Cover image for the Hypotheticals 2 debate at Aarhus 2017 Capital of Culture

The world is up for debate at Aarhus 

Raquel Robayo is a Swedish-Colombian first-year master’s student at Copenhagen Business School and Aarhus 2017 student ambassador for the British Council Denmark. She reports on the Hypotheticals debates at Aarhus Capital of Culture 2017

Experts from the fields of politics, culture, the arts and academia from Denmark and around the world join Danish TV personality Clement Kjersgaard in four panel discussions at Aarhus Teater

I joined an audience of around 700 people to hear the second debate in the series: Is community a thing of the past?

Little guy vs. big business: Whose side is the state on?

First on stage was Guy Standing, British Professor of Development Studies and co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network, which advocates basic income for all citizens.

Standing underlined the advantage of moving towards a socialist society. He criticised the way large corporations enjoy exclusive benefits in much of the western world. This, he said, results in  major discrepancies in class, income and community. 

Social entrepreneur Steffen Rasmussen criticised today’s welfare state system and said he believed welfare should be tailored to the individual. 

Tinna C. Nielsen, founder of the not for profit organisation Move The Elephant For Inclusiveness, suggested that fair recruitment could be improved by companies assessing job candidates on how they solve job-related tasks rather than the usual system of ‘first impressions’ interviews, which are more liable to unconscious bias.

What threatens our community?

Jan-Werner Müller, German professor and author of the highly acclaimed book What is populism?, urged for a return to the original meaning of the word ‘populism’. He claimed that nowadays anyone with an opinion not considered mainstream is at risk of being labelled as ‘populist’ or even ‘extremist’. 

Populist movements, Professor Müller said, tend to point towards terrorism and the rise of Islamism as the biggest threats facing democratic society. The question, he said, should instead be: Should we trust and believe all we see and hear?

Professor of Political Science at Aarhus University, Mehdi Mozaffari, focused on the misinterpretation of Islam as a major threat to society. He highlighted the importance of understanding the religion to accept it in a community.  

A Muslim himself, Mozaffari believes that there is good awareness among Danes about the basics of Islam, but suggested that there are problems that Danish society still needs to address such as how second generation Muslim immigrants can feel fully integrated in Danish society. 

Community and society: The secrets to happiness?

‘Being part of a society makes people happy’, said Danish psychologist Svend Brinkmann. Brinkmann drew on his own work in which he suggests that feeling part of a fellowship can boost a person’s motivation, and in which he urges people to be less self-focussed.

However, feminist activist and journalist Emma Holten expressed her concerns that the concept of ‘community’ is increasingly being used to advocate a more homogenous society.

‘Women deliver more than babies’

A highlight was hearing Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver which advocates women’s and girls’ rights, discuss the social contribution that women have made.

‘Women deliver more than babies and the world wins when we invest in women,’ she said, and stressed the need for more female leaders and managers.

But author Geeti Amiri, herself a second generation immigrant, emphasised that society still needs to support and value those women who regard family life as their calling. 

Having grown up in Denmark, Amiri spoke of her struggle to find an identity that was both Danish and Afghan. She likened her challenges to those faced by many young immigrants – particularly, she said, when moving between private and public spheres.  

And TV2 host and journalist Leny Malacinski, author of The Day I Discovered I was Suppressed, explained why she is not a feminist.

Today’s feminism, she said, tends to have an oppressive narrative. In her words, the worst thing you can be in today’s society is ‘a white man’. 

The third series of the Hypotheticals will take place on 10 September where the theme will be Life and survival: About sustainability.

The audience enjoying the Hypothericals debate. Photo (C)

About Aarhus European Capital of Culture 2017

Throughout 2017, the Danish city of Aarhus and the 18 other municipalities in the Central Denmark Region will celebrate a year as European Capital of Culture. This is one of the most prestigious and prominent cultural events in Europe. Every year, two EU countries are appointed as host countries for the European Capital of Culture. Pafos in Cyprus is also a European Capital of Culture 2017.

