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SWEDEN

‘Racist’ Swedish artist’s Danish show cancelled

The organiser was forced to pull the plug on a scheduled 'happening' to display convicted Swedish artist Dan Park's works in Copenhagen.

'Racist' Swedish artist's Danish show cancelled
Park's work 'Hang-on Afrobians'. The Local has altered the image to hide the men's identities.
The Danish radio station Radio24syv has cancelled its plans to have the works of ‘racist’ Swedish artist Dan Park exhibited in Copenhagen. 
 
The controversial Park was convicted by a Malmö court in August on charges of inciting racial agitation and defamation. 
 
Radio24syv obtained more than 30 of Park’s works, including ‘Hang-on Afrobians’, which depicts three Swedish residents with African backgrounds portrayed with nooses around their necks. 
 
Other works include a Catholic bishop receiving fellatio from a young boy and Jesus having sex with Muhammad. Nine of the 31 art pieces obtained by Radio24syv through Park’s gallerist were ordered to be destroyed by the Swedish court. 
 
Radio24syv’s plans to have a gallerist in Copenhagen display the works as a statement on free speech came under heavy scrutiny, especially considering that the station is financed through public licence funds. The controversy led the station to cancel the ‘happening’ originally scheduled for Tuesday. 
 
“We found it interesting that a long line of well-known Danish debaters threw themselves into the debate on the necessity of displaying pieces without having seen them. But given the recent debate about our initiative, we must unfortunately conclude that the exhibition cannot go forward,” Radio24syv wrote in a press release. 
 
The station had initially planned to find a gallerist who would be willing to display the controversial pieces of art in an undisclosed location in Copenhagen. 
 
“What we’ve done is to set up the exhibition at a secret location in Copenhagen, frame and light the pictures, then lock the door. In principle, the exhibition does not therefore exist. This is a private action and does not exist in the public domain,” Mads Brügger, the station’s head of programming, told DR. 
 
The station’s plans were the result of extensive debate in Denmark about Park’s conviction in Sweden. The two nations typically have very different approaches to the topic of the freedom of speech. Recent examples include a Danish art project that was meant to highlight diversity being banned from a Swedish festival and Radio24syv’s programme aimed at getting Swedes to break their “downward spiral of silence”.
 
Park shot to infamy in 2011 when he created and distributed posters with a picture of Jallow Momodou of the National Afro-Swedish Association superimposed on the image of a naked man in chains.
 
"Our negro slave has run away," read the text on the posters.
 
Momodou claimed the posters were racist and offensive, while Park argued that the purpose of the posters was to highlight the issue of free speech.
 
At the time of his initial arrest in 2011, Park told The Local that he thought the prosecutors were overreacting.
 
”Was I surprised to be charged? Yes and no. I think it is a waste of tax payers' money mainly. It wasn't a big deal. And no one should be able to tell me what kind of art I can create,” he said.
 
Park is currently serving a six-month jail sentence for his art and was also forced to pay a total of 60,000 Swedish kronor ($8,700) in damages to four people depicted in his pictures. 

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TOURISM

Danes flout travel advice to visit Swedish summer houses

Kirsten, a Dane from Copenhagen, has been spending her weekends at her wooden holiday house in the Skåne countryside throughout Denmark's lockdown -- and to the irritation of Swedes barred from travelling in the other direction, she is far from unusual.

Danes flout travel advice to visit Swedish summer houses
Kirsten enjoying coffee on her terrace in Skåne. Photo: Richard Orange
“We chose not to follow the government's recommendation because we thought we have important things to do here and we don't socialize with our neighbours at this moment,” she explains when The Local visits her at her house near the village or Rörum in the Swedish holiday district of Österlen. 
 
“So we get out of Copenhagen and we stay at our own house and in our garden and don't talk to anyone. So we're even safer here than in Copenhagen.”
 
She points out that the head of the Danish Health Authority, Søren Brostrøm, had said from the start that closing borders had been a “political” decision, which had not been recommended by health experts.  
 
Since Denmark closed its borders on March 14th, Danish residents  have officially been advised not to cross the border into Sweden unless it is “strictly necessary”, even if the latest advice from the foreign ministry is that they do not need to quarantine. 
 
When Denmark opened the border to tourists from the Nordic countries on June 18th, it left every county in Sweden apart from Västerbotten off its list of “open regions”, meaning the travel advisory for Danes still applies to Skåne. 
 
The updated guidelines on July 4th expanded the list of Swedish “open regions” to Blekinge and Kronoberg. 
 
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But crossing the Øresund Bridge and driving out to southeastern Skåne been part of Kirsten and her husband's weekly ritual since they bought the house 15 years ago, and it's easy to see why they would be reluctant to leave the house and its beautiful garden untended. 
 
“I have to take care of my kitchen garden and my greenhouse,” she says pointing to an area — fenced in to keep out deer and wild boar — which is brimming with strawberries, rocket and unusual varieties of cabbage. 
 
“It would be two or three times as expensive to buy a home in Denmark,” she adds. “We come here all year round, so it's not just a summer house for us.”
 
For most of the lockdown period, no one really seemed to mind that Danes were visiting their holiday houses in Skåne and Småland. It was only when the lockdown was being slowly lifted that the sentiment suddenly changed. 
 
“They changed the rhetoric when one Sunday it took two hours to pass the bridge. And we were in that queue. And suddenly all hell broke loose in Denmark and everything was on the news and in the newspapers and companies had to send out new regulation warnings to their employees,” she says. 
 
“But before that, there was no problem. And we still see a lot of Danish cars on the streets and we know other Danes who also have chosen not to follow the regulations.” 
 
 
The couple nonetheless mostly kept their weekly trips secret. 
 
“I didn't tell anyone in the beginning,” she explains. “We have a doctor in the family that that could lose their job if they do not follow the recommendations.” 
 
She doesn't think that the flurry of newspaper article about Danes flouting the government's advice has had any impact on the number of Danes she sees crossing the bridge and back over the weekend. 
 
But some people have clearly stopped. At the nearby port of Ystad, Mia and Rune are taking the ferry to holiday in Bornholm rather than visiting their summer house near the Swedish city of Kalmar, as they have decided to follow the Danish government's recommendations.
 
“I have to follow the orders from Denmark, of course, but I think it's kind of funny that I can go to Bornholm, but I cannot go to my summer house in Sweden which is out in the countryside,” she said. 
 
“It's a little silly,” her husband adds. “If we can go the other way, they should be able to go our way as well.”
 
But Kerstin suspects that many of the cars she sees leaving Copenhagen on Fridays are not simply using Sweden as a bridge to cross over into Bornholm. 
 
“And if they are all going to Bornholm, some of them are taking a big detour because they head straight off on the road to Stockholm!” she laughs. 
 
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