Review

A story in granite

Travelers in northern Norway repeatedly encounter signs and directions to monuments, more specifically, to war monuments. From Nordland to Finmark, from Narvik to Kirkenes, World War II has left deep tracks. War monuments are everywhere. From the open sea, Ofotfjord serves as a narrow passage to an approach by boat to Narvik. A tongue of land with smooth, worn cliffs provides a view over the water. It is also the site of a military post that was built into the cliffs. In this strategic location, a structure  built with bunkers, underground corridors and cannon positions for use by the occupation forces to control Narvik and its important ore export. Yet another war monument.

Some are gone, but not all. Some have been added, ostensibly providing the opportunity to re-examine history from a larger perspective; we consider it anew and pick up the story from there. Nothing is forgotten, yet everything is new just the same.

A securely moored and solid sculpture of impressive dimensions is mounted on this piece of land. A giant stone monument, a Scandinavian menhir? One quickly sees that it is made of granite. The historical associations and references are unmistakable: temple, church, cathedral. This construction might easily have had its roots in traditional Norwegian log building customs, with the tilted row of poles in the sculpture recalling chieftain houses of the Viking age, such as those found in Borg in Lofoten or farther away in Trelleborg, Denmark. On this particular site, the structure more closely resembles a stave church. In Evenestang, tiers of beams are used to create a three-story structure. Each floor is built using ten upright granite logs. The gaze is led upward and a symbolic numeric system is faintly perceptible, as subtle as when one observes the east-west orientation of the sculpture only after standing in Stone House and looking over the water.

Light falls through a hole in the roof and through the sides. Sandblasted drawings unfurl across the smooth and polished walls. There is neither a coherent narrative, nor someone to decipher for us. The sculpture possesses its own sacred reality, conveyed through the symbolism of a culture and architecture from another age. Bjørn Nørgaard has discussed his fascination with myths and rites and their role in his work, relating that the drawings on the south wall portray “people, who have homes here” while the north wall’s drawings represent “homeless, restless souls.” The smooth walls were created as a backdrop for rune drawings, not unlike those we might just as easily have found on the cliffs of Evenestang. The images, as with stone carvings elsewhere, have their own stories of rituals and magic, of the shaman’s role and of fertility, birth and death. On the one wall we see a ship ferrying people from coast to coast – or does this depict the journey of life? There are also symbols, sperm cells or the human sex, which seemingly suggest life’s beginnings.
The architecture of Stone House refers not only to the religious; it encapsulates a rich symbolism with a concept of the holy, the sacred. Finally liberated from Evenestang’s local history, Stone House has been raised on the grounds of the grand narrative.

Øystein Hjort

Stone House

Laden with strength, intent and meaning
Might set in stone
In a spirited movement
The foundation is laid with hope
And was here centuries before we arrived
As a longing not yet expressed
An idea of being seen at some time
Lifted into space, retrieved

As in church
Salt is the organ timbre
Feathered are the church bells
Shimmering billows church silver

Time for quiet reflections to surface
For thought to trace a bird’s form
Place it in the temple’s third loft
So let thought sing, thought sway
Become wings for a wanderer  
Time for a meeting among tribes, new promises
Time for shared thoughts to submerge
And let thought know the fish’s deep
Place it on the temple’s wet floor
So let thought swim, thought sway
Become a vessel for a seeker
The wind’s church knows no borders
Built of starry skies and granite
Wind choruses play for the lost Lifted into space, retrieved

Eivor Bergum

It is easy to understand why people in Evenes are already proud and happy about the sculpture.
Visually it speaks with capital letters: Here I am, look at me!

Quotes from a letter to the editor by Henry Arne Hansen in Fremover 30.05.95

The sculpture is incredibly beautiful. I was skeptical in the beginning. I was almost touched by all the speeches given today, and I am feeling positive and happy. Stone House is one of the finest sculptures in Artscape Nordland.
Linda Østnes to Fremover 29.05.95

This is the finest sculpture in the project Artscape Nordland.
Mayor Brynjulf Hansen from unveiling of the sculpture. Harstad Tidende 29.05.95