In 1996, Copenhagen became the first Danish city to host the European Capital of Culture, and it will be many years before a Danish city can boast the title again. Aarhus 2017 is based on strong mutual cooperation across the entire region. The central theme of the year, "Let’s Rethink", explores the history of DNA throughout the year, asking important questions about what is kept and what is let go as we move into the future.

Many cultural partnerships and collaborations will evolve from the celebrations, which touch on every aspect of Danish culture, from contemporary architecture to pageants of the country’s Viking past. Danish and other European masterpieces will be reworked, new icons will be invented and prototypes and experiments can all be expected from this exciting, creative year of culture.

Featured British artists at Aarhus

Below you will find profiles of a selection of featured British artists who form part of the year-long European Capital of Culture events and activities.


Wayne McGregor was born in Stockport in 1970 and studied dance at the University of Leeds and the José Limón School in New York. In 1992 he founded Random Dance (now Company Wayne McGregor) and in 2006 he became Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet. His works for the The Royal Ballet include Multiverse, Woolf Works, Raven Girl, Carbon Life, Infra and Chroma.

McGregor’s interest in cross-discipline collaboration has produced critically acclaimed work that brings together dance, film, music, visual art, technology and science. McGregor is regularly commissioned by and has works in the repertories of the most important ballet companies around the world, including Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. He has directed movement for theatre, film and music videos, including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the Grammy-nominated Lotus Flower for Radiohead.

Wayne McGregor has won numerous prizes for his work, including two Olivier Awards, and was awarded a CBE for Services to Dance in 2011. Speaking to The Stage about his creative process, he referred to his creations not as a series of individual works, but as a continuous process, stating that each piece was a ‘key frame’ in something larger.



Nathan Coley is one of Scotland’s best-known artists. For the duration of 2017 Coley has devised ten temporary illuminated text works known as ‘fairy light attractions’ that will be shown at a number of key locations across Jutland. The artworks will be mounted on scaffolding and consist of the kind of small, flashing crystal lights we know from the theme parks. The title, THE SAME FOR EVERYONE, brings attention to one of the most treasured of Danish values, namely 'equality for all'.

Find out more about Nathan Coley's work on the Aarhus 2017 website.


I wanted to visit places that in one way or another identified themselves with communities. The works need a response from their audience. (Nathan Coley)


Nathan Coley, born in 1967 in Glasgow, Scotland, is a contemporary artist, who in 2007 was nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize. He studied art at the Glasgow School of Art between 1985 and 1989 and works and lives in Glasgow. His works have been exhibited at numerous prestigious international exhibitions and museums: The 19th Sydney Biennale 2014; The Theatre of the World, Museo Tamayo, Mexico; The 13th Istanbul Biennale 2013; Bergen Kunsthal, Bergen, Norway; Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh; GENERATION, Royal Academy of Art, Edinburgh and Westfälischer Kunstverein, Munster, Germany.

Nathan Coley official website


Anohni is the Aarhus 2017 Artist-in-Residence. During her residency, Anohni will record with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, develop new work in mixed media, present several exhibitions as a visual artist and collaborator in venues across the city, and perform for one night only in a unique live concert at the Musikhuset Aarhus on the 18th November 2017. 

I deeply hope that Scandinavian countries will continue to uphold their models of socialism as prototypes for the rest of the world. We can’t afford for anxiety to erode Denmark’s noble conviction that socialist values are core human values. (Anohni)

Find out more information about Anohni's work on the official Aarhus 2017 website.


Born in England and living in NYC, Anohni first gained international prominence upon winning the UK’s Mercury prize in 2005 for her album 'I Am a Bird Now' with her band Antony and the Johnsons. Anohni's unique voice led to performances with symphonies around the world, collaborations with artists including Lou Reed, Charles Atlas, Marina Abramovic and Bjork, and exhibitions in select museums and at Sikkema Jenkins gallery in NYC. In 216 Anohni was nominated for an Oscar for her contribution to the song 'Manta Ray', an address to the world’s dying coral reefs. Her latest album HOPELESSNESS is a collaboration with Hudson Mohawke and OPN, and uses dance music to explore themes of ecocide, drone warfare and global virulence.

