Review

Houses in Motion

The name of the work is very telling, if not superbly accurate. It is a work, waiting there on the shore, anticipating a response as Days and Nights. The title is in the plural tense, suggesting the variety of directions found within these two granite houses, which are made from local stone. A carnival of connotations is set in a motion – creating by necessity a commotion of dualistic opposites. However, they are opposites that need and demand one another.

The dualisms inherent in Sarkis’ sculpture, besides the title, are numerous: inside-outside, nature-culture, protection-exposure and interior-exterior. These houses, peculiar but standing proudly on the opposite shore of the village – also visible from the main bridge, evoke most strongly in me the sensation of scale. A sense of being lured into a never-ending play of give and take. Being close and far away at the same time. Being here and there, and facing the consequences. You are forced to state your opinion, most likely physically influenced.

I said dimensions. A black and a gray house. And the numbers. Length 360, height 300, width 200, measured in centimeters. The figures are not essential. More important is the hallucinatory power of the houses. A power that is enormously present when staring from the village or gazing down from the bridge.

In both cases, you are looking at houses. Houses that are intentionally extremely simple, resembling the imaginings of children. They do look like real houses, no doubt about that, but the distance makes it difficult. And the waves, changing strength by the minute, make it no easier. Neither does the rain, the wind or the sweet smell of the ocean. All these elements play their roles in confusing the confrontation. How far, or how close are these houses? And how tall or how low is the roof? Within these unanswerable questions, each linked to personal experience lies the whole point, at least for me, of this sculpture.

Fairly well and with minimal effort you are able to see that these two houses, these partners in crime, are not exactly the same size as the houses in the village from which you gazed at opposite shore. The sculpture is smaller, but it is definitely not a miniature model. It is something in-between. It is close, but not quite. Far away, but yet recognizable. It is there and here.

Let us consider viewers on the village side as they look at the houses. Their gaze is unsure, not able and not even willing to capture or to solve. It is impossible anyway, as while looking at the houses they do the same thing. They look back at you. You watch and you are being watched. The gaze finds its target, but it bounces back. Always. And it says, well, it says a lot of things, but first it begins with hello and how are you and answers straight away, on your behalf, that sure, I am feeling fine, what about you? The distinction is crystal clear. It is not a passive, but an extremely activated gaze that affects the sculpture while the sculpture affects you. Simultaneously.

It is an act that sets the houses in motion, luring you to move with them. Suddenly you are moving into the groove, moving with the emotions of being here and there. At the seaside. With and within the sculptures.

Mika Hannula

The result will be a construction that could not have been built elsewhere.  
The artist Sarkis to Vesteraalens Avis, 14.09.1991 under the headline The challenge lies in what is most simple.

It is disgraceful for Norway the way Hadsel is handling the matter.
County Director of Cultural Affairs Aaslaug Vaa, Lofotposten, 04.07.1995

I cannot understand what is so nice about it (the sculpture). And my question is: How does it contribute to increasing the supply of doctors and improving care for the sick, or to getting the proposed health services project at Riarhaugen underway?
Håkon Hansen, Melbu to Vesteraalens Avis, 06.09.1994

Who would consider a rusted bathtub on a slope of naked rock to be especially comprehensible or refined?
Journalist Vibeke Oddvik under the headline Perhaps we who live in Hadsel are fortunate.
Vesteraalens Avis, 08.07.1995

Had the County Director of Cultural Affairs gone back and checked her facts, she would have discovered that Hadsel was responsible for all the planning and detail preparations. The artist Sarkis’ contribution was restricted to sketches.
Mayor Hugo Olsen in Lofotposten, 05.07.1995
 
Hadsels Mayor Hugo Olsen must not tear down the sculpture on Børøya yet.
– Why not?
– Because he can use the two “houses” as tollbooths at Melbu when the tunnel opens.

Thom Pettersen in Lofotposten 08.07.1995

Andøy citizen Oddvar Berg has offered the City of Hadsel kommune 500 crowns for the sculpture “Days and Nights”. He is willing to remove the houses from the municipality and re-erect them in his own garden.
...reports Lofotposten 19.07.1995
 
We must not remove it.
– Does that mean that you are one of those persons who like it?
– Well, perhaps... but this art in the low-tide must be retained. It has made Hadsel and Stokmarknes known, and it can serve as a monument for many things.

Caller to Vesteraalens Avis, 20.07.1995

The sculpture is an insult to the people of Hadsel who face difficulties because of municipal fiscal problems.
Hadsel Frp in Lofotposten 05.09.1995 under the headline Frp will go to work on the sculpture with a sledgehammer – if the voters so decide
 
Why not make a sculpture like “The Little Mermaid” in Denmark?
Ragni Larsen to Vesteraalen, 13.03.1998 under the headline Sick dealings on Børøya, say the inhabitants

Start a signature campaign where one asserts that one desires to let this sculpture remain in peace down in the low-tide – just as it is, and then re-christen it as the House of Shame. The materials are marble, which means that we will have a long-standing monument to how wrong things can go when the high-cultural high-intellectuals suck the Treasury dry.
The Polar Fox from Hadsel in Vesteraalen, 31.03.1998

One thing I believe that most people will agree upon: You don’t need much fantasy to become an artist, and be well-paid.
Hans Lockert, Vesteraalens Avis, 02.07.1998

I think the sculpture has turned out well. The new houses are much better than the old ones. We kids thought it was fun to crawl under the houses. We stood inside the houses and looked out through the holes.
Sverre Andre. Fifth grade, Stokmarknes school, Vesteraalen, 24.10.1998