The “peeling” beneath the surface of things is an old cultural gesture. Performed in shamanism, as well as in Christian rites, or displayed as pure literary palimpsest, this cultural archetype advocates the idea that behind the epidermic skin of the things there may be a hidden meaning that can be brought to the fore by the rolling up or down of the first skin.


At the beginning of the third millennium, gracefully oblivious of the cynicism of this time, Jan Hatt-Olsen, the poet-bard of Værløse, promises to enchant this world. With an inocent smile of a child, yet like a true magician, he lifts up the invisible veil of the sky to reveal his vision to the eyes that could see it.


This book is about his vision, the enchanted city of Værløse, which takes one to the space in-between of the chôra. Although impermanent as performative experience, Jan’s installation has the appearance of a solidified celestial architecture – a vision unstained.

His scrolls of light are the “garments of glory,” the opposite of the “garments of skin” and mortality – a return to transparent vision.


This book is about enchanting the world, and about veils; about primordial language, and the gift of love; about clear sight and the purity of the soul; about reflection and mirroring; about encounter and fusion, and above all, it is about a time of miracle: “Mirakleners Tid.”


                        “Miraklernes Tid”


    Translucent Vision of Alphaville –

                             a Chôra Space In-Between


”Når rosen

Bryder gennem


Er det Miraklernes tid”

Hvem Tror ikke på mirakler I den 21 årh.?”


“Who does not believe in miracles in the 21st century?” “It is the Time of Miracles,” insists Jan Hatt-Olsen.


My journey through Jan’s “Lyrik-installation: Værløse Bymidte som en digtsamling” starts under the spell of these poetical lines, and the magic of that vision, of words suspended on a scroll–like transparent sheet in the tree near the station, is unforgettable.  (Fig. 1)

I knew I must prepare myself for a wonder. I soon realized that my eyes must adjust to “see” that wonder: the transparent sheets of poetry were spread everywhere like veils: on the roads, on the walls, on the pillars, planted in the pots like flowers, vegetal language, naturalized in the landscape of the city, and at the same time, transfiguring everything they touched or came to their proximity. The city of Værløse miraculously became the city of words of poetry – Alphaville – the place where man poetically dwells. (Fig. 2-3)


One must learn from great poems how to live a worthy life and relate authentically to beings and to Being – says Heidegger. “Language is the house of Being.” “In its home man dwells.” Poetry is a mode of revelation of truth (aletheia), a path to come close to presence.




















Fig 1



Jan’s installation, with his poetry clearing out the space of the city, words making space or space made out of poetical words, is first and foremost a provocation to vision, a turn of mind, a true metanoia for whoever comes close to it because it is reminded of human condition, that is, that man should poetically dwell in the world. By wrapping out the city with his poems, though in a most discrete manner, Jan makes language communal, and therefore more primordial. He makes it a gift to be shared, as well as to be celebrated together by the bard with the peoples.

Fig 2.



















Fig 3.



Poetry is a gift and the gifts to be found in poetry are magnificent. The experience which may arise while reading or listening to poetry is profound. But how could one read this unusual poetry written on transparent grounds, almost invisible, suspended on trees, unless one becomes bird-like, angel flying above? Jan makes the wind sings his poetry for us when it blows through his imponderable groundless shits of light. (Fig. 4)



Fig 4.



The words inscribed on such precarious grounds are echoed in space, acoustically and visually, turned inside out and scattered then away – dematerialized, transfigured matter. This diaphanous poetic imagery is the hidden soul of Alphaville – “membranens vibrationer” – a reverberation like cosmic breath; pure expansion of spaces beyond space, a mise en abîme of planes. In a most conspicuous way, this vision takes one back to the primordial, translucent language, the adamic speech before the confusion of languages, before opacity. Words gathering light – “foton efter foton – foton – efter foton” – this image-poetry builds up lit illusions – “lys illusioner,” “visions” (tekst 36).  (Fig. 5)










Fig 5.


