Principal speech 

Held at Copenhagen University on the occasion of Kirsten and Freddy Johansen Fund's science prize for The Health Science Faculty, awarded to Prof. Elisabeth Lynge and Prof. Jens D. Lundgren, 12 Jun 2016

Ladies and gentlemen

I shall immediately thank the university for the honor that it is for an, in an academic sense, unmitigated uneducated person to be speaking from this chair. Now you should not expect a beautiful, coherent oratorical experience; it is closer to a collage of thoughts and results.

On my way here, I thought of a speech by a German professor at the AIAS institute, Aarhus University. He was invited to do research for one year in order to write the history of Europe based on the ports. What was interesting was that he pointed out that the history of Europe had at first 600-700 years without nation states and then barely 200 years with nation states. Even so, today we talk of Europe as having been formed by these nation states. Maybe the EU discussion would be different if it was based on greater insight and knowledge.

Niels Bohr mentions in his lectures that a scientific proof requires a complete and undeniable description of a phenomenon. In my profession and at the institution that I represent, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, we do not want any complete and undeniable explanation for anything whatsoever. Where the natural sciences with unique humility accept an ab- solute determinism in order to discover the truths about the universal laws of phenomena, the arts seek truth understood as the beauty in man’s imperfection through which it conquers the hubris where we claim to set the human mind free to think that we create the world and as such our own reality.

L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus: 2.2 “The picture has the logical form of representation in com- mon with what it pictures.” 4.01 “The proposition is a picture of reality. The proposition is a model of the reality as we think it is.”

In the artistic image, the image creates its own structure. In that structure the artistic fantasy can introduce elements that in the real world would never meet, and as such introduce these elements in combinations that, however impossible they may seem, allow us to set them free from their given values. This allows us to cognize them once more, and with it the arts have a method to change our perception of ourselves, and to free the world from the agreed on truth of practice.

Niels Bohr: “Notwithstanding the inspiration required in all work of art, it may not be irreverent to remark that even at the climax of his work the artist relies on the common human foundation on which we stand. In particular, we must realize that a word

like improvisation, which comes so readily to the tongue when speaking of artistic achievements, points to a feature essential to all communication.”

Both the natural sciences’ deterministic method and the arts’ search for beauty in the imperfect and inexpressible are human acknowledgments and curiosity of understanding ourselves and the world we are in. In the need for this, in our uncompromising search, and in our methodic insistence on the necessity of what we do, the generosity of the sciences and the arts will give rise to breakthroughs, which throughout European history have given humans and society discoveries, which technologically, culturally and socially have created prosperous societies, which have given humans a life and possibilities that we surely could dream of, but of which we could not foresee the consequence.

Niels Bohr: ”Returning to the general epistemological lesson which atomic physics has given us, we must in the first place realize that the closed processes studied in quantum physics are not directly analogous to biological functions for the maintenance of which a continual exchange of matter and energy between the organism and the environments is required. Moreover, any experimental arrangement which would permit control of such functions to the extent demanded for their well-defined description in physical terms would be prohibitive to the free display of life. This very circumstance, however, suggests an attitude to the problem of organic life providing a more appropriate balance between a mechanistic and a finalistic approach.”

It means that life and society are not science, but an organism where all parts play together in an unpredictable network of combinations, and for this very reason the form of our society has been given the dynamics that it has.

That one has today politically accepted the neo-liberal com- petition state idea’s claim to be able to control and govern free research and art in such a way that one can maximize and streamline free research and art towards results that are sup- posed to fulfil a growth dogma’s claim for still larger returns understood as a financial maximizing of purely abstract character, is a claim that is completely unrealistic.

The attempt to govern and control citizens, research, and art has formerly been tried without much success, and regrettably the Soviet Union’s scientific Marxism’s materialism has many parallels to the competition state’s belief in the scientification of the citizens’ behavior.

Ove K. Pedersen, The Competition State: “What can we mean when we talk about the opportunistic personality and what kind of pedagogy must be developed to educate said personality? The answer must be the rational pedagogy that educates people to be guided or motivated by economic incentives. A pedagogy that has as its purpose to give the individual conditions in order to be able to realize him or herself through exploitation of incentives.”

And further on in the text: “In these explanations the person is nothing without his or hers professionalism; he/she is not ascribed any meaning relating to one’s self, is not ascribed any independent virtues or character traits, or the basis for an outlook on life altogether. Instead the person is here an empty shell, which it is the task of professionalism to fill out.”

