When did you realize you had talent?
"When I was in the fourth grade, for some reason I was singled out in front of the whole school because I had rewritten "Little Red Riding Hood". The fox ran away with the wolf, and the hunter went into the forest and picked flowers with Little Red Riding Hood, so I changed all the rules that are in fairy tales, because even then I had a distaste for the bourgeois, predictable boring life that Berlingske loves.
I got a book from the inspector and that was the first and only award I ever got. It was such a strange experience of being able to offer something beyond the ordinary, which made me think: There is more between heaven and earth.
Later I was kicked out of the school newspaper because I wanted to write two pages of lies; so I wanted to make fake news in 1974! I thought it was so much fun to wake up those boring people.'
What have you learned from getting older?
"Now I understand why people talk about grumpy old men. I didn't understand why men got angry when they reached those 60-70 years. But it is simple because it is biological. We have simply heard all your boring stories over and over again. "Well, now there's war or rebellion somewhere again."
We've seen it all before, we've heard it 100 times. Bring me something new. Don't waste my fucking time. «
"Better luck next time. Fuck you, see you.'
What is the most important experience you have had in life?
"I've really learned that the more you mess with your projects, the luckier you get. The more power you put into your venture, the luckier you can get.
When I was in New York in the 90s, I drove from the airport into the city, where I saw a gigantic billboard advertising the lottery: " You can't win, if you don't play ."
It has haunted me a lot. There are a lot of people sitting around waiting for luck to fall into their laps, but if you don't play yourself, you'll never win. It has made a big impression on me, because nothing comes by itself.'
What is your most painful memory?
"When my children were taken from me. I went through a hard divorce where I lost two children - so I was only allowed to see them at the weekend. The thing about not having a daily life with your children, and that I went from being a father to being a play uncle at the weekends, that has never been corrected. They are still guests in my life. There is a ghost of abandonment in our relationship.'
What is the biggest regret of your life?
"There are many. But the thing that comes to my mind first of all is that at the beginning of the zeroes I had a solo exhibition in Manhattan, New York, and I got a review in The New York Times, and I just thought: "Now it's working. « And then I went back to Denmark!
Why the hell didn't I stay over there and get a job at a pizzeria? I would have felt like a fish out of water if I had stayed. I had my foot in, so I regret not changing residence and moving there permanently. Then I would be such a weird Andy Warhol type in New York today.'
Which book has been decisive for you – and how?
"Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, because it is about the heaviest and deepest dilemmas in life, and it is very well written. I first read it 20 years ago, and everyone who works for me, they have to read that book.
Because you learn a lot from reading it: Who gives you the right to act, who gives you the right to kill an evil person? If you don't break ethical and artistic laws all the time, then you might as well be an accountant. Art and science only grow when there are some who go beyond the line and go into unknown areas and gather information for us petty bourgeois.'
If you could write your own obituary, what would it say?
"Better luck next time. Fuck you, see you'.
Do you have a scar that tells a special story?
"My scar is my divorce in the 90s and when I "lost" my family. I still go around a bit with that. It has made me not believe that families can actually be happy deep down and that it is all a game for the gallery. Everything is a bit fake and an act. Christmas Eve and the holidays are a fraud, because we just sit and pretend we like each other.'
What is the biggest lie we tell each other about love?
"I have a series of paintings that say 'True Love' all over them because I'm trying to find out what is one of the biggest lies in the world. And it is that there is no such thing as true love.
True love is the idea of the great love. The great love may be there for a moment, but then the rest goes into childcare and internships and venereal diseases. But I believe that the idea of love exists.'
What do people most often misunderstand about you?
"My tactic is to shoot house sparrows with guns. That is, when people see Hornsleth art, they think, "Well, he's just out to make trouble and provoke." And I am, too, but every piece I've made has some kind of curly artistic philosophical background and thoughts about how we see the world. I just use very bombastic language, and it's deliberate, because in this media culture we live in, you have to shout insanely loud to be heard. It is not enough to be skilled. You must also be a howler monkey.
For example, when I engrave »Fuck you art lovers« in Rolex watches, it is about being laughed at when you live in a culture that makes it prestigious to have a watch for 70,000 kroner. It's just a fucking watch. We use luxury items to scare each other. They are symbols of power. When people then buy a Rolex watch with "Hornsleth" engraved, they can consider whether it has become more or less valuable, and then we have started a discussion.'
Is there someone you want to say sorry to? And why?
"No. I have behaved properly, I think. I can't really think of any. Is it weird? What do people usually answer?'
Nah, but people typically say something to their children.
"Reach. I know I'm a crappy dad and they know it too, so there's no need to say sorry. I have always said that I should not be like my grandfather and father, but now I can feel that I am becoming like them. I don't want nonsense and noise. I just want to work. I don't mind anything social that isn't interesting. After all, I give my wife money to avoid having to go to family parties.'
How much does a family event cost?
"DKK 1,500 for a family event and DKK 6,000 for Christmas Eve. Then I work instead, because when I'm not at the studio, I feel like I'm wasting my life'.