Den glömda staden / The forgotten state

Swedish artist Jan Håfström started his project in Gildeskål in 1992. Håfström's sculpture has its conceptual starting point in a newspaper photograph, showing a bombarded Kurdish village. Still, he has not tried to depict this scene in his sculpture, but rather study the traces and marks from the construction and deconstruction people leave in their environment. It is more a question about time’s role in our environmental understanding than a concrete depiction of something.

Håfström’s sculpture can be seen as constructed, as a ruin, or as something that has not been finished. Compared to language, one can conclude that the sculpture expresses something “that is”, “that will be” or “that has been”. Which of these is up to the viewer to choose. People facing nature and cultural adversity may be what Håfström wanted to express at Gildeskål.

A distinct element of “The forgotten state” is that the sculpture also serves a different purpose. Not only is it for viewing and touching, it is also an area, a grand, open-air stage for the cultural life of Gildeskål – a place to meet, to sing, to play games and enjoy life. This usability may be significant for the understanding of contemporary art in general. Contemporary art demands more from its audience than the more traditional art. By not only being seen as a sculpture, but also gathering a wider audience for cultural experiences, maybe “The forgotten state” can contribute to giving art a broader audience.

Norwegian society is very uniform. It is dominate by the ideals of equality, which is good, but it also favours broad conventional ideas and solutions. This sculpture, and the process around it, has probably contributed to Gildeskål's population accepting new forms and ideas, of which this sculpture is an example.