Uwe Max Jensen, a Danish artist who enjoys both provocation and nude performances, combined both over the weekend during Aarhus Festival in Denmark’s second-largest city.
Saying he was inspired by ’Between the World and Me’, a recent book on US race relations by American journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jensen first played the role of ‘white trash’, walking around the festival with a beer in one hand and the Confederate flag in the other. Jensen repeatedly says the word ‘nigger’ to the confusion of onlookers.
The Danish artist then stripped off all of his clothes, covered himself in black paint and burned the flag.
See the 'happening' here. Story continues below. Note that the video contains nudity and language that many may find offensive.
Jensen told The Local that he wanted to confront many sensitive subjects simultaneously.
“I wanted to make a happening about taboos. You’re not supposed to say nigger, there is a taboo about being naked and the Confederate flag is now also taboo. There is also a taboo about blackface and finally the last taboo is to burn someone else’s flag,” Jensen said.
Jensen said he closely followed the recent debate about the Confederate flag in the United States, which flared up after a white gunman killed nine African-Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina church. Photos of the gunman posing with the Confederate flag and white supremacist insignia, prompted the state of South Carolina to remove the flag from the grounds of its capitol building and several large retailers said they would stop selling the flags and other Confederate items.
Jensen said that he also wanted to confront “the political correctness” surrounding language use.
“There is now also pressure on the Danish word ‘neger’, which is not exactly the same as nigger but now cannot be used because the elites say it is offensive,” he said.
“I see a problem with all of the political correctness because it wants to change the way people speak but it will not change society,” he added.
When asked by The Local, if he would try his ‘happening’ in the United States rather than predominately white Aarhus, Jensen said it is “important to know the context” of the society in which he performs.
“I don’t make these works to get myself killed or get anyone in to trouble. I don’t want to attack anyone physically and I don’t want anyone to attack me. I think it would be very difficult to do this in the United States because I don’t know the context the same way as i do in Denmark,” he said.
Jensen is no stranger to controversy. He recently garnered attention by painting a portrait of Kim Kardashian using his penis. In another stunt, he walked naked through the streets of Viborg carrying a Bible in his hand. He then repeated the action carrying a Quran and was promptly arrested, which he contends proves that society is too politically correct.
A common theme in his work is nudity, which he says his a reaction to American puritanism.
“I’m inspired by this American attitude that you can’t be naked, and that carries over to things like Facebook and YouTube. Not so many years ago, it was natural to be naked at the beach or even at the Roskilde Festival. Now, the natural naked body is very taboo,” Jensen said.