Anohni official website


Presented by Blast Theory,  2097: We Made Ourselves Over is an Aarhus 2017 commission in collaboration with Hull, UK City of Culture 2017. The ground breaking theatrical group will use the year to create a work that expands experience through use of technology, social media platforms and audience interaction. The audience will be taken on an unexpected journey in the imaginatively crafted spaces of an unknown city in the year 2097 - a blended place merging Aarhus and the UK City of Culture, Hull.

We’ll be working with communities across both Hull UK City of Culture 2017 and Aarhus European Capital of Culture 2017 to create a vision of possible futures, culminating in a series of public happenings. (Blast Theory)


Blast Theory, based in Brighton, UK, is renowned internationally as one of the most adventurous artists’ groups using interactive media, creating groundbreaking new forms of performance and interactive art that mixes audiences across the internet, live performance and digital broadcasting. Led by Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr and Nick Tandavanitj, the group’s work explores the social and political aspects of technology. Drawing on popular culture and games, the work often blurs the boundaries between the real and the fictional.

Blast Theory official website 


Pride, the opposite of humility, is the worst sin among the Seven Deadly Sins, but how would it be portrayed today? The British artist, Rebecca Louise Law, uses real flowers in an exhibition at Skovgaard Museum, Viborg, to investigate. A floral installation reminds us that pride comes before a fall as decaying flowers comment on the passing of time, the definition of beauty, and on the ephemeral and momentary. Her work provokes thoughts about a world increasingly virtual and polluted, with few places left untouched by humans. 

Find out more about the work of Rebecca Louise Law on the official Aarhus 2017 website.

 Absolutely nothing is wasted. It all goes into my archive. (Rebecca Louise Law)


Rebecca Louise Law is an Installation Artist based in East London, specialising in artworks made with natural materials, namely flora. Notable commissions include ‘The Flower Garden Display’d’, (The Garden Museum, London), ‘The Grecian Garden’ (Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens), ‘Outside In’ (Times Square, New York) and ‘The Beauty of Decay’ (Chandran Gallery, San Francisco). Law’s work has also been exhibited by Bo. Lee Gallery, Broadway Studio & Gallery and at sites such as the Royal Academy and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Visit the official Rebecca Louise Law website


Ella Marchment

Ella Marchment is Artistic Director of Helios Collective and Director of Productions at Constella OperaBallet. She is currently part of the Steering Committee for Operatic Mass Actions in Aarhus, Denmark. Having worked on over one hundred opera and theatre productions throughout Europe and produced many events that span opera, ballet, musicals, comedy, club nights and installations, her directing credits are numerous. They include the International Opera Awards at The London Coliseum, Alexander Goehr’s Tryptich at Mariinsky II, an opera–ballet production of Stravinsky’s Renard, and an acclaimed international tour of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s Eight Songs For A Mad King, which was described by Opera Now as one of the best productions worldwide in 2014.

Ella's opera-play, Hathaway was shown at the Copenhagen Opera Festival, and An Evening With Lucian Freud, starring Cressida Bonas, was a sell-out in the West End. Ella is also co-founder of Theatre N16, a company that promotes new plays and opera adaptations. In 2016, she travelled to Denmark having been awarded the Artists International Development Fund by the British Council and Arts Council.

Ella is committed to solving problems regarding opera’s accessibility and is determined to create professional development opportunities for young artists. She particularly enjoys presenting opera with a twist. In 2015 she wrote and directed a play–opera adaptation of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger and also set up a series of Opera Club Nights in London. Her ability to think outside the box was recognised in 2015 with Ella becoming the first director to receive an International Opera Awards Foundation bursary. Building on this success, in 2016, International Opera Awards Foundation bursary was awarded to Helios Collective.  

Current and future engagements include directing Operatic Mass Actions at The International Living Theatre Festival in Aarhus,  Mad King Suibhne at Bury Court Opera, and a piece exploring the music of Austen's life at Grange Park Festival in September 2017. 


External links