A Barefoot Viggo in Odense

Source: Fyens Stiftstidende

'Where is Viggo Mortensen?'

We sat in the large room in the Café Cinema and asked each other this in whispering voices. Because just now all members of the world press of Fyen AND their photographers were at a press conference with colleagues from all around the world, including Copenhagen, Sweden and Switzerland.

We were all staring at the long table in front of the screen because we knew that today we were not going to see the movie hero Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. Today we were going to see him live. Like any other regular person. Face to face.

There was quite some disappointment when the hero wasn't to be seen in the panel.

All the brass of Brandts Klædefabrik, the directors of Kunsthallen and Museet for Fotokunst were there though. Each bringing their own curator.

They were going to introduce the two new exhibits: Kunsthallen's great scoop, the religious and metaphysical Himmelfalden opening this Sunday - and Museet for Fotokunst's even greater, or more precisely, different scoop: the exhibit Ephëmeris that hides the photographic work of Viggo Mortensen from 1978 to 2003 behind its mysterious title. Opening tomorrow.

That's why we were all sitting there, waiting and waiting, and waiting for the 44-year-old Viggo while the exciting description of Himmelfalden went in one ear and straight out the other.

For when was Viggo going to show?

He came. But he didn't come before we had all been the two floors up in Kunsthallen and seen world art from Dürer to Magnus Wellin. From paintings to installations and video. From the strong belief in God in Heaven of ages past to today's notions of what populates the skies. Apart from aeroplanes.

Thus floating, we went back to the dark of the cinema and waited. And where was the movie hero going to sit anyway?

The spots in front of the silver screen were all filled.

We turned and twisted in our seats; looking at the entrance.

But Viggo tricked us. Suddenly a door next to the screen opened. You could catch a glimpse of the corner of a fluttering chequered shirt. And a larger corner of the blue flag of the U.N.

And in that way it was more the flag that brought Viggo than Viggo bringing the flag. For the moment the movie hero was fully inside the darkness with the rest of us he decked the table the others were sitting at with the flag and then he sat down. Modestly. At the end of the table. In one of the corners.

He didn't say anything about why he had brought the flag of the United Nations but later when we all got a chance to ask questions and the photographers finally halted their blitzing he did get a chance to tell - with a voice bordering on a whisper - that we should take good care of the U.N. In these times of unrest the good idea of a common space for all nations was in fear of extinction.

That was all Viggo got to say about the flag because then he had to tell us why he did photography.

'I've always taken pictures. Maybe it's become a way to communicate. Like when I write poems, or paint, or make movies,' said Viggo in a low voice and looking like the neighbour's young son home on holiday. With his shirt hanging outside his pants and longish hair. And a cleft chin.

Not at all like the movie star we had envisioned. Not radiating raw manliness. Not posing to show us skin. No putting on a show. Nothing at all that you would normally associate with a world class movie star.

In short: Viggo Mortensen looked so average that it seemed strange that his exhibits with photos, painting and poetry readings in the U.S. have become so popular. People will almost commit murder to get a ticket. Just to be near the man.

'In the beginning people came to my exhibits because they knew me from the films I had done. But now I think they're beginning to come because they like what I exhibit,' said Viggo in his own very modest way.

His father is Danish, he's got family in Midtsjælland and he has both lived and worked in Denmark. He's never been to Odense but is honoured that Museet for Fotokunst wants to exhibit his photos taken through the course of a whole life.

'It's like getting it all refreshed in my memory. What you remember is always a mix of what happens now - and what happened a long time ago,' said Viggo and he added:

'I hope you like the exhibit.'

Thank you, Viggo.
Last edited: 24 June 2006 13:35:51