May 2009 - Bjørvika, Oslo

Common Lands – Allmannaretten 2009 – 2011

What are the visions for these newly claimed areas and how do the visions manifest through city planning and architecture?
What political and economical power relations are governing the decision making within this development, both nationally and internationally, and how will they be characteristic for these emerging sites?

View of Bjørvika from Ekeberg, Oslo in 2009. Photo: K. Tampere

Karolin Tampere and Åse Løvgren are the curators of an upcoming temporary exhibition project entitled COMMON LANDS – Allmannaretten, which will take place in Bjørvika, Oslo during 2009 – 11. Bjørvika is the former harbour area of the City of Oslo, currently under major development and construction. The ongoing development will reconstruct the former industrial harbour into a site for commercial enterprises, living, working and recreation. Bjørvika will become a new part of the city centre with a strong cultural prescence with the newly built Opera and the relocated Munch-Stenersen Museum to be built in the area.

Three artist-duos and a collective have been invited to create new works taking the transformation of the area as a starting point: Bik Van der Pol, Geir Tore Holm and Søssa Jørgensen, Dellbrügge & de Moll and the artist collective Institute for Colour.

The projects will be produced and presented from 2009 to the beginning of 2010. The artists are invited to invest time in the area, gaining knowledge and an understanding of Bjørvika, the specific city-development process in this area and imagine what impact this new part of the city might have for Oslo.

In addition to the art-projects, Common Lands – Allmannaretten will contain of a series of seminars and workshops, accompanied by online-readers, sharing the knowledge, visions and ideas, parallel to the investigations of the development. These elements will also serve as support and go thoroughly into the commissioned artist projects as they develop. The readers aim to follow Common Lands on a parallel track and put focus on important aspects of the development, along the process. The readers and discursive events will also act as tools for creating a common ground for ongoing investigations towards the public, artist community, developers, private investors and the future inhabitants.

Through these different ongoing and changing formates, Common Lands- Allmannaretten will use the process around the city development to investigate questions around urbanisation, democracy, accessability and distribution of power. Common Lands aims to relate to similar processes that are happening in post industrial cities, where re-defining and transformation of waterfronts are a current tendency. The former harbours – meeting points between land and water, where cities originally were founded, are today more often re-developed into spaces for living, recreation, and culture consumption. Similar processes have been going on in neighbouring cities to Oslo like for example Copenhagen, Reykjavik and Hamburg.

Visit Common Lands- Allmannaretten website

During the next few years, Bjørvika and the surrounding area will be transformed into what is called “The Fjord City”, which can be seen as a virtual place, considering that its identity is currently envisioned by politicians, commercial developers, architects, city planners and other communities in the city. More than just the building site, “The Fjord City” encompasses at this point a whole relay of several interrelated, but different spaces, economies and discourses, including political decisions, public debate, architects’ and constructors’ building plans and the cultural life taking place in the newly built opera and museums to come.

By employing and involving practitioners and discussions from different fields of knowledge, Common Lands will investigate Bjørvika in transformation, as a physical site and its visions for the future. How can this be used and integrated as a starting-point for artistic production and thinking?

Main Questions
Løvgren and Tampere want to engage artists and the public into thinking and intervening in the processes going on concerning Bjørvika, both the site as it is today, the visions of what it will be, and what implications the whole process will have. They wish to facilitate art projects that take the development process in Bjørvika as a starting point in different ways; projects that have a possibility to take part in it, and generate a public discussion on what Bjørvika is, how the definition of the city area is falling into shape and what power relations exist in this process.

We especially wish to focus on the democratic aspect of the development of this new city area, both in relation to which voices are being heard during the planning process and which social layers the area is being planned for. To create an encounter between artists, local and future residents examining the possibilities for alternative possibilities for city-development and planning processes in an contemporary society.

In the planning process of Bjørvika a great emphasis was put on the “commons” that will be constructed, open to be used by the public.

These commons will be publicly accessible, pedestrian-based and provide a visual opening towards the fjord. They will be arenas for public-oriented attractions and activities. from “Bjørvika – The new city within the city” publication by The city of Oslo, Agency for Planning and Building Services, 2008).

The Norwegian word for the English “Commons” or “Common lands” is “Allmenning” which defines an area of land that is put aside by the state for recreational activities; it also defines an area that is in private or official ownership, where others than the owner have rights to use the area, for example, traditionally allowing livestock to graze on the land. In Norway this is connected to the “allemannsretten” or “allmannaretten” the right that grants the citizens free access along the waterfront and non-cultivated land everywhere in the country.

With the title Common Lands – Allmannaretten we wish to focus on whom the new part of Oslo is being built for: who is going to own and use this area. The title also points to the field of art as a potential site for critical reflection concerning the public sphere both as concept and site.

Supported by
Norwegian Arts Council, Bjørvika Utvikling AS, Municipality of Oslo – Agency for Planning and Building Services, Nordic Black Theatre, MS Innvik, Municipality of Oslo – Department of Culture