The competition state’s idea that it can govern and control itself to a better world stands in a weird disparity to the neo- liberalistic notion that society is the sum of self-interest and the absolute commercial freedom of speech to exploit the earth’s shared resources to produce junk in large numbers, which no one needs and which the world would be better off without.

Aeschylus, a Greek poet living five hundred years before Christ, lets his hero in a play say “money is the worst currency that ever grew about mankind...”

Now it is not necessarily either or, and today’s award recipient is probably delighted for this day’s generous presentation. And if money is a catalyst that creates real values, and if there is covering for the abstractions, it is mightily practical.

Rent is not an unpredictable occurrence.

The society that most strongly meets the new global world is the society that sets free its individual citizen’s creative potential in the best possible way.

In order for the individual citizen to be able to develop his or hers creative abilities, one must know oneself as a whole human being of flesh and blood with a head, arms and legs.

In the digital word, which has become an integral part of our reality, it is decisive that our future generations and we train our own “computer”, that is to say ourselves. This happens when we understand ourselves as whole human beings. This is what the physical disciplines does, in particular art and crafts’ contact with tools and materials. They train our senses so that we can form an independent picture of reality.

Craft is one of humanity’s oldest methods of perceiving and forming our world. Through the development of tools and their use know-how to the qualities of materials we have created a knowledge and a language to describe and develop new ways of seeing and understanding the world.

Since the beginning of the Academies in Europe art and craft have in principle shared a basis in experience and tradition. But with Modernism we are removed from each other, as Asger Jorn said, “idleness is the root of all evil” and -

Asger Jorn, Value and Economy: “Left-wing artists and intellectuals have played a rather peculiar role in popular modern progress, full of significance but at the same time regarded with a strong distrust. One did not know what to make of them and at the same time there was a need for them. The materialistically oriented workers’ movement especially had difficulty in understanding these vague idealists struggling for something that only seemed to impoverish their own position. That capitalist economists like Adam Smith regarded the whole of this group as a flock of worthless parasites in society is so well known that it is hardly worth mentioning. The point of view could also be advanced that one could at least demand of a group calling itself intellectual and fighting for a new economic system that they were intelligent enough to demonstrate the economic basis to which they themselves were entitled. This is what I have tried to do here.”

In this time we live in where common knowledge and common values are constantly up for discussion it is, as Jorn declared, the role of art to create its own necessity from one work to the next. Nothing is granted and can be taken for granted, the situation is serious but not hopeless, the situation is hopeless but not serious, we are all the in the same boat, except the drowned.

The discussion is: Should we create growth for each other or create growth separately?
Do we acknowledge that there are limits to growth – and that we need limitless love.
We must acknowledge that as human kind is now, we are directly responsible for the state of things: Nature is culture but culture is not nature The African needs to look out for the elephant, what do we need to look out for?

Our Darwinistic Modernist belief that humankind is becoming more and more reasonable and that the sciences are achieving a complete and undeniable explanation might still be a moralistic Utopia. But we have to realize that everytime we solve a problem we create at least two new problems.

Ørsted says at some point that society rests on 3 columns: Science, Law and Art. With this in mind, we who have received the generous new thinking and creation of values as a gift from earlier generations are bound to from our own fixed place to create the new thinking for the future.

So from this: A thank to foundations such as Kirsten and Freddy Johansen Foundation, but specifically a request to our politicians: consider that it is the open European cultures that have created our wealth, so set research and art and their institutions free again, for nothing can you take but everything you can hear from God.

I shall have to give a greater spirit than myself the final words.

Niels Bohr: “Having touched upon some of the problems in science which relate to the unity of knowledge, I shall turn to the further question raised in our programme, whether there is a poetical or spiritual or cultural truth distinct from scientific truth. With all the reluctance of a scientist to enter into such fields, I shall venture, with an attitude similar to that indicated in the preceding, to comment on this question. Taking up the argument of the relation between our means of expression and the field of experience with which we are concerned, we are indeed directly confronted with the relationship of science and art. The enrich- ment which art can give us originates in its power to remind us of harmonies beyond the grasp of systematic analysis. Literary, pictorial and musical art may be said to form a sequence of mo- des of expression, where the ever more extensive renunciation of definition, characteristic of scientific communication, leaves fantasy a freer display. In particular, in poetry this purpose is achieved by the juxtaposition of words related to shifting observational situations, thereby emotionally uniting manifold aspects of human knowledge.”

This speech could probably have been more celebratory, and celebrate we shall. I am an optimist; man’s unique ability to use his opportunities is unquenchable.

And tomorrow the sun will rise again.