Review

Eyes that see, ears that hear

Bundle up like a snail in its house, I wander, along the molo early one December morning. Behind the protective stone wall the boats lie rocking back and forth, safely cheek to cheek. On the other side of the molo, the great ocean comes spluttering and blustering up the fjord. The heavy waves have travelled far and are whipped by the wind.

The music in my ears draws me towards the unfamiliar sculptures I had come to meet. In front of me is a large, massive stone with many holes. Many eyes stare at me. Look into me. I stop. Some  drum in my ears in rhythm with the ocean. Eyes that meet. Searching. The eyes are holes drilled into the stone with many passages and paths that cross each other. Like patholes eroded by water over the years. Or do the holes come from inside? Has time poured out of the stone and left behinde wise eyes that see all? Eyes that see out towards the ocean and in toward land.

My ears now hear a lonely oboe. It plays a tentative tune.

I think we like each other, we two. The stone and I. The morning light has just begun to open its eyes. The rain whips against us, but runs slowly and lovingly from hole to hole. We both stand here with cheeks wet from the rain or is it tears? Gently I stroke the stones’ eyes. It is old in this world. It has wrinkles and lines that bear witness to ancient times. White, grey and black stripes run downwards together with the rain.

Darkness still surrounds us. We are alive, the stone, the music and I. We bathe in rain, wind and the last remnants of night. I know the day will quickly come now. The day with its light and all the sounds that will overshadow the life on the molo. Then the eyes dry and become dead. But when night returns and the houses sleep, the stones stand there. They whisper calming words to the small and large boats nestling alongside the seawall. They lean lovingly towards the wind, flirt with the ocean waves, and let the rain wash the day away. I’ll come back then.

Laila Nyborg Eidum

Stone and Air

Flying from Bodø, in the blue vastness of June, I had a fine view of the mountains called the Seven Sisters in southern Nordland. That charm bracelet of astonishing shapes, fringed by glittering sea, presents itself as matter-of-factly as a shelf offers objects. I took the memory of that sight home with me as a symbol of Nordland and the beauty nature achieves there with rock and water: endless variations of the lovely, the pretty, the splendid, and the sublime, all of it as casual as an everyday smile.

I do not know if Tony Cragg had the Seven Sisters in mind when he created his row of seven perforated boulders for the breakwater of Bodø, but he might as well have. His creation bears witness to the geological poetry of Nordland while intimate, too, with the spirit that for a millennium has given the region a human history. I fancy that his riddled rocks are little nieces and nephews of the Seven Sisters who have gone to town and become partly civilized: “open-mined,” at least!

As public art, Cragg`s lacy masses are a miracle of tact. Seen from the sea, they belong to the pier. Placed on a pedestal, outside the balustrade of the concrete walkway, they appear to pedestrians to belong to the sea. Their location is indeterminate, hovering between “here” and “there”. They are not “landmarks”, exactly, because the zone they mark is not exactly on land. Theirs is a state of conjunction and reverie, margin and dream. The stones do not take up space that would otherwise be occupied by something else. The spaces they inhabit come into being along with them.

Cragg’s ventilated menhirs are made of something (rock) and nothing (air). Rather than crouch sullenly against the wind, they strive to get out of its way, letting it sigh through their labyrinthine interiors. (Look close and long into the holes: there are miniature worlds within worlds inside, full of bizarre shapes and oddly inviting nooks and perches. If I were an elf, I would make a home in there.) You need not see the objects as things with holes in them. You can see them as nothingness with material around it.

In all ways, though always with the frankness of the Seven Sisters, Cragg`s pierced lumps loosen the grip of drab actuality on the perceiving mind. Formed eons ago by Nature’s humorous hand, their shapes toy with us. They mimic our energetic erectness. They parody our sleepy horizontality. They entertain notions of the ships and implements we have devised to pursue fish in the sea. They envision the fish. Those antic forms confer with each other, chuckling together of human vanity as the wind whispers through them. When we walk along the pier and come upon them, we eavesdrop on their mineral hilarity, their mute conversation.

