Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Karen Blixen

Jul 07, 2018 - Tine Bek

As a part of my project ‘The Vulgarity of Being Three-Dimensional’

I was very inspired and overwhelmed by the writing of Karen Blixen.

The first of her writing I read was Babette’s Feast, which tells the story of a marvellous meal that changes people’s perception of life in a small village. I won’t go more into the actual story because it is well worth a read, however I will share this trailer with you, which is an adaptation of Babette’s feast from 1987 by Gabriel Axel.


Baroness Karen Christenze von Blixen-Finecke (born Dinesen; 17 April 1885 – 7 September 1962) was a Danish author who wrote works in Danish and English. She is best known under her pen names Isak Dinesen, used in English-speaking countries, and Tania Blixen, used in German-speaking countries. She also published works using the aliases Osceola and Pierre Andrézel.


Fascinated by not only the actual writing, descriptions of people, humour and melancholy, what at first glance interested me by Blixen’s writing was her many pseudo names, and aliases. In an interview in Danish newspaper Politiken in 1934 she explains how she was inspired by her father, whom also wrote under pseudonym.


“He had written numerous things in his own name, Wilhelm Dinesen, and he of course took full responsibility for that. But in the letters from the hunt he expressed himself freely, gave his imagination free rein or criticised men in public positions. He didn’t want people asking: Do you really mean that, Captain Dinesen, or have you, yourself, experienced that story we read in the newspaper this morning.”


This balance between truth and fiction, gender, authorship and identity is something i found very relevant especially today, and it lead me on to read more of Blixen’s stories and novels. She wrote both in English and in Danish and would often translate the work herself. This reworking of stories and way of playing with language is something I find really important in her work. Having lived away from my home country for almost a decade I am often stuck in this language limbo where I actually don’t always  know which language I feel the most comfortable in.


However, when I do read in Danish it does feel like finding an old familiar friend. To found out more about Blixen there are plenty of books to read and if you are ever in Denmark it is an absolute must to visit the Karen Blixen Museum. The museum is a true gem hidden away just outside of Copenhagen. They have changing exhibitions, alongside a permanent showcasing of some of Blixen’s personal things and her house, and the best part is her garden which is a perfect place to relax. Not that I’m trying to turn this into a travel blog, but thought it was worth a mention:)


So as a result of some of my research I created the project The Vulgarity of Being Three-Dimensional, which is still ongoing. One of the first pieces was a video made during a residency in Portland, where I by accident found a first edition of Blixen’s book Carnival which is a collection of short stories. 


The original film is 54 min long, but if you would like a sneak peak there is a shorter version available  here.