My meals with Hornsleth

Benn Q. Holm


Nearly all of Hornsleth's works are bombastic orgies, colorful at the edge of being deliberately sensational, extremely critical of culture while at the same time zealously dressed in the very same gaudy fashions of culture, they are full of words and opinions and absurdity. They are leaflets from heaven tossed out of a little plane with a propeller and a Hornsleth publicity banner fluttering behind it, they are proclamations.
Then is it political art too?

Well, that is a good question, but in any case it is humorous art, and that is not such a bad idea. All things considered, you can attach a lot of concepts to Hornsleth's art and that testifies to an impressive ambiguity, which is generally imposing and never impotent. A certain sense of doubt is always present when you stand in front of one on Hornsleth's works, these scarecrows in fashionable surroundings, and in the end the sense of uncertainty can be summed up like so: Is he taking the piss out of us?

Yeah and ye-es and then in spite of that, no, because in any case these provocative touches and exquisitely bad manners are an integrated part of the Hornslethian commando raids. And these bad table manners from the artist sitting at the place of honor at a formal and very seriously disposed dinner table are obviously not simply due to a poor upbringing, but are an expression of a carefully produced strategy, which obviously enough could not be staged so consistently if Hornsleth did not have the bizarre and fantastic and sometimes trying abilities to assume the role of the enfant terrible at the table, acting its ironic and impertinent inquisitive guest, never the polite and gallant dinner partner, and never the direct opposite either, but first and foremost chattering and eating, because he is also endowed with a ferocious appetite.

I know this with certainty, since I have consumed a few meals with Hornsleth over time.

We have also gone out, that is on a binge, but he is no good at that. When the rest of us have bloodshot eyes and a worsening slur, are clinging to yet another large draft or a double gin and tonic, Hornsleth just sits there in his smoky vapors with milky white coffee, unaffected by the intoxicated chaos that surrounds him, and continuing to resolutely talk about whatever it is that is absorbs and affects him, and there is always something or other that does, and if not, then there is always a new project we should hear about, possibly contribute to, or sponsor.

This is not a private text, maybe it is a portrait of an artist, I don't know, but I know that I can only toss a few hunks onto the table of curiosity: I once made Hornsleth an open-faced sandwich with potatoes, ultra-thin onion rings and thick brushes of mayonnaise, with a dash of salt and pepper. He still talks about it, seventeen years after we ate our sandwich in Valby, an unromantic district of Copenhagen. There have been countless other meals, and most of them are long forgotten, digested by time. One of the more unforgettable meals was one in Florence, when he started off by consuming a 1000 gram steak, plus huge portions of salad and French fries, after which he ordered a new steak (that was before he became a vegetarian). And that meal in Florence took place when we were still young and extremely poor starving artists. The concept of living according to one's means has never meant anything to Hornsleth; I simply do not believe that he understands it. Since then we have eaten meals at restaurants in Berlin and Warsaw, at takeaway stands in the provinces and middle class cottages on the northern coast of Denmark, and vegetarian or not, his appetite is the same.

Some people do not need alcohol and its liberating effects, which can be rather difficult to comprehend especially for Scandinavians. In Hornsleth's case, a poor explanation may be that he is equipped by nature with an innate ability to be intoxicated without the use of intoxicants - not that he should be proclaimed to be ascetic for that reason. He simply does not need all of these stimuli to the same extent that other artists (and people in general) do. By now, as his extensive production attests, he has an unquenchable thirst for reality, an incorrigible ability to sink his teeth into the signs of the times – now the clichés are beginning to line up – under all circumstances, I do not believe that he will ever learn to sit still at the table.

In the end, and now we are jumping from Hornsleth the connoisseur of living to Hornsleth the artist, there is surprisingly little sensitivity or contemplative stillness present in his works. Of course, this is because, he has chosen to such a large degree to sneer at the times in the language of these times. The fear of drowning in the huge chorus can be an unrivalled source of energy and inspiration. It is well-known that fear eats at our souls, and as Iggy Pop, one of Hornsleth's many beloved icons, sings, "Eat or be eaten!"

As an artist, Hornsleth is in principle a glutton and not all of his pieces are for sensitive souls. If he were an author, he would presumably write brick-thick, trippy, docu-(sur)realistic novels – a cross between Bret Easton Ellis and a tabloid; if he were a film director, he would fall somewhere between Peter Greenaway's stylized symbols and Pedro Almodovar's nutty earnestness; if he were a musician, he would very likely make noise rock, with some unthinkable touches of John Cage, and I could go on. Incidentally, he was educated as an architect and studied geology at Copenhagen University. But that was long ago, and now he is one of very few artists who really dare to lay it on thick.


Benn Q. Holm, Danish writer based in Copenhagen, 2005
Translated from Danish by Pamela Starbird


This text was published the first time in the book Fuck You Art Lovers Forever,
Kristian von Hornsleth, Futilistic Publishing, Copenhagen 2005.

You can buy the book on www.hornsleth.com