Caroline Berner Kühl has always longed to go abroad to reside in cities defined by greater diversity. Art is her biggest passion and she’s especially fond of the kind that’s relevant to and reflects on our way of living.
What turning points helped define who you are today?
I grew up in Esbjerg and moved to Copenhagen at the age of 14. Growing up I was left out just for doing well at school. We all took dance lessons, which I also mastered. In Denmark, you’re not supposed to diverge from the norm, but I had learned from home: You can, you must, and you will. Go!
My mother was also somewhat different. She’s ten years younger than my father, and she was this young woman from Copenhagen who dressed a bit too loud and cared about style and aesthetics. She went to Paris and shopped Cacharel (ed. French ready-to-wear brand) for me. This might not be that odd in Copenhagen, but in Esbjerg, at the time, this was just crazy. Not so much because of the prices but just the notion of it. I knew my mother was different. As a child you are fully aware of these things.
Growing up I was fascinated by fashion. I watched a documentary about the murder of Gianni Versace over and over again. This would never happen in Denmark. Only abroad. So, early on, I realized that if you want to experience something out of the ordinary, you have to leave Denmark. Perhaps it’s my upbringing and never feeling like I fit in but travelling has always appealed tremendously to me.
At 16, I visited New York for the first time with my mother and brother, and immediately I knew that I wanted to live there some day. Studying abroad was always a plan. First step on the way was an exchange in Montreal and after a detour at Copenhagen Business School, I moved to London and studied Art History. Here I got consumed with meeting new cultures, seeing other people and generally experiencing a greater diversity and multiethnicity than in Denmark.
You might have an idea what defines diversity but confronted with people you’re not accustomed to changes you – also politically. You are forced to make up your mind about yourself and your beliefs.
Three years ago, I moved from London to New York. Here I studied creative publishing and critical journalism. My boyfriend at the time already lived there, and I decided to make the move. Just three days after arrival, I knew we weren’t meant to be together anymore. So, there I was – all alone. It was the right thing to do, yet quite arduous. But I learned, that it’s fine to be alone without a safety net. This has meant that I’m not afraid to be out of my depth. Actually, I might have become a bit too good at being on my own. I think I’m very realistic. You might be surrounded by family and friends; but in the end you’re alone. And that’s actually okay.
What does a typical work day look like?
I’m a freelancer, which means I don’t have typical work days, and then again. At the moment my days are actually somewhat typical. My part time job at the art fair Code suits me really well. I would find it extremely difficult showing up daily at the same place from 9-17. I would end up feeling trapped. I need structure, but I’m also a fan of managing my own time. It gives me time to work on FAT Magazine, which I love. It also allows me to do yoga. Which I don’t do, but I could. And just the idea of this is awesome.
What does art mean to you?
A lot. Almost everything. It’s what interests me, it’s my field of study and it’s my work. To me, art becomes really interesting, when it tells us something about the way we live. When it makes us question stuff, we don’t normally think about, because we tend to live in a bubble. It can consist of a political element or some sort of relevance to society.
Somewhat a cliché, Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party is the work of art that made the biggest impression on me lately. Produced in the 1970’s and exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum in their feminist wing, it displays a triangular table set for 39 famous women, who have all left their mark on history. Virginia Woolf, Georgia O’Keeffe, Sojourner Truth, just to name a few. The table is placed on a tiled floor inscribed with the names of 999 women equally important. Small sculptures in the shape of the female genitalia, flowers or a butterfly decorates each setting and a red carpet with the guest’s name embroidered on and small symbols that complement the traditional female crafts, which isn’t acknowledged as art like other traditional art forms. It left me with a sense of affinity to other women and made me reflect on how we as women can get better at forming communities. Men do it all the time.
What does gender mean to you?
It changes the more I gain insight into the battles women have fought on behalf of our gender throughout history. But also recognizing the battles ahead. We think of men and women as equal, but it’s only just recently, that women in Ireland can have an abortion performed legally – the right to their own bodies. We have a long way to go even in the Western world. I find it difficult being a woman, well knowing how privileged I am compared to most women. Even in the United States you feel the difference between man and woman more strongly than here. But I also believe that you can make the biggest changes at your own home ground, or at least that is a place to start. Here I am not talking about just the category women, but all minorities. There is so much to fight for when it comes to feminism, sexuality and gender – everything is equally and extremely important.
What annoys you?
Lots of things. I’m not a fan of cyclists. People in public spaces are likely to annoy me. And people with bad queue behaviour, who don’t know how to grocery shop. Noisy kids at cafés… It seems to me, that people think they are not supposed to educate their children anymore.
What’s important to you?
Love in all relations. No matter, if it’s friends or family. Time spent alone balanced with time spent with others. Balance, that’s generally a thing for me, because I’m quite extreme in the things I do. It’s important to find a balance between too little and too much.