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Light relief: Fjord Oslo 2020

Free festival of light art returns to the Oslo harbourside to offer hope in the darkness

Main image: Fjord Oslo 2020 will feature new commissions and major artworks, such as Luke Jerram’s Gaia which has travelled worldwide. Photo by Michael Jones at Bluedot in 2018.

6-8th November 2020

With most large-scale public events off the calendar right now, the fact that Fjord Oslo is about to kick off its second edition is a welcome ray of light – literally.

After its debut event last year, Norway’s leading festival celebrating the best of the world’s light-based artwork is back. For three days, Fjord Oslo transforms the city’s waterside cultural quarter into a vast outdoor gallery, showcasing large-scale works from some of the most innovative and visionary contemporary artists using light as their medium. Thanks to its dispersed outdoor setting, and the large size of the works on show, Fjord Oslo is one of the few events able to be held with social distancing and Covid-safety protocols in place – and as a result, offers a lifeline to artists and creatives whose practices and livelihoods are under threat from the pandemic.

Spread across specially selected locations around Oslo’s Harbour Promenade, Fjord Oslo will feature 8 head-turning works from an international roster of artists – with contributions from Poland, France, Spain, Taiwan, Norway and the UK.

Four of the pieces will be making their global premiere appearance at this year’s festival, including new works by Norwegian studio Void, Spanish studio Hotaru Visual Guerrilla, festival co-founder Anastasia Isachsen, and Norwegian artist Silje Thorsager Østby, whose haunting installation, Light3ence, one of the highlights of last year’s event.

The inaugural edition of Fjord Oslo was enormously successful, drawing an estimated audience of 50,000–70,000 people over its three-day run. This year’s event sets out to build on this and secure a permanent place on the European cultural calendar as one of the world’s most important festivals of light art.

‘Our first programme focused on artworks that discuss environment, nature and our place in this world – we wanted to take this exploration further for the 2020 edition. The pandemic happened just as we were working on the theme. Naturally it led to many new reflections, thoughts and ideas: what does this state of the world mean? Where are we going? What is the role of humanity in the bigger scale of things? Art has always acted as a barometer of a society, so we are inviting both artists and audiences to reflect on what our common future could be.’
– Anastasia Isachsen, co-founder and artistic director, Fjord Oslo

Illuminating the Anthropocene

Polish artist Elsa Tomkowiak is one of the many international participants of the festival.

Although they all share a common thread in their use of light, the installations chosen for Fjord Oslo are hugely varied in their forms and concepts, ranging from video projections on building façades and water to a glowing moon and huge spheres of colour floating in the harbour.

Collectively, the artworks explore this year’s festival theme of the Anthropocene – a speculative geological epoch defined by human activity having the most significant influence on the environment, climate and ecology of the planet, and leaving a permanent legacy on the Earth. The festival’s harbourside setting – where the human-made urban realm meets the eternal nature of the fjord – is thus an especially apt reflection of the theme.

Co-founder of the festival Anastasia Isachsen will also contribute a new commission, Monad.

Each installation, literally, shines a light on a different facet on the relationship between humans and the wider world. For example:

  • Luke Jerram’s Gaia is perhaps the strongest reminder of our collective responsibility for the preservation of our planet. Seven metres in diameter, an inflatable sphere is projected with NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface, giving viewers a taste of the awe experienced when seeing our world from space.
  • Festival co-founder Anastasia Isachsen unveils Monad – an artwork making its international premiere at the festival. The work explores the meaning of the circle, what Pythagorus called the monad, in human culture and as a symbol of time – the order and rhythm of the universe.
  • Another premiere, Transnature, by Hotaru Visual Guerrilla, uses a video projection on the façade of the Nobel Peace Centre to fuse architecture with organic forms to explore a new reality based on a fusion of the human and the natural.

Safe, socially distanced and full of hope

Reflecting Fjord Oslo’s mission to create powerful collective experiences accessible to all residents and visitors, the installations are entirely free to view on an open- access basis throughout the festival. As they are located outdoors and available to view at any time between 6pm and 11pm, they can be enjoyed in full compliance with social-distancing measures, making Fjord Oslo is one of the few large-scale cultural events able to take place this year.

Free and open to view, the festival is Covid-safe and aims to make culture more accessible. Gaia by Luke Jerram at Bluedot in 2018, photo by Michael Jones.

With this in mind, artistic director Anastasia Isachsen was careful to select artworks that required no physical or close contact (such as touching buttons or passing through narrow spaces) and which are large enough to be viewed at a distance. In response to the negativity and uncertainty that have characterised life for many of us this year, Fjord Oslo has made a conscious effort to include colourful works that can help cultivate a sense of much-needed optimism, as well as two works (Gaia by Luke Jerram and Out/Elodie by Elsa Tomkowiak) that can be enjoyed in daylight as well as darkness.

fjordoslo.com

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