Copenhagen Art Festival: Lars von Trier oversees a total cinematic work of art
In 2010, the Danish Arts Council held a competition for a major event on the topic of “Faellesskaber” (communities). The winning entry was a joint project undertaken by five public art galleries and hosted starting in August 2012 under the name Copenhagen Art Festival: a series of events and exhibitions that are still taking place until the end of the year.
The festival includes an international film competition for which Lars von Trier was enlisted to come up with a concept. Management of the project was entrusted to Jenie Hallund (“Limboland”), who had collaborated on the screenplays for “Melancholia” and “Nymfomanen”. International authors are invited to submit short films or musical compositions, which will then be combined to create a community film. The title of the press release on the competition is “Lars von Trier challenges the people”, which sounds just as ambiguous in the original Danish as it does in English, already provocatively heralding a slant that runs like a thread through the project description.
As topic, von Trier selected the question “What happens when a master challenges the people?” Motto and title of the competition is the German word “Gesamt”, or “total” – derived from “Gesamtkunstwerk”, or “total work of art”, a concept from the German Romantic period that was popularized by Richard Wagner.
The masterpieces von Trier has selected for “the people” to engage with include “Ulysses” by James Joyce, August Strindberg’s “The Father” and also the Zeppelin Field designed by architect Albert Speer. The Zeppelin Field, together with a monumental grandstand, made up the central parade grounds for the Nazi party rallies in Nuremberg. Built with the enforced labour of concentration camp prisoners, the ensemble served as backdrop for demonstrations of Nazi power.
Ever since the Cannes Film Festival, Lars von Trier has not spoken publicly. According to reports in several Danish newspapers, Jenie Hallund has commented that von Trier respects the architecture of Albert Speer, but not the associated ideology. She furthermore noted that this is a case of upholding artistic values without taking responsibility for their consequences, ideologies or interpretation. Nor was it meant as a deliberate provocation. The latter is the least one can assume with any certainty under these circumstances. One need only take a closer look at the pattern of the GIF animation in the logo of the Gesamt website!
The finished total work of art is scheduled to premiere on 18 October as part of a culture night and then to go on tour.