InstantHERLEV institute is an exhibition organisation for site-specific projects run by artist and curator Anja Franke. InstantHERLEV institute has its base in Anja Franke’s private garden in an ordinary single-family house neighbourhood in the Copenhagen suburb of Herlev. Used as an open exhibition space presenting invited artists from around the world, the private space embraces a public space to enter into a new type of dialogue with citizens and visitors. The initial idea was to use the local municipality of Herlev as a microcosm of the larger global picture. Since then, InstantHERLEV institute has become mobile, operating in different contexts, able to change and move, depending on people’s presence and stories.

InstantHERLEV institute works as a platform for artists, architects and designers to exchange knowledge and ideas and form new networks. Across cultures and urban environments, the organisation initiates projects in a 1:1 scale, investigating and questioning the relationship between the private and the public, the local and the global, art and life.

InstantHERLEV institute constitutes an urban micro-zone where temporary aesthetic and political works as well as social situations are produced. The projects at InstantHERLEV institute are characterized by an artistic attitude focusing on the world of acts and experimenting with the transgressions of various economies. Frequently they form concrete solutions to global problems on a local level as part of a wish to change everyday life.

Reflection after Visiting Instant Herlev institute/ June 13th, 2014.

by Abigale Stangl, Colorado, USA. Human Centered Computing Researcher, PhD Student.

I see a pile of dirt lining the street in this ordinary Copenhagen neighborhood. There is something going on here. The disrupted facade of the typical suburban yard is that of Instant Herlev; a place in motion, an environment of change, a sanctuary for ephemeral feelings of place, and the deepest roots of culture.

2014-06-06 12.23.15 kopiI have been here before. And yet I have not. The yard has been cleared. It is almost (but not really) a blank slate. As Anja and I walk the property I cannot help but see, in my minds eye, four projects that have subsequently become unbound from the site: “The Beach”, “Under the Cherry Tree”, “The Walking House“, and “The Front Garden Kitchen.

These projects have been entrenched into my memory. I watched them change this space into a vessel for exploration and expression for those who live here, visit, observe, and create. The transformation that Instant Herlev institute initiates is more than physical. It is intellectual, spiritual; it is about revealing the roots of perception of the land that we live upon. It is about how place can change us, as much as we change place. It is also about how life changes and how this change is reflected in the environment even before our conscious mind can understand. My memory of these projects plays with my consciousness.

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Four years after my first visit to the site the change I see is as much in my self as it is in the asphalt that has been broken apart, the hedges that have been dug out, the fences that have been moved, or the buildings that have been moved. These materials have been broken down from their original form, hopefully to be recycled into another cultural landscape. In this breaking down, however, roots and hidden treasures have been reveled to create a new idea.

Time has instilled a refreshed focus on the basic tactility of the earth and infrastructure that supports modern, suburban living. When the topsoil is cleared, roots are first unbound. The soil is fresh. When the sun hits the earth, it cracks. Basins of exposed earth are created before water infiltrates the cracks, and new plants take hold. With the passage of time, plants and ideas slowly evolve into something new.

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I have been here and yet I have not. When I stand upon the cleared earth I realize the newness of the site depends on ones view and that which has been uncovered in the process of time. At the center of Instant Herlev institute an old sewer line and manhole cover has been reveled. It crests the center of the site, surrounded by exposed earth and invasive starter seedlings. The juxtaposition of the hard and the soft, the stable and unstable, the erosive and the permanent, reminds me that both exists. The memory of the past, and the ideas of the future—there is no clean slate.

Abigale Stangle, USA, 2014.



Text by Malene Vets Hansen, 2004.

WHEN CONSIDERING THE TOPIC OF PUBLIC ART many automatically think of an art object positioned in a public space. But what is publicspace? This question is problematized in contemporary, debate-specific art projects, which function as a new form of public art. A specialdemocratic kind—as defined by Art Historian Rosalyn Deutsche—since it does not establish lasting monuments to existing reality, but conversely seeks to question the current social order.

InstantHERLEV institute examines and challenges familiar interpretationsof spatial organisation. The unwonted placement and arrangement of contemporary artworks centred in and around the plot of Anja Franke’s private home raises a series of questions concerning private and public space, and the placement and role of art projects in these spaces. The individual projects consider and thematize Herlev in terms of time

InstantHERLEV institute temporarily introduces a new distinction to this suburban district, supplying a new angle on the familiar surroundings. This type of residential district is such a widespread phenomenon in Danish suburbs, that it can be difficult to see it. When visitors arrive to view an art exhibition, it suddenly becomes possible to see the neighbourhoodin a new light.

InstantHERLEV institute demonstrates—far more clearly than the artists and the curator involved could have imagined—that it does not take much for the neighbourhood to reveal the otherwise implicit rules and regulations which normatively control private life here. Who lives here is not only determined by residents’ financial status. There is a consensus on how people should be, certain rules on how to live.

InstantHERLEV institute happened to break the neighbourhood consensus on norms and thus encountered opposition. It illustrated how the harmony of a given urban space rests on the exclusion of certain conflicts, of otherness. A privet hedge was opened up to establish an entryway into the exhibition area in and around Anja Franke’s home. The objective was to establish a new limit to publicly accessible space. Two phenomena encountered particularly vehement opposition from the neighbours.

There are no tangible borders between public and private space; they are historico-cultural constructions. The definitions are intimately related to our notions of human condition and the kind of political society we desire. In other words, InstantHERLEV institute denotes the organization of urban space as an ideology and art as spatial politics.

Malene Vest Hansen, 2004.