THERE’S ‘DOING THINGS RIGHT,’ and then, there’s ‘doing the right things.’ What that means will be different for everyone, but if you’re from Scandinavia, the ‘right things’ necessarily will be rooted, for better or worse, in a thing called ‘The Law of Jante.’ I forgot how I got to hear this word for the first time, perhaps it was at that insanely curious and fun and different Julefrokost that I found myself sitting in a roomful of very happy, very drunk people with in the winter of December 2015.
I AM NOT a Schnapps drinker. I do not sing*. I do not like to get too carried away in conversation too soon with people I do not know, but all bets are off on this one night in the country of Denmark, I found out, when nobody gives a f*ck about what they’re going to feel like in the morning and apparently overeating on this holiday ‘lunch’ is known to cause a couple of deaths a year.
‘Just. Saturday. Come, if you can.’
It’s fine. It’s cultural right? So I said ‘yes’ to an invitation to go, and I went. Barely. I have a tendency to back out of things when any excuse pops up: in this case, it was raining, it was dark, it was a stranger’s flat, nobody was able to call and text me directions owing to the fact that I own no mobile device, and, and, and, wasn’t I supposed to go to Copenhagen the next day and catch a flight, not that many hours, later? So what was I doing blindingly seeking this party for a laugh and a what, a what, I wondered, and now, looking back, I know. The unexpected.
‘Writing is all rewriting’
THE STORY THAT I HAD meant to write for ages and put into this zine is still waiting to be written. Maybe that’s fine. Maybe this isn’t about what I found out at that weird little party but rather what the people around me were sharing and what they had to say. The word ‘Janteloven’ stayed with me for days, months, and then, I asked longtime S P A C E guest and conversationalist Aske Pedersen what the hell it even means.
That started the new thread that landed where we are with this week’s issue of S P A C E. It’s S P A C E | Aarhus, ‘Janteloven,’ published with both English and Danish writings (and photographs I took in Aarhus), which is ‘Denmark’s second city’ as the tourism board likes to call it, has grit the way Sheffield does, and is where AP had grown up. Visiting, I recall going by a park with a statue and a few low steps and him saying, ‘I used to play with a truck there, my mom brought me, right there—*pointing*—when I was a little kid.’ And something about history and place, and people and story, and the darkness settling in, and the way it feels to walk in the forest towards the south side of the city all by yourself because some architects you met quite randomly in a cafe (‘we speak in silences…’) had a hunch you would like it over there and so you did it, all of this, folds into the narratives that weave over one another and make a thing that we like to call ‘S P A C E.’ A zine, but more than that. A collection of stories: documents of moments noted and shared, collected over time and packed together into a 16-page PDF. Pretty wild.
Process. Many thanks this week to both Aske Pedersen and our culture editor in S P A C E, Michael Bridgett, Jr., for help with getting this piece into a better spot than it was way back in November when we were *going* to publish, but couldn’t quite yet, because something wasn’t there yet. What that thing is called is what everyone who writes or makes art or does code or runs or skis or cycles or makes that sweet all-net shot on the basketball hoop or does a little dance and moves to it just so or is a surgeon and gets it right that time because of so much practice knows. Flow. This one, this one just flowed.
Enjoy it. You can get your copy of S P A C E | Aarhus, ‘Janteloven,’ when you subscribe this week to S P A C E. Subscribe here.
It’s starting to get really good, now. Thanks for the conversations and more to come, in S P A C E forums, in the protected-pages. All jazzed up about what’s next.
*Well maybe occasionally.