Denmark: Theatrical performance about artistic freedom of expression

On 18 January 2013, a theatrical performance which focuses on the artistic freedom of expression versus artistic silence premieres at Theatre Grob in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Stalins stovler

Inspired by the reality and the whole matter surrounding the imprisonment of members of Pussy Riot in Russia, the show, entitled ‘Stalin’s Boots’, focuses on questions such as:

Why is the artist’s voice so dangerous to the political system, at least in totalitarian states?
What is the artist’s responsibility – in addition to his/her artistic work – if there is one?
Is the artist’s voice relevant in a free and democratic society such as ours?

Seminar on artistic freedom of expression
A seminar on 8 January 2013 — a so-called ‘Cultural Summit’ — on the topic was organised a week before the premiere, moderated by the Danish communication consultant Christian Have. The seminar, which targeted politicians, artists, journalists and opinionmakers, lead to an 11-minutes debate on national tv news, ‘Kulturen på TV2News’, the same evening with Rhea Leman and the artist Nadia Plesner.

The questions posed to the participants and the panel in the seminar were, among others:

What we use our artistic freedom in Denmark to?
When and why are artists dangerous for the government?
What does the artists’ silence in a free society?
And what does the artist silence in a totalitarian regime?


‘Stalin’s Boots’ is described as “a humorous portrait of Josef Stalin – the tyrant who persecuted and liquidated all real and potential opponents, including a wide range of contemporary Russian artists. It draws parallels to contemporary Russia with its political persecution of the Putin-critical punk collective Pussy Riot.”

On 11 January 2013, Christian Have wrote in his blog and newsletter:

“There is no doubt that the artistic freedom of expression around the world are under pressure. The examples are many, unfortunately, but we also see new problems emerge on the horizon. Apple’s ban on Peter Øvig’s ‘Hippie’ project is just one of many examples of limitations of the artistic freedom of expression in the new digital platforms, which we all must focus on in the future. As inspiration, it is advisable to check the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s latest project. His version of ‘Gangnam Style’ is a wonderful example of how the artist’s voice can be heard – with force, irony and humor.”

The play is written and directed by Rhea Lemann, and has Ina-Miriam Rosenbaum, Lars Knutzon and Ole Lemmeke in the lead roles.

Have Backstage – 21 December 2012:
Rhea Leman: Kunst er stærkere end geværer og bomber (‘Rhea Leman: Art is more powerful than guns and bombs’)

– plays til 9 February 2013

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