SOVEREIGN’S INAUGURATION on Danish Constitution Day, the 5th of June 2022, called for a simple but radical change to the country’s national constitution, rekindling political debate on a woodland site that is considered a cradle of Danish democratic identity. The artwork highlights a common yet striking omission in modern European constitutions: nature.

16 museum vitrines frame 16 living trees in Herthadalen, a wooded kettle hole where the first Danish Constitutional Act Meeting was held in 1854 and where thousands gathered in subsequent decades to hear political speeches and debates.

Each vitrine-framed tree carries a plaque with a title, written in Danish, German, Faroese, and Greenlandic, four central languages of the Kingdom of Denmark. The bases of the vitrines are each inscribed with a clause from the Danish Constitutional Act, amended so that the word ‘King’ is replaced with the word ‘Nature’. Each vitrine is crafted to each individual tree’s form, allowing space for the trunk’s growth. While the trees will live on, the teak vitrines will gradually weather and decay over time. Just one of the vitrines is cast in solid bronze.

At the inauguration of Sovereign, an Icelandic choir, dressed in woolly camouflage suits, emerged from the woodland singing benandsebastian’s new choral arrangement of Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘In Denmark I was born’ (I Danmark er jeg født), a song which is known as Denmark’s unofficial national anthem. First sung in its well-known Danish version at normal pace, the choir then shift into German, Faroese and Greenlandic, the anthem gradually losing its familiarity as it slowed to half tempo with each subsequent translation, conjuring a stretched sense of time and sense of fragility as the song is drawn apart and merges into the soundscape of the surrounding woodland.

‘The fact is, that each time there is a movement to confer rights onto some new “entity,” the proposal is bound to sound odd or frightening or laughable. This is partly because until the rightless thing receives its rights, we cannot see it as anything but a thing for the use of “us”—those who are holding rights at the time.’
Christopher D. Stone