messages and therefore assumptions formed at reception. In one piece of organisational research I carried out, on equal opportunities and the distribution of power, the women – particularly in administrative or 'support' roles – power-dressed very carefully. Fridays were dressing down day which seemed to be even more of a challenge. They worked really hard at being taken seriously. A well accessorised suit and a manicure could set just the right tone
The dress code appears very relaxed here but the devil is in the detail.
The work I am doing on this artist residency is complex. I have no job description and as this is a Utopian community I am free to do what I want. But hold on – the kind of work that the Academy wanted to do, and their intentions, were made clear in the proposal. So that forms the beginning of a social contract. I need to follow that don’t I?
The proposal began like this: “Current debates about our economic and social well-being, and about the work-life balance raise important questions about how we define well-being, how we define good work and how we can better organize places where we can work well. The philosophy, values and daily life of Christiania would offer significant insights on how work can be framed, about the status, value and exchange rates connected to our labour, and about job satisfaction and reward systems in the workplace.
The proposal from the Higher Academy of Happiness focuses on research needed to establish criteria for our Happiness in the Workplace Awards, using Christiania as a case study and a model of practice.”
So there we have it – the Academy arranged for me to be here for three weeks to conduct action research using art practice as a way of finding out about and making sense of the questions they need to know the answer to. Good questions? Yes. Will I find a good answer? I don’t know. Sometimes I’m not even sure how to define the work an artist does or the best conditions to do that work. It keeps shifting. I think the Academy would like me to make something and take a picture of it though. I need evidence.
I have been reading some of the key texts around work and organization today. My initial work utilizing the MBWA strategy (Management By Wandering Around) produced some good results and I have a long list of the work I notice going on here. However the central concern for business schools currently is leadership.
Artists I think have a lot to offer to the leadership debate. I am considering introducing a new concept during this residency. The LBLD strategy. Leadership By Lying Down would evidence critical incidents of overwork that I notice going on around me.
The research begins with something like being an anthroplogist and being in this Utopian community in a way that helps me to work out what the rules and codes of behaviour are. I don't know if I'm dressed properly to go fully native. There have been lots of participant observation studies in the past where sociologists have fully entered the life of the community to get the insider story. That could be tricky in just three weeks.
Yet already I've felt the jarring as I staggered back from mainstream Copenhagen society yesterday and crossed safely back into the Christiania enclave. It reminded me of the citizen's jury work I did with the three year olds in England.
They made a story to make into shadow puppet theatre. The story began with a balloon going to flying school for the first time. The balloon was very nervous – so what happened?
Well the children decided to call the balloon Mingo. There was one helium-filled balloon outside the window, alone and outside – that was Mingo they decided. Now this was strange, because truly as we looked at Mingo – and this is the only time this happened – the string came loose and the balloon flew away.
Oh no! Where's Mingo gone?! Well. Mingo, they decided had gone to B&Q. Why? To buy some happy colours. They made a list of colours for Mingo to buy. And then? Well Mingo went to Asda. Why? To buy some happy food. Mingo was tired then and came to the flying school with all the bags of shopping.
Then all the other balloons were so happy to see Mingo with these presents that they wanted to be Mingo's friend, which made Mingo happy. The Happy Ending.
When I played back the story to the children the following week I just wanted to check if there were any other happy places Mingo might have gone. The beach or park? No he might burst there or drown. He'd go to Pound Stretcher!!
Do children hold a mirror up to the world? Denmark is the third happiest country in the world. There was a lot of shopping going on. It all seemed like hard work to me. It was good to get back to normality.
To Be Continued.
Emmerik met me at the Metro with his bike. He put me and two suitcases in the front and began a guided tour of Christiania. The three wheeled bikes are a Christiania design. They don't move – they glide. He stopped when a man came running after us with a jacket that we'd dropped. It turned out that the man and his girlfriend had nowhere to sleep that night, so Emmerik gave them his bed for the night.
My apartment is lovely and I have an internet connection so that I can listen to Radio 4 if I miss home. Early investigations revealed that the jazz club in Christiania is excellent – although is that because of the international jazz festival that's on in Copenhagen at the moment. I have never seen a kora player doing jazz improvisation before.
A day of rest and settling in yesterday.
Today I begin the process of MBWA – a strategy I came across a few years ago now in a large multinational corporate organisation. It means Management by Wandering Around. It reflected the idea that moving around was an important way of connecting with people, of getting into conversations that might lead somewhere new. The buildings were designed to encourage this with small refreshment stopping off points. I will wander through this community and see what happens.
I also need to make a map of the area and start a list of all the work I see taking place here. I will then be able to draw up a shortlist for potential work experience placements.
There are no petrol vehicles allowed here – but a van has just gone by which must be the exception. It must be bin day – I need to check where to leave my rubbish. The van is covered in graffitti. On the side it says 'The Dirty Bastards'. I will add them to my list of potential placement opportunities.