Exploring Languages in Urban Spaces
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the city of my imagination

A Conversation on the Walls

The traces we leave on our cities' walls are always fascinating, no matter the language. My focus here being on translation, I look at text that is not in the "official" language of a city I am exploring (this definition may change from place to place of course). In the case of Copenhagen, as I explained on this site, I am looking at languages other than Danish. You may have realised throughout the explorations I present here that many of these happen to be in English. It remains intriguing to see how the words are expressed, what they are trying to say and why they appear in one particular place. It gets even more interesting when you end up eavesdropping in the middle of a conversation painted on a wall. A multilingual conversation nonetheless, with words responding to one another in curious ways.

I came across this particular graffiti near my Copenhagen apartment. It isn't really in a public space since it's a wall in the entrance of a building separated from the street by a usually closed fence door. One day, I was lucky to find the fence open, so I went in and captured the words with my camera.

I immediately looked at the English words, not paying much attention to what was surrounding them at first (thinking it was in Danish so it fell out of my exploration area). 

I could hear the strong F sounds of the carefully painted - almost calligraphed,
Future and Female. The gesture of painting, seems to me, is different than the one of tagging, and I feel it smooths the intensity of the statement in a positive way. I don't feel attacked but rather invited into idea that indeed, our future is female.   

Such statements may mean different things depending on who views them, I personally don't want to keep it entrapped in one so-called original meaning - even if it does exist. For instance, this NY Times article mentions the radical feminist history and the ’70s lesbian separatist moment behind the slogan, which origintated in a New York bookstore in 1975, and has been reprinted on a T-shirt, which raised much attention and criticism.  Whether we want to talk about LGBTQ rights, women rights or the fight against misogyny, I am happy to see these four words: The Future is Female on a Copenhagen wall and I feel we do all have the freedom to embrace it as we wish. 

Now that I am reflecting back on these words and observing the image I captured on my camera more closely, the words surrounding the initial statement that caught my attention start appearing to me. There is a conversation going on this wall. I try to decipher the responses:

First there's Læs Martinus Kosmologi, written in green, which means "Read Martinus's Cosmology". Further online research brings me to Mr. Martinus's website, where I found out that 

At the age of 30 the Danish writer and mystic Martinus (1890-1981) had a series of profound, illuminative spiritual experiences, after which he experienced – through his intuition – that the universe was pervaded by infinite love and wisdom. He created 100 symbols and wrote more than 6000 pages that describe a coherent world picture, the eternal, spiritual laws and a path to theoretical cosmic insight.

I couldn't find a clear link to the initial message in this spiritual response, which shows that again, we all may interpret words very differently. However, it intrigued me to learn about this Mr Martinus and his spiritual quest. 

On the right side of the picture, one can see a drawing of scissors with the words Klipp Kuken!, which according to my online research are in Swedish. And further googling shows this particular slogan has been used on some feminist websites, with one clearly saying "Time to cut your dick!" They may be speaking back to Mr Martinus, or simply confirming that indeed the "future is female" ... but for that we need to cut a few cocks. The possibilities are endless.  

Three strangers speak to each other on a wall, all interpreting their own versions of being a woman, of feminism, of spirituality, of love... of their perspective of the world. An extraordinary conversation happening in three languages. Didn't I tell you translation is everywhere? And oh, how exciting it is to decipher!


CopenhagenCanan Marasligil