Culture / Society

“Don’t have a mental breakdown, stay sharp”: Artist Ditte Ejlerskov on creating a ‘cult’

By Saskia Neuman

In a church-turned-gallery in Copenhagen, Ditte Ejlerskov presents a cult of her own making. While the Danish artist once looked to external factors to inspire her work – including tabloid images of Rihanna – she now looks within, exploring her own being through pieces that enchant and mystify

Lying on a carpeted floor at a church-turned-exhibition space in Copenhagen, I stare up at the vaulted ceiling. I have removed my shoes – the universal indication of getting comfortable.


Projected high above me is a 13-minute video work entitled The Gateway by artist Ditte Ejlerskov. It’s a dream-like journey; you’re met with the impression of outer space, small shiny stars move over black matter, later intertwining with shapes of works by Ejlerskov that appear in adjacent rooms.

Suddenly, the projection launches into cascading colours, oscillating in and out of the abstract dream world to a more recognisable architectural setting. The visuals are accompanied by a melodic soundscape and a script written by Ejlerskov. A calm, cool voice with a nondescript English accent asks questions such as, “How often do you allow adrenaline to take over?” I lie there in the dark, transfixed, mind-blown. Next to me lies the artist, who can only see the work’s imperfections. “There’s a slight glimmer of pixels that don’t land right,” she says.

Watch Vogue Scandinavia's video with Ditte Ejlerskov here:

If Ejlerskov would have known her current exhibition would take two decades to realise, it is entirely possible she never could have done it. “I’m impatient by nature, so there are many ideas that I’ve left unfinished – shows that never became reality,” she says. “But I could never have made this exhibition in my twenties.”

Entitled The Cult of Oxytocin, Ejlerskov’s show at Nicolaj Kunsthal, the former St Nicholas Church in Copenhagen, explores themes only visible from the artist’s current vantage point – having navigated the challenges many women face: finding work-life balance, becoming a mother.

“Oxytocin is the hormone our bodies produce during labour, it’s the love hormone,” she says. “These works are about maturing because they came out of experiencing childbirth.” She cheekily runs through the list of what’s expected of us as women today. “Have children, become a superstar – really accomplished... Oh, and go to the gym and eat organic food,” she says. She adds a couple more. “Don’t have a mental breakdown, stay sharp.” But for the artist, what’s required is much simpler: “For me, life is lived through art – making my art. I can’t separate them.”