The ABZ of the Copenhagen Free University



Black Mountain College, New Experimental College, Drakabygget, the Spontaneous University, New York Free University, London Anti-University, Berlin Kriticher Universität, Detroit Artists' Workshops.


A motor running in the background.


They never mentioned that learning could be a matter of a 'desire to' or a 'desire for'. No. They left it so that we did not know what our desires could be until it was to late, until we desired the job and became emotionally attached to it.


Become one, become many. I and I.


With the Copenhagen Free University we have opened a discussion about who and what define knowledge today and the relationship between knowledge and life. Our work is based on the understanding, that knowledge is social and that all forms of human activity carries a level of knowledge. As Antonio Gramsci wrote in his prison diaries from 1932: "All are intellectuals [...] but not all have the function of the intellectual in society".


Strike and disappear.


The Copenhagen Free University is a sphere of interest arising from the material life we experience and will always already be politicised before any citizenship. Our scope is both local and global, looking for fellow travellers around the corner and around the world.


Tuesday November the 20th 2001 a general election took place in Denmark and what materialised was the natural consequence of a decade of commonly accepted xenophobia and racism in the Danish society: a government based on the support of the far right is now a reality. This mess is raising even more demands to the development of independent institutions and new forms of political language in culture.


The effort to spend time outside capitalist production - by running up the down escalator, by walking aimlessly around the neighbourhood, by sleeping through the day, by daydreaming, etc. etc. This is not leisure - leisure is part of the cycle of productive behaviour - this is glorious waste.


'And I will do' is almost a fully functioning distribution network for women making videos in Europe. It is a correspondence video project, like an envoy from another city. If you are a woman video maker, who would like to show your work to other women video makers in Europe and the U.S.A. and see the work of other women video makers, you can. If you can send me a good copy of your video, I will transfer it onto a compilation tape, with 10 other videos. Everybody on the tape will receive a copy. Url:


All Power to the smell of burnt money.


Let's open a ski slope between passion and logic.


The crucial struggle is the struggle in the wilderness. There is no direct route; directions will come as we go through the wilderness of confused mornings, of neurotic social relations, of opaque bureaucracy, of mental dead weight, of lack of money at the supermarket check-out. As Marx wrote: "The revolution, which finds here not its end, but its organisational beginning, is no shortlived revolution."


The decision to open a university was made because we would like to get involved with the social processes which deals with the valorisation of knowledge in a society. A university works like a bank; both guarantee a system of value. The Copenhagen Free University guarantees a wide array of personal, improvised and politicised forms of knowledge embedded in social practises around us - forms of knowledge we would like to make explicitly social and create communities around.


The evolution of art has never been results of art critique or any selection based on quality, but of quantitative abundance. Therefore is all artistic selection, no matter how fine it might be, repressive for the evolution of art.


(Click and listen to a Bob Collins groove)


All power to translucent concrete.


The Free University is an artist run institution dedicated to the production of critical consciousness and poetic language. We do not accept the so-called new knowledge economy as the framing understanding of knowledge. We work with forms of knowledge that are fleeting, fluid, schizophrenic, uncompromising subjective, uneconomic, acapitalist, produced in the kitchen, produced when asleep or arisen on a social excursion - collectively.


We are both sitting at the table, with our hands under our legs, waiting for the food to arrive. I am not sure if I should speak, anyway she starts talking and pointing at things on the shelf, but I don't know if it is an expression, or a word. I try to copy what it is she is saying, but it is hard to keep up. I do say a couple of things, but later I realise that it was a question, not a name. I imagine what it would be like if I learnt to speak Danish from her, and then I imagine how disappointing I must be, as an adult that cannot answer her questions. I am not sure that she would be interested in teaching me, if I was not able to have an exchange with her at this point in time, when she was willing to.


Dear Copenhagen Free University

Saw your exhibition in Vienna and was in sympathy with the project you outline on your leaflets. Keep up the good work! I'm doing a thesis on Sartre and am arguing, amongst other things, for the potentially radically emancipatory nature of his literary writings. It's important that left aesthetic theory and production get beyond simply seeing art as an expression of bourgeois ideology (and hence capitalism). It has to be seen as having intrinsically emancipatory qualities.

What do you people feel about modern jazz?

Best wishes Sam.


Our work is usually closely connected to the daily life we live. The Copenhagen Free University is, in fact, situated and functions within the framework of our flat and household economy. The Free University has not got any marble columns or any spectacular architecture, but has all the mess and irregularities of a place where people live.


What if you don't feel like a sensible citizen? What if your language is not making sense in the public sphere?


The active refusal of the present social relations of capitalism, an evacuation of it's means of support and the construction of an alternative. Not a direct opposition or negation, but the immediate evacuation.




The model of The Free University is one we have taken up and reworked, and is based on a direct unmediated exchange of knowledge between people as vehicle of social change. It is our hope that you instead of dreaming of the Copenhagen Free University or London Anti-University or the Free University of New York or the Spontaneous University, go where you live and establish your own university drawing on the knowledge in your networks.


The language of madness is the perpetual slipping over of words into acts until the moment when the word is pure act.


In a biography of the Swedish artist Karin Larsson (1859-1928), it is mentioned, along with a review of her works in a traditional sense, that she used to place the saucepan in which the potatoes were boiled directly onto the table! That is, she did not pour the potatoes into a bowl, but rather let them stay in the saucepan. It was one of the Larsson family's maids who had told this to the author of the biography, and for the maid it was a noteworthy act. How entirely practical, thus reducing the number of dishes that needed to be washed. And not only that: the potatoes also retained their warmth, which they do not when you pour them into a cold bowl - you could of course choose to warm the bowl first, but that would also demand extra effort. In a jiffy, the saucepan is placed on the table, and suddenly a work process is simplified. One small jiffy for the Larssons - one giant jiffy for (wo)mankind. Well, maybe it had been seen before, but obviously not so often as to prevent this from arousing surprise in a small Swedish village.


Our life within language is like a journey within polluted air.


Living at the Copenhagen Free University - an account from a guest:

My room is built in such a way, that it has both a door that leads directly to the outside, the stairs, and another sliding door which is the entrance to the home. You could be here, but feel quite separate from the rest of the household. You could also come and go without the others knowing (not that I have done that) I prefer to keep the sliding door open, then I get to hear more of the rest of the house and smell the cooking. It is hard to tell how much I spill out, but there is definitely a place where we all combine, and I like it when somebody pops their head around the door.


It was a solely social act to say "Let us open a university" and as we opened the Copenhagen Free University right away lots of discursive forces came in motion in and around this self-institution.


Today there are loads of manifestos being produced promoting all sorts of ready-made subjectivities wanting to become government. Our intention was to produce a power that refuses to become government.



Ordinary house dust is a mixture of dead insect parts, fl akes of human skin, shreds of fabric, minerals, seeds, pollen, feather, hair, blood, excrement and many other materials.



The Copenhagen Free University is a temporary self-institution that for a period of time gather and formalise a community of individuals and groups around a certain struggle. Sooner or later the CFU will abolish itself with the intention of the formation of more informal networks and a redistribution of power. This strategy of temporary formation and subsequent abolition of autonomous institutions has been called the starburst strategy.



Thanks to Emma Hedditch, Anthony Davies, Ian Trowell, Howard Slater, Johnny Spencer, Asger Jorn and David Cooper, Henriette Heise and Jakob Jakobsen.

Last update: Oct 2003

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