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Solvognen (The Sun Chariot) Theater Group

Venue: daadgalerie

Solvognen (The Sun Chariot) Theater Group

Founded 1969 in Christiania, DK – disbanded in 1983

In the week before Christmas of 1974, an army of some 100 men, women, and children, all dressed as Santa Claus, raided Copenhagen. They paraded through the city in a procession that included a gigantic “Trojan” goose, angels, Danish flags, and livestock. At first they visited hospitals, sang carols, played with children in schools, roller-skated, and gave away hot chocolate, creating a celebratory atmosphere. As the days went by, their actions became increasingly radical. They invaded the General Motors plant demanding that workers be made the owners. One Santa Claus caused confusion by attempting to get a loan from a bank. Other disruptions occurred at the labor court and stock exchange.

The Santa Claus Army (1974) was a week-long performance carried out by the Solvognen (The Sun Chariot) Theater Group that originated in the autonomous neighborhood of Christiania in Copenhagen. The footage taken in the streets during the actions was made into a film, The Santa Claus Action (1975). The documentation was interspersed with images of a plane dropping missiles, drawing a parallel between war and the violence of capitalism. Solvognen’s performance reached its peak as the Santas handed out merchandise to shoppers inside of Magasin, one of Copenhagen’s biggest department stores. Security guards tried to take the gifts out of people’s hands, while managers pulled off the Santas’ hats and beards. The Santa Clauses sang Christmas carols rescripted with anticapitalist lyrics while they were handcuffed and violently escorted out of the store by police. Children who observed the arrests cried and screamed at the police for taking away their beloved Santa. Such scenes developed without a script; everybody played their role, even if inadvertently. Solvognen’s actions highlight the cruelty of placing profit before people. The joyful idea of Santa Claus giving away gifts was not only made into an absurdity but was also turned into a crime.

Amelia Bande

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