Accursed Growth! at Ark Books for Blacklisted Copenhagen

Ark Books Accursed Growth!

As part of this year's KBH Læser festival, Ark books has put together an evening filled with guest speakers and reading on the concept of growth

Published: February 27, 2017Words: Macon Holt & J.Scott Stratton

Ifeel like I need to do a little shameless promotion here, but not on account of anyone asking me too—simply because I have a soft spot for small business that focuses on community. I love absolutely everything about the idea and execution of Nørrebro’s Ark Books. Period. Full Stop.

As a tiny little mecca of eclectic and interesting literature, Ark Books has a DIY aesthetic and history. Their active participation in the cultural and literary scene by routinely hosting various types of events and their selection and curation of works that sit on their shelves makes it a truly iconic little spaces in Copenhagen.

I spent a couple of months living in a bookstore in Paris a couple of years ago called Shakespeare and Company which was born in 1953 with the same kind of DIY, artist-supportive and community fueled aesthetic which Ark Books shares—albeit with a more bohemian Parisian ambience. It left a mark on my soul, and I feel a sense of nostalgia whenever I visit Ark Books or attend one of their events.

To give a little background, in case you’re unfamiliar with Ark Books, it was born in 2014 as the dream of four Danish students and a Kickstarter campaign. Since then the little bookstore nestled cozily on Møllegade amongst has been the venue for a number of book launches, storytellings, and active participant in the KBH Læser festival along side of their neighbors Literaturhaus and Møllegades Boghandel.

Can you tell me a little about this year’s KBH Læser concept of growth?

Growth is one of those deceptively simple notions and really central to the conventions of narrative structure—in other words, characters made richer for a “growth” experience. Even rejecting that formula still shows its cultural importance. I think what KBH Læser aims to do is to present the theme in a really open way, which is great. Because, in addition to the usual ideas of growth as beneficial, they introduce the theme with the kind of ambiguous twist of economic growth being used as the ultimate political justification. With that in mind, they go on to say that growth is a concept and process that we really can’t, and wouldn’t want to, do without. This is a very rich theme full of contradictions.

How fueled your (Arkbooks) interpretation of the concept of ‘Growth’?

Giovanna (who makes the Ark podcast with me) and I often talk about an issue that we see with many pieces of literature—being that they often try and tie things up too neatly, thus illustrating growth as a moral virtue. Just like with last year’s theme, this seemed like a chance to view the concept in negative, so my mind jumped to the Bataille theory of economy, The Accursed Share, which argues we can’t use everything we make for growth, some of it has to be wasted, be it through war, sex, or the consumption of products.

How did it affect your curation of speakers?

Once I knew the event would be built out from the work of Bataille, I knew I had to approach Jon Auring Grimm, as he is really Denmark’s authority on that particular French madman. I met with Jon and I said I wanted to dig into this very grand theory and apply it more imminent and tangible experiences. He suggested I get in touch with Rebecca Lund, a feminist activist and researcher, whose work examines how things like the intersection of gender, Eros and neoliberalism affect the production of knowledge in universities, does just that.

This is sure to be a politically charged topic of discussion, in lieu of current world events, how does Arkbooks place themselves in the political sphere?

The idea of a non-profit, volunteer-run international bookshop has some inherently leftist traits about it. We are literally giving our time to provide something that the market will not support. But we are also a highly democratic organisation, there is a board but very little central planning, the vast majority of what we do comes from our volunteers having an idea and running with it. Like the Ark Review was started by some volunteers who came on board this past summer, they just had an idea and ran with it.

For the evening of Accursed Growth, will there be people from a wide variety of literary, philosophical or political viewpoints to facilitate healthy debate?

Well, the main focus will be this kind of salon format discussion between Jon and Rebecca with myself as moderators. It depends what you mean by healthy debate, because that often just means the loud enunciation of talking points. There will probably be a Q&A afterwards, if someone who feels we have been totally off base wants to chime in, but the plan is to really get into some of these ideas and shed some light on them. I’d rather disagreements emerge than be imposed.

Can you tell me a little bit about the speakers and presenters of the evening?

Jon Auring Grimm is the founder of the radical philosophy initiative Sort Snak and one of the architects behind the Eksistensfilosofisk Akademi lecture series at the central library, Københavns Hovedbibliotek.

Rebecca Lund is a gender and education researcher and feminist activist, who recently completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Aarhus University. She has published numerous articles in both English and Danish.

We’ll also have readings and multi-media presentations from the wonderfully talented volunteers of Ark Books.