City of Dislocation
Part I: Consolidate or Die
Presentation: 21 January – 18 March
Oslo Pilot Project Room, Norway
In January 2016 Oslo Pilot will launch City of Dislocation, an extensive project unfolding over the course of two years which examines the abandonment of historical buildings in the city of Oslo as cultural institutions merge and occupy newly built facilities. Conceived and developed by architects Johanne Borthne and Vilhelm Christensen, curator and writer Martin Braathen and architectural historian Even Smith Wergeland in collaboration with Oslo Pilot curators Eva González-Sancho and Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk, the project will launch with Consolidate or Die, a fascinating survey of some of these historical landmarks. In its entirety, the project will raise pertinent questions about how Norway’s unprecedented economic prosperity and construction boom is changing the cultural fabric of the city.
Today Oslo faces a historic challenge. An increasing number of the city’s historical buildings are being abandoned and face closure as cultural and social institutions relocate to new, custom-built structures. The astonishing pace at which this is happening not only leaves behind a trace of buildings reduced to empty shells, but also drains traditional neighbourhoods of their biggest architectural and institutional assets.
It is no coincidence that so many of the city’s significant buildings are being vacated in such a short span of time. The same factors are usually at play: real and imagined growing pains of the respective institutions, political visions of culture as a magnet for tourism and investment opportunities and a strong belief in contemporary architecture as a solution to institutional challenges. These trends are intrinsically linked to a period of explosive economic growth, which has created a political climate in which fast-paced public expenditure on new cultural buildings has become commonplace.
A key word here is consolidation. This process of consolidation is apparent three levels: a shift in cultural policy-making at state level, which introduced new ways of thinking about museum collections and the historical buildings that housed them. Both were to be replaced by more progressive exhibition strategies and architectural frameworks. This reform also led to dramatic changes at institutional level. Existing institutions were encouraged to morph into bigger administrative units – hence the arrival of Oslo’s National Museum in 2003. This in turn led to substantial changes at city level in Oslo. With the formal approval of the Fjord City scheme in 2003, the newly morphed institutions were given the opportunity to relocate to the city’s waterfront. This urban strategy speeded up the institutional and architectural transformation – the two most vital cogs in the wheels of consolidation.
This phenomenon of consolidation and abandonment of historical buildings clearly has a number of consequences with regards to urban planning and architectural development, but also cultural and institutional identity and community life. Some of these consequences will be highlighted in the first part of the project, entitled Consolidate or Die, which will provide a survey and critical analysis of five historical buildings in Oslo that are facing abandonment over the next few years: The National Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Deichmanske Library, the Munch Museum and the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design.
In the second part of the project, City of Dislocationwill continue to study and map out similar historical landmarks, looking both backwards and forwards in time to generate ideas as to their possible future uses. Running from 2016 through to 2017, the project will feature a series of presentations and events as well as publications, digital projects and other diverse formats.
Oslo Pilot is a two-year research-based project investigating the role of art in and for the public realm. Developed by curators Eva González-Sancho and Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk in response to an invitation from the City of Oslo Agency for Cultural Affairs, this experimental initiative lays the groundwork for a future art biennial.