Process

Today, tomorrow, always,
Sculptural diplomacy

Stig Olsen

Beiarn has unexpectedly decided to withdraw from Artscape Nordland. Beiarn was among the 11–12 municipalities that made a policy decision to participate in the project. Yesterday, however, the municipal council put their foot down. The reason for this complete change of heart is supposedly that the sculpture the Finnish artist was planning to create for Beiarn proved to be dramatically different from what the municipality had in mind. There are plans to install a formation of rocks or timber at Svartnes in the middle of Beiarfjorden. The municipality was envisioning a more traditional sculpture, installed in a more prominent location within the community.

Nordlandsposten reported this unexpected development on 30 April 1992, and the prospects of the Municipality of Beiarn taking part in Artscape Nordland suddenly seemed dim.

Kari Cavén had found the perfect location for his sculpture: the foundations of two former oil tanks down by the fjord. The municipal council disagreed. The matter was addressed by the municipal council outside of the regular agenda, and without informing the municipality's cultural secretary. The artist was scheduled to arrive in the municipality just a few short days later. The situation called for some sculptural diplomacy.

The municipality and the county council met to discuss options. At the next municipal council meeting, the artist's models were presented, and representatives of the county council were invited to provide further information.

There was no shortage of critical voices in the municipal council either: - Us regular folks don't understand what this is about, they said. - This looks like a stack of firewood; we know what that is. But we don't appreciate being force-fed art that seems to serve no purpose.

Bjørn Richard Monssen represented the county, and apologized that the municipality had been misinformed. The politicians' curiosity was certainly piqued when Mr. Monssen explained the financial terms and conditions. The cost of the sculpture is NOK 350,000, but the municipality will only cover 62,000. The rest is paid for by the county council.

“This means,” said Monssen, “that the municipality has the opportunity to participate in a project that has already attracted attention all over Europe, and that you can get a sculpture that truly stands out, even in a European context, at a reasonable price.”

This new information brought a new perspective, and many of the politicians present gave their approval, albeit with some reservations.

(Nordlandsposten, 2 June 1992)

The municipal council decided to review the matter again with a fresh perspective, and they wanted a say in the location. They inspected four potential locations, and the parties agreed that Arstadøyra would be a good choice for a new location. The sculpture would work well with the Public Road Administration's plans for a new rest stop.

At this site, there was a problem with the landowner, however, and in the end a garage plot close to Trones School was chosen as the final location. On 24 June, the municipal council decided to pull its withdrawal and remain in the project, and on 13 September, former Prime Minister Per Borten officially unveiled “Today, tomorrow, always”.

“I can understand how some people think it's a waste of money to make art from firewood, but this is only chump change compared to what the Central Bank of Norway pays for a plot on which to build a new bank, or the cost associated with the war games taking place in the air above Bodø. My conscience is clean as I unveil this sculpture,” said Borten, to which the audience responded with laughter and applause.

(Nordlandsposten 14 September 1992)

“I have no trouble understanding people who compare it to a stack of firewood; I do the same thing myself,” says Artscape artist Kari Cavén, laughing, as we suggest to him that his sculpture in Beiarn might disappear  before spring if the winter proves cold. “I used wood, because it is familiar to people, and because I think it is good for people to see that art can come from many different things.”

“I was shocked when I first came to Beiarn. I started to worry about everything. How could I possibly create an artwork that was able to compete with all this natural beauty? Now I am happy; I feel the sculpture was a success.”
(Nordlands Framtid, 19 September 1992)

INVITATION

“The Municipality of Beiarn and Nordland County Council have the pleasure of inviting you to an enjoyable Sunday afternoon on 13, at 1:00 p.m., in Trones for the unveiling of Kari Cavén's sculpture.

Former Prime Minister Per Borten will unveil the third sculpture sculpture to be completed since Queen Sonja officially opened the project at Vega on 19 August 1992.

After the unveiling, we walk down to the youth centre at Trones for some light refreshments and a good time.”