Museums Corner | A year under the star of philosophy

On 5 May 2013, the world-famous Danish philosopher and social critic Søren Kierkegaard would have turned 200 years old. His double-centenary is to be celebrated at home and abroad with events taking place on five different continents. Below is a guide to the museum exhibitions in and around Copenhagen that are going to celebrate Kierkegaard and his crucial role in the development of existentialism, a still highly relevant philosophy that concerns the truths and enigmas that shape our lives: religion, ethics, love, seduction, anxiety, despair, humour, doubt and irony.

How do modern beings experience the world? Perhaps as aesthetes who revel in the beauty of life, but are unable to commit to anything? Perhaps as critical ethicists guided by rational thinking, unafraid of responsibility and repetition? In Kierkegaard’s 1843 work Either/Or (originally Enten ? Eller), the philosopher presents two life views – one aesthetic and the other ethical – in a philosophical study of human behaviour. The group exhibition Either/Or in Nikolaj Kunsthal’s Upper Gallery celebrates Kierkegaard’s birthday with a loving and critical look at today’s world. In the gallery a variety of art works are paired up – ethical facing aesthetic – leaving it up to the audience to navigate between these two dimensions of life.
Nikolaj Kunsthal, Nikolaj Plads 10, Cph K; started March 16, ends May 19, open 12:00-17:00

Kierkegaard and the Golden Age
From April 24, you can explore the world of Kierkegaard in the period rooms of the Golden Age at the Museum of National History. The exhibition displays paintings of the people and the city that helped shape Kierkegaard’s thinking. The museum has dug up quotes from the philosopher’s personal diaries to give the audience a unique insight into Kierkegaard’s relationships with the illustrious gallery of characters that surrounded him in 19th century Denmark.
Frederiksborg Castle, the Museum of National History, Hillerød; starts April 25, ends Nov 11, open 10:00-17:00

Works and objects of love 
The Museum of Copenhagen presents a collection of objects and exhibits inspired by Kierkegaard’s reflections on the nature of love. Key objects from Kierkegaard’s domestic-life – the engagement ring he gave to Regine Olsen, teacups, pipes, and the desk at which he wrote many of his works – will be complemented by newly collected objects donated by the museum’s visitors. Donated objects will come from the private ‘museums’ of visitors’ homes and will represent events in their lives that have had great emotional importance. Every object is tied to, or inspired by, a particular dimension of love – be it brotherly, romantic or erotic.
Museum of Copenhagen, Vesterbrogade 59, Cph V; starts May 5, open 10:00-17:00

Kierkegaard in the time of cholera
Kierkegaard’s Copenhagen was not for the faint-hearted. The link between hygiene and disease had not yet been discovered, which meant that doctors did not necessarily wash their hands after an operation, which in turn allowed for such travesties as the cholera epidemic to rage. Kierkegaard himself died 158 years ago in Frederik’s Hospital. At the Medical Museion you can hear how such concepts as disease and health were understood in Kierkegaard’s time. A guided tour includes an insight into the historical development of surgery, psychiatry, obstetrics, medical care and pharmacy care. You will soon discover that the so-called ‘good old days’ may not have been so good after all, particularly if you were in poor health.
Medical Museion, Bredgade 62, Cph K; open Wed- Fri & Sun 12:00-16:00

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