Experience the Danish capital between “Wonderful Copenhagen” and the "most liveable city" accolade. Travel twenty-six years back in time to the 90s, when Copenhagen was run-down and populated by students and old ladies in large apartments. A time when people partied against the tragic background of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, when film had to be Danish Dogme, and buffalo shoes and Fly sunglasses were de rigueur on the fashion front.
1996 is also the year that takes us into the heart of a decade that is so close, yet so far away. Take a look back at Copenhagen and Copenhageners – and maybe a time when you were young yourself.
Copenhagen is repeatedly picked out by glossy magazines as a historical and cool Nordic capital whose residents have the highest level of liveability. A city the American actor Danny Kaye in his role as Hans Christian Andersen celebrated in song as “Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen” back in the fifties. But by the nineties there was very little about Copenhagen that was wonderful. Industries and the middle classes had moved out to the suburbs, leaving behind those who couldn’t afford to move. To turn things around the city took out loans to embark on a large-scale programme of urban regeneration and cultural ventures like Copenhagen 96 - Denmark’s year as European Capital of Culture.
500 Time Capsules with Messages from the Past
The focal point of the exhibition is 500 time capsules created throughout Greater Copenhagen during Copenhagen 96. In clear plexiglass boxes the size of shoeboxes, citizens and institutions alike could choose what they would like to send into the future. The exhibition gives you the chance to explore all 500 of them, but we’ve also picked out some of the most moving, quirky and thought-provoking.
Used Syringes & Mix-CDs
The time capsules are a close encounter with Copenhageners in the 90s. One girl in the 8th grade included a condom, sanitary towel and diary entries, where she wrote:
“After school I went to McDonalds, and when I got home I watched a comedy show on VHS. Bo came over after dinner. BO IS JUST SUPER SUPER GORGEOUS! … We went to Mia’s party together. It was a laugh. I smoked my last cigarette and drank beer and shots, but didn’t need my condom. Now I’m 100% sure me and Bo are going steady. LOTS OF KISSES …”
Some of the time capsules touch on the darker side of Copenhagen in the 90s. A drop-in-centre for women on the streets filled its time capsule with used syringes from addicts in Vesterbro - a far cry from the trendy, kid-friendly neighbourhood it is today.
HIV/AIDS and Silent Disco to 90s Music
The 90s was also the decade when new cultural venues opened in Copenhagen, when the film industry started to thrive, and when stand-up comedy hit the stage for the first time. The exhibition also includes the Dogme Manifesto that put Danish film on the world map, as well as an AIDS quilt for the victims of HIV/AIDS. It was the decade when DJs became superstars. Danish DJ Katrine Ring’s LP case and crazy clothing are part of the exhibition, where you’ll also find one of the first free city bikes in the world. There’s a replica of the counter in the era’s legendary bar Floss, and you can even try silent disco to 90s music in the exhibition’s rave zone.
And before you leave, you get the chance to say what kind of message you would send to the future if you had the chance to make a time capsule of your own.
The exhibition has been created in collaboration with the design company Torden & Lynild, sound designer Arthur van der Zaag, and DJ Katrine Ring.
Kim Bodnia in the movie ‘Pusher’. Photo Morten Constantineanu Bak
DJ Katrine Ring, 1994. Photo Ole Christiansen
Urban renewal in Absalonsgade, Copenhagen, May 26th 1994. Photo Museum of Copenhagen
A rundown Vesterbro with the actor Mads Mikkelsen in the film Pusher
One of the major – and most expensive – developments in Copenhagen in the 90s was urban regeneration. The most intense redevelopment took place in the neighbourhood of Vesterbro. Its transformation from a rundown, working-class area to a trendy area of luxury flats and people who could afford them basically changed the local population.
Some of the time capsules, photographs and exhibits relate to this programme of urban regeneration, which was also a theme of some Danish films made in the 90s, not least Pusher, a film set in Vesterbro with a radical style and brutal content. The use of handheld cameras and filming everything on location within a 500 m radius in Vesterbro pre-empted the Danish Dogme films released in 1998. Pusher was almost an act of homage to the old Vesterbro with its dilapidated flats, murky backyards, gang violence and crime, all of which were still highly visible in 1996. Pusher was also the film that gave international film star Mads Mikkelsen his big break in Denmark.
Time capsules with a multitude of themes
• One time capsule from a college class contains a mobile phone and 3,000 new words printed on overhead transparencies.
• One of Copenhagen’s most popular 90s cafés, Café Sommersko, put pool balls in their time capsule.
• A capsule from a clinic for drug addicts with HIV/AIDS is full of cotton wool, broken eggshells and other symbols.
• A suburban artist group have filled their time capsule with a rolled up Danish flag to symbolise Denmark being swallowed up by the EU - and their opposition to it.
• A Copenhagen theatre has included a CD of Nirvana’s Nevermind.