NYC artist Chris Rini on Danish monoculture, female violence, and how to spend 24 hours in Copenhagen

Chris Rini is an artist from New York City and the director and illustrator of the website bloodyelbow.

In our My Copenhagen series, international creatives give us their impressions of the Danish capital.

Chris Rini is an artist from New York City and the director and illustrator of the website bloodyelbow.

He is currently hosting an art documentary film series about AI and the arts at Husets Biograf. The next screening – taking place on October 19 – will be the movie CRUMB, directed by Terry Zwigoff. It will open the discussion on AI’s impact on the artist’s creative process.

He also documents Christiania in an illustrated journalism piece for which he is still looking for a publisher.

Where do you look for inspiration for your work?
I look at the body in motion and new forms that have never been seen before. This allows me to create a new visual representation of what violence is and how it allows men and women to express a different side of themselves.

I watch combat sports for a certain kind of catharsis. When I watch somebody truly struggling to overcome challenges in a cage fight, I deeply feel respect for them. Watching women being violent and being rewarded for it is very unique – as opposed to the traditional ideas of having to live out femininity. This kind of sport is not only about violence, but a much more complex set of emotions and motivations can be found.

My work is really about people trying to experience some sort of self-realization or personal redemption.

What are you most proud of creating and why?
My books. I have always wanted to publish books. I got hired to do regular editorial cartoons for a website and that allowed me to invest in doing a book series called The Fine Art of Violence. It is about the human body in motion – which is my subject matter – mixed with martial arts. I am actually about to publish my fourth book and that is something I am really proud of.

I settled in Denmark because this place is like Candyland. It’s like a fairy tale. I grew up in New York City during the crack epidemic of the 1980s. I’ve seen the city get better, but now it’s becoming a one-percenter playground. And here I feel like I can live a relatively luxurious life compared to what I had in America. The whole society is wealthy, not only one individual.

If you ask me if it was love at first sight, I would say… it was terrifying. After having lived in New York City for 43 years, I came to a new place where everything was strange and different. The war in Ukraine had just happened – making it scary at first but also exciting. It was like jumping out of a plane when you are not a hundred percent sure that parachutes are going to work.

My favourite observation about the Danes is that they are very straightforward. If you ask a Dane for information, they will always be helpful. I was really surprised by that, especially in a municipal setting like Copenhagen. While Danes have a reputation for not being friendly – on a very practical level – I have found Danes to be extremely helpful.

In Denmark, I never got used to many people not being able to accept foreigners living in Denmark and wanting everything to be Danish. I’ve gotten into some tough conversations with Danes, who thought it would be better to live in a monoculture. As an interracial person, I was really shocked by that statement. I don’t think people realize how extreme their views are on wanting to keep people with different nationalities separate. There is not only one way to be American or Danish, it is important to let other people’s ideas in. People can coexist.

Jeg kan tale… Har du sovet godt? Which means ‘Did you sleep well?’
I’ve been avoiding learning Danish. I wanted to focus on meeting people and building a network the first year, but now I should really start. I have been a terrible student my whole life, so it takes a little courage to return to the classroom.

My perfect 24 hours in Copenhagen would be… spending the day in the parks with my kids. The green spaces really are exceptional here. Afterwards, I would eat ramen outside – there is a good place in Østerbro. Next, I would attend a concert by the amazing Danish band called VS Doom with my wife and just dance the night away, followed by a good cappuccino at midnight somewhere in the city. It is an amazing place, and very romantic.

Something I’m excited to explore is… the gallery scene. I met another artist and we agreed we are going to attend more openings together. I have met some lovely people there who are doing great stuff. So, one of my goals is to attend more gallery openings in Copenhagen.

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