Thirty objects have been chosen to show trends or mark events that have had an impact and that, in some ways, might represent life in Denmark over the 17 years since the beginning of this century.
Fifteen objects are from the collection of the museum - important because it makes the point that this is a national museum that is not just about a distant or remote past but is relevant now and looks at the full social and political history of the country through the artefacts it collects because history can be as close as yesterday.
Fifteen objects were selected by a committee from objects suggested by the public. Again this is important because academic staff might feel that they are ‘across’ the major trends of contemporary life and culture but it always helps to get a broad viewpoint. After all, the idea of diversity or at least open discussion about diversity is itself an aspect of life in most modern democracies.
Very few of the objects are what would be defined as design pieces - if your definition of design follows what is seen in design museums or design magazines - but again this exhibition reinforces the most general principle that all man-made objects are designed. They have to be, even if the design is kept in the mind as work starts, and any commercial object that is industrially produced has to be designed - has to be contrived. A manufactured object might not be beautiful or it might not be good design but designed it is.
What is interesting, with these thirty objects, is that many are utilitarian so make life easier and can be game changing or life changing. Included would be the single-cup coffee maker that uses capsules of fresh coffee - OK not exactly life saving but pretty important to some of us - along with an NEM ID card for online security; a pair of trainers, and a trailer used to take rubbish to the recycling centre at weekends.
The trailer is evidence of distinct social change but also change that is overtly political as people try, as individuals, to tackle the threat of climate change by sorting their rubbish.
There is also an iPhone from Apple - not to show the achievements of recent advances in technology but it is an ‘old’ model from 2011, cracked and, despite it’s initial cost, just given away to a charity shop. Nearby is a purse that is not here to represent money but here because its owner thought it is now redundant with the rapid movement towards a cashless society.
In fact, a surprising number of the objects reflect what has been dramatic and, in some instances, traumatic political and social change in Denmark through the first years of this century.
there is a cobble or stone sett thrown in street fighting in 2007 when police cleared protestors from Ungdomshuset, the Youth House, in Jagtvej in Nørrebro when the building was demolished
a full-length red evening dress worn to get into a formal dinner for the UN Climate Change Conference in 2009 so a banner could be unfurled as a protest
sweets and packaging from Malaco because when the confectionary factory in Scalgelse was closed, when production was moved to Slovakia, it had a huge impact on the community
a school assessment form included to show how much pressure there is now on children to achieve top grades and also, and in some ways related, capsules for anti depressants and a roughly made market stall with the sign ‘Ryg med hjem’ or ‘Hash to Go’ from Pusher Street in Christiania
glass from Krudttønden - the community centre in Serridslevvej - that was shattered by a bullet when a meeting about Freedom of Speech was attacked before the perpetrator went on to attack the synagogue in the centre of the city
a fake road sign that was set up in Thisted in 2016 to show the direction for migrants and asylum seekers to go to get home
Some objects are intensely personal but reflect much wider social issues so there is a wig worn by a patient undergoing treatment for cancer.
Some of the objects were chosen to represent more vague concepts or ideas that are actually important to people … so there was a small Danish flag - the Dannebrog seen at so many events and in so many homes - and a book about hygge along with the suit worn by the first Danish astronaut and a football shirt worn by Nadia Nadim with pictures of the successful Danish Women's European Championship team …. so all about a quiet, generally undemonstrative, pride that Danes feel for their country.
There are comments by people about each object - far from all being positive - and around the exhibition are bound booklets with these comments and details of the exhibition in English. Well worth reading.
If you want to try to begin to understand what it is to be Danish in the 21st century then a good starting point is this brilliant exhibition.
the exhibition continues at Nationalmuseet / National Museum of Denmark
Prinsens Palæ, Ny Vestergade 10, 1471 Copenhagen K