Jan Hatt-Olsen is no doubt a visionary, a seer at odds with the cynicism of our time. His dream and most intimate and intense desire – he tells me – is to ‘enchant’ the world, to bring back that breathe of imagination and nobility that once animated the soul of mankind. I cannot transcribe here our long talks on visions, miracles, and enchantment, but this installation embodies both in words and images his unbridled vision, a vision which is as much about seeing, as it is about the unseen. I had to adjust my eye, indeed, to clean it from the intruding corrosive imagery, which surrounds us in public spaces, humbling my sight, down below to ascent to his diaphanous vision.  The transparent scrolls of Jan’s poetry, which pervade the entire city, allow light to stream into the paths of the citizens, like Heidegger’s vision of clearing or opening (Lichtung). Heidegger calls this openness that grants a possible letting-appear and show “opening,” using the metaphor of the “forest clearing”:


“The forest clearing [or opening] is experienced in contrast to dense forest, called Dickung in our older language. The substantive Lichtung goes back to the verb lichten. The adjective licht is the same word as “open.” To open something means to make it light, free and open, e.g., to make the forest free of trees at one place.“ “Light can stream into the clearing, into its openness, and let brightness play with darkness in it.”


Yet light never first creates openness, but it can only radiate if openness has been already granted. It only traverses the space in which “beings as such show themselves.”[1] “Clearing” is for Jan’s installation the natural consequence of the diaphaneity of the image. But to be able to see “through” (dia-, or trans-) it – is the very condition to access this “enchanted world.” Diaphaneity is an instrument in physics (optic), as well as a metaphor for contemplation in mystical vision. Diaphaneity, says Aristotle, penetrates the opacity of the world by the agency of the light, which renders the world visible.[2] Ultimately, diaphaneity is the work of light upon things, making them receptacles of light beyond their thick-ness/opacity and thing-ness. Jan’s floating poems like transparent fruits in the trees of Værløse is a most strange vision, a return to the lost Paradise and its tree of Life, a ricorso to the trans-lucid language, lost yet regain from opacity to opalescence. (Fig. 6)


Jan’s scrolls of light are anti-gravitational, indeed, their physics responds to another law beyond physics. Who should not believe in miracle in the 21st century? “Everything must float, suspended, then resound elsewhere after the event…for the first time” (Hegel. Derrida, Glas, 69). Since Mallarmé, with his free-floating words on ambiguous grounds, there was perhaps no image-poetry more eventful than these limpid screens – thresholds to another world stretched between heaven and earth (a theme that is much dear to Jan learned from W. Blake).[3] This kind of image is most peculiar as figure and ground are simply reversed, and can be anytime reversed. Traditionally, materiality is associated with ground, representation with figure. But in this case, the total transparency of the image, sheer vacancy, which is optically reversible, it enables one to see both sides at once, and allows everything which crosses it to become part of it, but just the instance of its crossing. It makes ground become at one time the cosmos itself, and another time the letters themselves become the very ground in which the whole cosmos is contained. The effect of such groundlessness due to transparency is that there is only figure,[4] but only a fleeting, transient trace of the figure. Like Plato’s chôra space, this mirroring space makes continuously room for a strange becoming – the condition of all beings, and the mediation of Being.























Fig 6.


Seeing one’s own image reflected in this image (Fig. 7) is an awesome moment, a true bewilderment. Yet one should no more wonder once one has become part of that wonder. Vision and beholder coincides because of the reflection of light, which intensifies vision and turns it into a “stream-event” of light spanning around. One feels as if caught up in the middle of the image, in the space in-between. But the space in-between, which receives anything that comes and goes, like a mirror it undermines and effaces everything, clearing up the space for the new fleeting traces, for a new becoming. Like the chôra space, indeed, the space in-between makes room continuously for an unrelenting motion of beings toward Being.  This is described by Bergson as “the arc of movement,” it is a space for choreographic inscription for Michel Serres:








Fig 7.



