Another day off. That would almost be a bad habit if it weren't for the fact that I had a good reason: food poisoning. I'm sure most of you out there have had it at one point or another. Some slightly raw chicken in a stir fry, or a dodgy yiros after a night out. Either way, the end result is the same - a non-stop torrent of gushing pain; a seething slurry of red-hot emotion; and a stinging tsunami of diarrhoea.
So, with sudden onset bowel eruptions there was not much I wanted to do. Ideally, given our lofty Amsterdam apartment, I would have lay on the bed all day with the TV on in the background and a bucket nearby. Unfortunately, we had scheduled a 10am flight to Copenhagen. Which meant that not only was I up at 6am dealing with my impromptu hydrofracking, but I was up to catch a tram, then train, and then plane. If you had to list top three worst imaginable days, that's in spot two, just above torture and rape of your family and just below torture and rape by your family.
Every bump of the carriage - trams and trains, it must be noted, not being particularly well-known for their smooth travel - threatened the arrival of a new water-based life form. Every waft of early Amsterdam morning, hangover-curing pizza taunted the brown demons within. Every minute of economy class vertical seat discomfort tried to open the city floodgates. It was agony. We got to Copenhagen and had a long metro ride from the airport to our suburban accomodation in a carriage that was sweltering due to, presumably, a broken thermostat. When I got to our room, I was almost beat. A quick walk to the shops for a bread roll and some orange juice to force down was all I could handle before I collapsed on the bed and slept.
Our place, despite being booked through a hostel site, is really a bed and breakfast. The owners live upstairs, and we have a shoebox with two singles in about fifteen square metres. We have a bathroom to ourselves and there's a second kitchen we have access to too, and despite being out of the city we are right next to a rail line. It's homely but small, though in expensive Scandinavia it wasn't a bad find.
Today I was feeling better, having drained the dam and thus having nothing to do but gently reintroduce the native fauna one boring lunch at a time. Once I got out of the house, Sam having left with the key and leaving me with no way to lock up, I made my way into the city centre and then caught a train out to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. It was about a forty minute ride up north, but there was a combo metro pass and entry ticket that saves a good deal of money.
The place was fantastic. Set up in a ring of buildings around a large open park space in the centre, it was a showpiece for Nordic architecture. Literally, in fact, as it had an exhibition on the innovation and exciting modern architecture of the region and how they embrace the human and societal perspective of buildings, with an aim to make spaces that coexist with, rather than impose on, the environment and the people in it. So scale back how you're picturing "a ring of buildings" - it was one storey above ground, with wings winding out like tendrils from the loop. There were at least two levels below ground, too, and it was all set against a beautiful coastal backdrop in one direction and overgrown lake area in another. Stunning.
It was true modern art, too. In Europe that term can sometimes mean 1900s Virgin Mary paintings, but it was legitimately provocative and abstract. There were two standout pieces for me. The first, "Five Car Stud", by Edward Kienholz is a horrifying full scale work that you must descend to via a spiral staircase. You enter a dark room and walk over sand towards the lights - the headlights of five cars, in a ring, illuminating the image of a man being tortured. Wax figures in clown masks, mid-attack, are pulling at his leg with a rope, pinning his arm to the ground, castrating him. The assaulters are white, and the victim is black. In one car, a young boy watches; in another, guarded by a man with a shotgun, a woman vomits on herself.
It was staggering. Awful, emotive - some would say deliberately, overtly, sadistically - but I would say beautifully. What I felt wasn't outrage, or queasiness, ironically, but complicity. Shame. You stumble upon this situation and can do nothing to stop it. You are a witness and despite the atrocity you can't look away. You also know that it is as true a depiction of humanity as any other. Immensely powerful, and only recently rediscovered after being shunned by multiple galleries due to shipping expense and, more likely, subject matter when it was finished forty years ago.
The other - amidst a wealth of other great works including Warhols and Picassos, I must remind you - was only four years old. When you think about it, that's pretty rare. The artist was Yayoi Kusama, and the piece was called "Gleaming Lights of the Souls". When I first passed it, all I noticed was the queue. There were people waiting outside a white room, and I assumed it was the toilet. On the back, though, I realised it was something better. Two people at a time could enter, and since it was five minutes before closing time, when the previous group left I had the thing to myself. You open the door, step in, and close it behind you.
It's a square space about three metres in each direction, and the roof, walls (and door) are all mirrored. There's a small platform you can walk out into and beyond that the floor is slick with water. Hanging from the ceiling and then reflected a million times over are many lights that glow in stunning colours. It's like standing in the middle of a supernova. They pulse and change together, so you feel like you're whipping through the universe watching galaxies be born before your eyes. As you stand there, silently, lit by distant, sparkling suns, it feels like you're hovering in time itself. So much of art is interesting, or attractive, or stirring, or emotive. Staring at yourself in an infinite field of stardust, though? That's beauty.