I enjoy thinking of Cragg`s permeable megaliths. Doing so, I recall simultaneously the inhuman and human realities of Nordland, the sea-lapped mountains and the hard-working people. The two orders of reality come together in my imagination like the meshed fingers of two hands. Is this “art”? I suppose so, because what else could it be? But the work bears scant kinship to precious statues in museums or in public squares. What Cragg has made is not a stolid monument but a friendly metaphysical phenomenon, translating rock from being into Happening. This phenomenon will not cease during the lifetime of the stone.

Cragg is a sophisticate in touch with the primitive. He has often observed that the word “material” (too often foolishly opposed to “spirit” in Western thought) shares a root with the word “mother”. He has harvested from the land some nuggets of mothering emotion, utterances of the soul of the Earth – playful and consoling, imperishable syllables of a lullaby – and has opened them up, changing their heavy chant to a lilting song. The breathing stones will keep their posts like sentries against meaninglessness in the vast light of June and the huge night of December, whether the sea is fierce or calm.

Bodø will be known for these remarkable things that are both object and apparition. The people of Bodø, starting in childhood, will come to know them as no one else in the world can.

Peter Schjeldahl

FragmentaryI WENT INTO THE OCEAN

Rain and darkness. Wind

Slippery and wet.
I saw a boat. Large, dark and
sad.
A stone boat. With many small worlds in it.
In each world I see
a piece of ocean
and
a piece of sky.
Fragmentary.
Dark and sad.
I felt like a sailor.
I saw the world through binoculars.
Thousands of binoculars.
The ocean and the sky.
I went on...
The Boat was gone.
Only small bits of the large boat.
Disaster, I thought.
The ocean is dangerous.
Only small bits with small worlds in them.
But a piece of ocean
and
a piece of sky.
Wind and small bits of the sad, large boat. Stoneboat.
Fragmentary.
I went on...

Ruta Zabityte, LITHUANIA 1993

Or the perforated stones on the jetty in Bodø. It is pure rubbish, and the story goes that the artist had a good laugh when he received the check for half a million crowns.
Finn Bjørnar Hansen, editor of Næring i Nord, interviewed by Rana Blad 28/08/93.

In the name of art, we are having forced on us some idiotic and perforated rubble that is supposed to howl to us from the jetty! In an attempt to justify this howling, it is being claimed that it is part of Artscape Nordland – or madness as it, in fact, should be named.
Oddvar Ingebrigtsen in a letter to the editor with the headline “Don’t give us cultural madness on the jetty!” in Nordlands Framtid 28.04.92 (The letter to the editor has been published in several newspapers)

Hole after hole after hole after hole
– arrogance of power
leaves zero after zero
And budget deficits flower

From a poem called “Associations” signed by “Social caseworker” in Nordlandsposten 17.11.93

Three kilometers of holes.
Headline in Nordlands Framtid 09.01.93.

In this case, the perforated rubbles may make one think of concrete things like lace, Swiss cheese and natural sponge, or more complicated encounters between nature and technics or sea and city.
Lotte Sandberg in Dagbladet 16.01.93 in an article with the headline “Granite lace in Bodø”.

Stone madness with a draft
Headline from a letter to the editor signed by Arnfinn Wiksaas in Nordlandsposten 17.12.92

The stone sculpture on the Bodø jetty ought to have been beaten dead as a stone upon its conception – it will always be nothing but a hole in the head.
Arnfinn Wiksaas in Nordlandsposten 17.12.92

Don’t we have enough howling and noise from the airplanes as it is? This project (lack of project) is, in my opinion, an insult to the population of Bodø and a littering of the architecturally-beautiful small craft harbor that our Director of Port Authority Mr. Tønder ought to be given credit for, and which the City of Bodø ought to be very proud of. The county has allocated 25 million crowns to this madness, at the expense of the health sector.
Quotes from a letter to the editor signed by Sture Wisth, deputy repr. in KKU in Nordlands Framtid 14.04.92 (The letter to the editor has been published in several newspapers).