• Denmark's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Danish art project deemed racist by Swedes

Justin Cremer · 19 Aug 2014, 10:34

Published: 19 Aug 2014 10:34 GMT+02:00

A Danish performance art project meant to combat discrimination and celebrate diversity has been deemed racist in Sweden. 
 
The Copenhagen-based theatre company Global Stories’ project Through Different Eyes has been removed from the Malmö Festival after more than 200 Swedes signed a petition accusing the project of racism. 
 
Through Different Eyes invites the public to have their appearance altered by make-up artists so that they can temporarily assume a different ethnicity or gender. Participants are then invited to walk around in a crowded public space to experience the feedback they receive when in someone else’s skin.
 
“This is a project that celebrates diversity. We work with make-up artists and provide all kinds of transformations: from white to brown, brown to white, man to woman and woman to man. We are also looking in to transforming from young to old to address the age discrimination,” Through Different Eyes project leader Morten Nielsen told The Local. 
 
 
The project was supposed to have been part of the currently-running Malmö Festival, but festival organisers on Sunday pulled the plug after the Swedes’ negative feedback and accusations that the project resembled offensive blackface performances.
 
“We apologise if people feel aggrieved and we have taken the criticism seriously. This part of the programme took an unexpected turn and we have decided to cancel it,” organiser Pella Ström wrote on the festival’s website. 
 

A Global Stories spokesperson said the festival only used photos of white people having their skin darkened, when the project also allows for temporary transformations of all sorts. Photo: Anna Andrea Malzer,Global Stories
 
Ström told Berlingske that the cancellation of the project was a sign that Sweden “has advanced much further in the debate on integration and equality than Denmark”. 
 
Danish historian and author Mikael Javling however had a much different take on the decision to cancel Through Different Eyes. 
 
Javling, who has previously spoken with The Local about Swedes’ “downward spiral of silence” on issues of immigration and integration, called the cancellation “nearly comical”.
 
“We could laugh at it as we normally do when we talk abut Sweden, because their ideological discussions seem almost comical, but this is really serious. Sweden is a country where politicians, the media, the cultural elite – everyone, really – that has something to say [about integration issues, ed] is under severe pressure due to immigration and current issues,” he told Berlingske.
Story continues below…
 
Nielsen, however, said he didn't want to "turn this into another Swedish and Danish fight".
 
"This is a very complex debate and I hope we don't lose the complexity when discussing Swedes' and Danes' differences. I can understand how minorities in Malmö might have seen this as a blackface project, but it is everything else but that. It is very hard to be accused of doing something that is the exact opposite of its intention," he told The Local. 
 
Global Stories put on the Through Different Eyes project at the Malmö Festival last year without incident. Nielsen said that the festival "made a serious mistake" this year by only featuring a photo of man who had his skin darkened and claims the festival only added a second photo after the controversy had gotten out of control. 
 
NOTE: The Local replaced the original image that ran with this story at the request of Global Stories, who said that they no longer allow children under the age of 14 to participate in their project. 

For more news from Denmark, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Justin Cremer (justin.cremer@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Danish sex club fined for age discrimination
The club's leader said 18-year-olds shouldn't witness everything that happens in a swingers' club. Photo: Iris/Scanpix

A Copenhagen sex club says it did the right thing by not hiring an 18-year-old man as a receptionist.

Maersk profit tumbles amid shipping, oil market slump
Maersk containers at La Guaira port in Venezuela. Photo: Marco Bello/Scanpix

The Danish oil and shipping conglomerate reported a first quarter plunge.

Danish school bars Muslim students from wearing niqab
The school said that the learning process was disrupted by the niqab. Photo: Iris/Scanpix

School largely cheered for its decision to not allow face-covering veils.

Hundreds of asylum seekers withdraw applications
Asylum seekers at Asylcentret Havneskolen in Rødby. Photo: Claus Bech/Scanpix

Nearly 300 asylum seekers have dropped their request for protection since the start of the year.

Dejlige Days Welcome
How to be kind to yourself when relocating
Force yourself down to the neighbourhood cafe for some people-watching or a chat with the barista. Photo: Pikselstok/Iris

Relocation consultant Melanie Haynes offers up tips for making a smoother transition to Denmark – or anywhere.

Denmark’s postal service just got even worse
Post Danmark will drop one day of deliveries and eliminate next-day mail. Photo: Henrik Petit/Post Danmark

Need to send or receive post quickly? Too bad.

Just relax, Denmark is not under attack
No invasion, just a test. Photo: DEMA

Keep calm and carry on.

Danish artist Eliasson plans gigantic fountain for Versailles
Olafur Eliasson posing beside his art installation "Ice Watch" made with parts of Greenland's ice cap, on display in front of the Pantheon in Paris. Photo: Eric Feferberg/Scanpix

Olafur Eliasson plans an "incredibly high" fountain at the Palace of Versailles.

Danish 'martyr' exhibit reported to police
The exhibition will feature Brussels Airport bomber Ibrahim El-Bakraoui and other terrorists. Photo: Public domain

Brussels suicide bomber and Paris attacker to be displayed side-by-side with Joan of Arc and Socrates.

Finally! Denmark promised high temps and sunshine
atluxity/Flickr

Just in time for Thursday's holiday, forecasters are calling for highs to reach 20C by the weekend.

Sponsored Article
How to launch your international career
National
Denmark extends 'temporary' border measures for sixth time
Sponsored Article
What's the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?
National
Denmark nears final decision on controversial fighter jets
Society
Muslim ‘girls only’ swimming sessions ripple Danish waters
National
Could Danes face a 'red meat tax' to help climate?
National
Denmark unable to process or issue visas
Denmark to go to war against Isis in Syria
International
Denmark to go to war against Isis in Syria
Business & Money
How Denmark’s national bank card is about to change
Culture
The best Danish bands you've (maybe) never heard of
Danes leaving the church in droves
Society
Atheist campaign gets Danes to leave the church in droves
Four Isis ‘recruits’ arrested in Copenhagen
National
Four Isis ‘recruits’ arrested in Copenhagen
Business & Money
Unwrapping Denmark's first zero-packaging food store
Travel
Copenhagen has world's highest transport prices
Analysis & Opinion
What's the deal with those 'wild' Danish kids?
National
Denmark prepares to take on 'hate preachers'
Danish police up patrols after Brussels blasts
International
Danish police up patrols after Brussels blasts
Danes regain 'world's happiest people' title
Society
Danes regain 'world's happiest people' title
Gunman 'joked' with alleged helpers after attacks
National
Copenhagen gunman 'joked' with alleged helpers after attacks
National
Danish teen planned to bomb schools: police
Denmark just took a major step to eliminate food waste
National
Denmark just took a major step to eliminate food waste
International
Danish FM: Trump changes opinions like underwear
National
Before Denmark, 'we had a better life in Syria'
Denmark is still Europe’s digital leader
Technology
Denmark is still Europe’s digital leader
Denmark to refugees: Work first, learn Danish later
National
Denmark to refugees: Work first, learn Danish later
2,241
jobs available