… the ongoing danger of collectively creating scapegoats


  Last week one lone deranged man killed seventy-three young people on an island near Oslo, Norway.  That terrible event was sort of an inverted reflection of another horror that took place in the far north of that country many years before.  During the course of the seventeen century,  the 3,000 citizens of county Finnmark convicted ninety-one men, women, and young girls of witchcraft and burned them at the stake.

  If you’re with me so far, you’ll find it quite the coincidence that a memorial for the earlier event opened just this past June.  It is the Steilneset Memorial To The Victims Of The Witch Trials and was a collaboration between Swiss architect  Peter Zumthor* and the late great nonagenarian Louise Bourgeois.  During the ceremony, presided over by Queen Sonja, general secretary of the Vardo Church City Mission Sturla Stalsett that “the memorial is meant to remind us of the ongoing danger of collectively creating scapegoats”.**

   Zumthor designed two structures for the barren rocky site.  Of the first, pictured above he said: “I didn’t want an aggressive massive monument.  Creating a light delicate structure was best for this rough space”.  It is 410 feet long, narrow, and has ninety-one randomly placed windows.  Behind each is suspended a single light bulb.  “The feeling is like being in the stomach of some prehistoric creature…except there is a glimmer of light”.

  At the south end a gangplank leads into the other glass and Cor-Ten cubiform volume housing Bourgeois’ work pictured below.  It is comprised of an aluminum chair with flames emanating from the seat and is encircled by seven oval mirrors.  “…like judges circling the condemned”.

  The location is remote, but not off of the beaten path.  The Varanger National Tourist Route program consists of eighteen major routes to facilitate interesting travel while punctuating the country’s magnificent geography with integrated points of interest.  It is overseen by the Norwegian Public Road Authorities and is scheduled to be complete in 2020.  Phew.  Guess don’t need to hurry

 *For more about Zumthor read post of 4/24/09 “Reading about Reincarnation is not the same thing as being reborn”

**Much of the information above was drawn from an article by Suzanne Stephens in the August 2011 edition of Architectural Record.

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