’er vi alle på jagt efter, hvad Platon kalder chôra, det glatte, blanke rum fra en tid før tegnet: det er danserens krop og den hvide side, det uberørte voks, hvori koreografen skriver’[5]


’nous sommes tous en quête de ce Platon nomme la chôra, espace lisse et blanc d’avant le signe, la page blanche, vierge cire, où le choréographe écrit.’[6]


Alphaville is too, a space for “koreograferende bevægelser,” a space when one dances unceassly, day and night, on streets, in open spaces, as well as in close spaces, inscribing (enchanting!) continuously choreograhically this space: “De danser I gaden I åbne I lukkede rum .. I dagen I natten…De danser I tiden…” “Se deres vel koreograferende bevægelser”……

            This kind of imagery and thinking brought forth by Jan’s installation in Værløse illustrates a phenomenon manifested in contemporary performance art, and shared by some other artists, which shows a return to the metaphysical properties of the image and presence, which I called ‘contemporary hierotopy’, after A. Lidov’s concept.[7] ‘Contemporary hierotopy’ opens up a territory as yet insufficiently explored, which may provide an alternative to the latest generalized view in the humanities concerning the collapse of the “metaphysics of presence.”[8]

Jan Hatt-Olsen, a “postmodern humanist,” is completely uninterested in the collapse of meaning. Like his most beloved poet, Blake, or his contemporary video artist and poet, Viola, Jan Hatt-Olsen is a visionary, indeed, his poetry and image-poems are metaphysically implicated. Being and creation overlap, and metaphysical questions are deeply engrained in the texture of his mind. Yet his hierotopy goes beyond the simple and external replication of any traditional religious phenomena, which he embodies in a new visual event and poetical discourse. His hierotopy introduces us to an image-sound event that cannot be seen/heard with naked senses. He wants to make us aware of images and words beyond the line of normal perception, and this is perhaps what his transparent scrolls, choreographically inscribed in the space at Værløse, stand for. The discourse of his evanescent, luminous poetical grounds is the mystical (mute) discourse of light. The clearing vision is, like for Heidegger, a clearing not only free for brightness and darkness but also for resonance and echo, for everything that becomes present and absent. For a moment, for an instant of time – “miraklernes tid” – the space of Værløse was transfigured, and shared together in a choraic space, the space in-between when being meets Being. But then it withdraws, erasing itself, in order to make room for new becoming, but just for an instant of time, a pre-taste of that “twinkle of eye” (1Cor.15: 51) at the end of Time. In Heidegger’s vision, this is a moment in which “everything present and absent … have the place which gathers and protects everything” – “pure space,” and “ecstatic time.”

Hvem Tror ikke på mirakler I den 21 årh.?


Nicoletta Isar

Art Historian.

Doctoral Dissertation in Byzantine Studies, Université de la Sorbonne ( Paris IV )

Ekstern Lektor i Kunsthistorie, Københavns Universitet.

5th October 2004, København.



[1] Heidegger's "The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking" (paragraph 31-37, particularly 32-33). 

[2] On diaphaneity read Anca Vasiliu, “Le mot et le verre: une définition médiévale du diaphane,” Journal des Savants, Paris (Janvier-Juin 1994): 135-162.

[3]The Doors of Perception er fra William Blakes kosmos.”

[4] On this effect, read more in C. Lock, ‘Read this “nothing”’: Lines on Glass, Signs of Klee, Semiotic

Review of Books, Vol. 6, no. 5 (Jan 1995), pp. 6-8.

[5] Michel Serres, Genese, Sjakalens Ørkenserie, 1984, p. 66.

[6] Michel Serres, Genèse, Paris, Bernard Grasset, Paris, 1982, p. 79.

[7] Hierotopy’ (from the Greek ‘hieros’, sacred, and topos, space), a term coined first by the Russian scholar Dr. Alexei Lidov, is an international project concerned with phenomena manifested both in Byzantium and contemporary ritual performances, of which I am an active part. See my article: “Vision of the Unspoken: Viola’s Hierotopy,” Arken Bulletin, 2004 (forthcoming).

[8] J. Derrida, “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,” in Writing and Difference, London: Routledge&Kegan Paul, 1978, esp. 280-1.