Artists in Conversation: Salt

Talking to a Curator and Artist from one of Norway’s Most Innovative Art Projects

A giant sauna, performance venue and bespoke artworks all on a beach within the arctic circle…what’s not to like about Salt? SALT consists of a series of temporary and portable structures on the remote island of Sandhornøy, Norway. “Salt is a unique meeting place between art, architecture, nature and people,” Helga-Marie Nordby, Salt’s art-curator told us. “It is capturing Arctic history, present and future in one experience.”

As part of the ongoing programme Helga and the Salt team have commissioned a series of site-specific artworks which respond to both the local area and the underlying ethos of Salt, which is all about environmental concerns and our relationship with nature.

Norwegian artist, Edvine Larssen has been selected to embark on a year-long project which engages with the local community and landscape entitled Looking Close Looking Far. To mark the start of the work, she installed Pust (breath) at one end of the largest structure at Salt, which consists of a lurid neon sail which stands out markedly against the landscape and will act as a backdrop for the ongoing project.

We spoke to Helga and Edvine to get two contrasting perspectives on this most idiosyncratic of projects.

The Plus: What’s so special about Sandhornøy as a place?
Helga-Marie Nordby:
Me and my Salt-partner Erlend spent two years traveling around in the
North of Norway looking for the perfect place to realize Salt. When we reached Sandhornøy we immediately knew we were home. When you step onto the beach something profound happens to you. The island has 400 inhabitants mostly involved in agriculture and fishing industry.

Edvine Larssen: Sandhornøy is surrounded by the sea, naturally as it is an island, and despite being in the north it has wonderful sandy beaches surrounded again by steep mountains. Driving a car on the island at night, one can meet not just one, but several moose, as well as foxes, eagles and other animals. The total mix of these spectacular natural phenomena makes Sandhornøy a very special place to visit, the dramatic landscape and a quiet lifestyle goes hand in hand here.

TP: Was there an overarching theme in your programming?
The overarching theme is the philosophy of Salt itself. The works have in common that they are specially made for the site itself and that they are in an active dialogue with the constantly changing surroundings; the landscape, weather, day and night.

TP: What’s important about participatory art?
I see Art as a way of researching new ideas, and in this way it is kind of a language. Languages are made to communicate – so I guess participatory art is so important as it does not only offer a set way of thinking – but through dialogue and participation the receiver also becomes a maker in how it allows taking an active part in the making of new thoughts, ideas or even ways of sensing the world.

TP: What has the process been like between curator and artist(s)
I always have an active dialogue with the artists I work with, and this time is no exception. However, the dialogue is organic and free.

TP: Can you explain the thinking behind the title Looking Close. Looking Far?
I have been reading Mieke Bal lately, and she talks about research as looking closely – searching beyond the main conceptions of something, and through this discovering new grounds. Looking close is also linked with my focus to look closely at Sandhornøy as a unique place. By setting up the two, close and far together I want to combine the local interest of Sandhornøy with the fact this is also part of the larger world we are all living in these days.

TP: Do you each have a personal highlight from Salt so far?
It is hard to pick one, but I think I have to say the opening of Salt last summer. I was so proud standing in front of thousands of people knowing that we had managed to realize this amazing and beautiful project.

EL: In June I experienced 2500 people on the beach going to a concert. Looking at the midnight sun through the windows in the sauna and having ice cold baths in the sea while being in and out of the architectural structures. This festival is not just about the events, but to me it is all about the combination, or the never ending possible combinations of moments.


Photos by Martin Losvik and Gunnar Holmstad.