Aalborg Anti-Artwashing Agreement
A public artwork produced by f.eks (Scott Raby and Rikke Ehlers)
Aalborg, Denmark — 2019

AAAA was an event-based public artwork that sought to encourage interactions between the artistic, public, corporate, and governmental interests in Aalborg’s transformation from an industrial city to a cultural destination. AAAA was based on the analysis that cities in transformation are at risk of art-washing by complacent administrators and opportunistic property developers, which leads to the displacement of communities and the defaulting to canonised artist practices.

The project generated its thesis upon a detailled institutional analysis of the stakeholders interests at a national and local level. Furthermore, it hooked into two points of  local history and their economies of exploitation for location marketing. One is the history of Aalborg as a maritime city with it’s current practices of re-marketing this through imagery of classic yacht racing. The other is of Aalborg as marketing itself as a center for policy innovation, as it was the host for the first international sustainability cities agreement (The Aalborg Charter, 1994).

After this analysis, a conversation and mediation process began. The project team forged links between f.eks as a production platform and local artists in Aalborg who had until this point been excluded from municipal cultural policy processes. Heistinger and Garnicnig established a common understanding of the need for artists to engage actively with legislative processes of cultural policy to push for a change from concepts of innovation to concepts of maintenance and care.

They then strategically over-affirmed the need of the municipality to create images of renewal and innovation within the context of maritime history and urban geography, fulfilling the requirements of local marketing directives. The artists staged a sailboat journey along the scenic shores of the Limfjord in Aalborg’s center. Sailing the three mast schooner under the flag of ‘SV Policy Transformation’, a workshop and discussion with all participants took place on deck, ultimately ratifying the Aalborg Anti-Artwashing Agreement. The collective voyage landed in the harbour and dramatically staged the delivery of a scroll signed by hundreds of stakeholders to local legislators.

The project yielded an unexpected long-term result. The AAAA branding developed in the process was taken over by the newly established local arts network (  and remains the spearhead of artistic critique towards urban innovation and renewal projects hurting local communities. This group has now become a vital and independent part of the cultural policy process in Aalborg, which came just at the time when a paradigm shift needed to take place  due to the collapse of the international tourism industry.

The project weaves together 1000 years of history, reaching back to viking settlements, industrial heritage and the particular local sprawls of contemporary capitalism – such as cruise ship tourism and real estate developments – to create a narrative backdrop for a performance taking cues from publicity stunts and activist interventions.

I DO ART, September 2019
Birgitte Sonne in Nordijske, 4.10.2019