Though only 23 years old, Esben Weile Kjær has been a prominent figure in Danish nightlife for almost a decade. In addition to his alternative performance festival, Henry’s Dream, Kjær has DJ-ed at events across the world — from underground queer raves in Russia, to high-end fashion week parties in London and Paris — and directed music videos for the likes of Mø. A regular contributor to the national newspaper Politiken on issues of performance art, fashion, and contemporary society, he’s also published two books: Eskapisme (2014), a collection of essays, and Altig Sker Så Meget (2015), a collection of poems. Currently, Kjær is working as a youth consultant for the Danish Minister of Culture.
Where are you from originally? I was born and raised in Århus, the second largest city in Denmark.
When did you move to Copenhagen? When the police in Århus cleared out a collective I was living in, I decided to move to Copenhagen. I moved into another occupied house, which can still be found in the outskirts of Nørrebro today. I was 16 then.
What is Copenhagen to you? How does it compare to other cities? Copenhagen is my reality. Throughout my life, the city has undergone massive changes. It has grown immensely and, in many ways, I think the city is in the process of redefining its cultural identity. It is my experience that shared city spaces are very important to Copenhageners. People are taking responsibility for making the city a more interesting place. I love this city more than anything else, and I think these next few years will see it become even more amazing. Right now, I see a cultural open-mindedness that I think could result in more progressive cultural politics in the future. And in the long run, that might make room for a more diverse and edgy culture.
What projects are you working on now? I just graduated from the Rhythmic Music Conservatory, which means I’ll have the freedom to devote myself completely to my own projects. Among other things, I have a big performance called Reality coming up at Den Frie Udstillingsbygning in August. I’ll also be DJ-ing around Europe, and am working on a new collection of poems.
How did you get into music and Dj-ing? I was too young to get into clubs, but if you were DJing, everything was a bit easier. At first, I couldn’t mix at all, and I only did it because I liked to dress up with my friends and play the music that moved me. Along the way it developed into something more serious, and I think the whole DJ act is very interesting from a performative perspective.
You’re very involved with the art scene in Copenhagen. What’s the city like artistically? What are some of your favorite galleries or museums? My favorite galleries in Copenhagen at the moment are TOVES, which is run by artists and located in Amager, and the non-profit exhibition space 68 Square Metres in the city center. Right now, the creative movements in Copenhagen are incredibly strong in almost every way. The young poetry, the performing arts, and the music scene are all in the midst of some sort of golden age, so there’s always something new happening, and interesting exhibitions are opening every week.
Any favorite places to eat or drink in the city? I eat my breakfast at Harbo Bar in Blågårdsgade. It’s right next to where I live, everything is organic and it’s very local. Osteria 16 in Vesterbro is the best place to eat before a night out, and Morgenstedet at Christiania is perfect if you’re hungover.
What’s the LGBT scene like in Copenhagen? What are some of your favorite gay hangouts? It can be a lot of fun to go out to the more commercial gay parties in the inner city, but the best parties are without a doubt the queer parties! Their location changes and they don’t have set opening hours, but parties like Guldminen and my own club night, Mainstream, are some good examples, and information is always on Facebook. Mainstream is held in this big villa in Refshaleøen with an indoor stage, an outdoor stage, dark rooms, and an international house and techno line-up.
What’s the LGBT community like in Copenhagen? I experience it as quite integrated. That being said, it’s important to emphasize that there are still big problems of discrimination in nightlife, especially towards transgender people. The queer community and the gay community can sometimes split up, and that’s a shame. But things are happening in this community at the moment, and I think events such as MIX CPH (an LBGTQ film festival) are helping to put non-heterosexual culture and art on the agenda.
Describe your perfect day in Copenhagen. Bike to Holmen for a swim, have breakfast in Christianshavn, bike to the urban garden in Nørrebroparken and write in the shade of a tree. Then go home to prepare my DJ set for the night, meet up with some friends at Fu Hao in Vesterbro for Dim Sum, go out and play music, bike back home through the streets of Copenhagen. I’d stop on the way to go swimming while the sun is rising, fall asleep in a pile of friends and lovers, wake up with a hangover, and fight my way back through the streets for something delicious to eat, or to pet a goat in De Gamles By (a home for the elderly).