We Need Gardeners and Friends, Not Emperors or Kings

We Need Gardeners and Friends, Not Emperors or Kings is a socially engaged art project and sound installation that explores masculinity-movements and listening.
In a locker room in Skjold Boldklub, artist Morten Poulsen facilitated a series of workshops with a group of six cis-men from different countries to talk about masculinity norms, friendship and listening. Through conversation, caress, song and humming, they shared experiences and desires to move away from a masculinity based on dominance, and instead cultivate a space of listening and being heard, of vulnerability and collective self-reflection.
Each of the six participants wore a personal microphone, which recorded the workshops from their individual perspectives. These recordings form the material for a six-channel sound installation in the same locker room, where each voice is presented in six corresponding loudspeakers, allowing the listener to choose their own points of listening.
A part of the exhibition was the distribution of stickers with the title of the project to both the participants and visitors.
The project is, among other things, inspired by feminist consciousness-raising groups and is partly a portrait of cis-men who work to actively deconstruct hegemonic masculine ideals (R.W. Connel). They criticise the narrow and rigid definitional frameworks of their gender, and seek opportunities to expand and dissolve masculinity norms. They practice awareness of the role that traditional gender norms play in unhealthy and harmful cultures, and thus also how they bear a responsibility for deconstructing how this Man is not good for anyone, not even themselves.
In a time where focus is often on making statements, positioning, “winning” debates, and on linear forms of argumentation, especially in online comment sections, the workshops and sound installation calls for a listening that is non- linear and fragmented, with space for silences, intimacies and sensuousness; a proposed emphasis on listening as a key element for dialogue, understanding and inspiration for social change.
The exhibition is supported by the Danish Arts Foundation and Østerbropuljen.
Exhibited at Skjold Contemporary, Copenhagen DK in 2023
Thanks to the men attending the workshops.
Thanks to Sound Art Lab, Skjold Boldklub and Karl Heding.
Photos by Morten Poulsen