Bergen is dead set on ensuring its fame isnt merely for fictional noir slaughters by running huge sums into raising its global artistic profile, writes Vanessa Thorpe
Bergen, with its safeguarded historic waterfront and romantic, low-hanging mountain mists, is quite used to being packaged for foreign consumption. Long sold as” the gateway to the Norwegian fjords”, the Viking port is an established stop-off for Nordic cruises and, since the recent international literary boom in Scandi-noir fiction, it also observes itself a big describe for fans of the bestselling misdemeanour genre.
Some of its surrounding geographical features have become synonymous with gruesome fictional deaths, largely thanks to the enormously successful Norwegian novelist Jo Nesbo. And Bergen’s streets, with their processions of hooded quilted coats, zipped against the rainwater , now say merely one thing to most modern tourists: “murder”.
The release this weekend of the mega-budget thriller The Snowman , a film starring Michael Fassbenderand based on the seventh book in Nesbo’s detective saga, should really mean that the city is bracing itself for another icy detonation of association with grim murder. After all, much of The Snowman em> was shot on place in and around Bergen and the popular Vidden hiking road between the Ulkriken and Floyen mountains is the scene of one of the horrific slaughters detailed in the book.
Yet this weekend, the person or persons of Bergen are actually busy celebrating the advent of an entirely different cultural landmark. Their gleaming new Kunst Musikk Design( artwork, music and designing) faculty house, which opened its entrances to students four weeks ago, is a key part of a concerted national bid to throw Bergen back on the European cultural map. The objective is to be recognised as a destination for more than just stately Saga sail daytrippers or devotees of BBC4′ s hit Scandinavian dramas. Backed by Norwegian government monies, the country’s second city is pushing for renewed status as an international centre of creative excellence, able to attract students and top artists from around the world. So the founding of this PS100m home for only 350 arts students at a time is a deliberately lavish strategic move.
Applicants from abroad, Frode Thorsen, the dean at KMD, promises, will be welcomed with open arms. Already about one in 3 of those who receive doctorates are foreigners and some are even funded. Most universities in Norway are state-owned and reasonably heftily endowed. Students are supported by the various kinds of loans and awards that would astonish British freshers. Tuition fees are covered by the government and those studying for a PhD at Bergen University are paid employees. What’s more, much of the teaching is be done in order to English.
Last week, Britain’s Turner prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller was one of the high-profile guests invited to recognize the opening of the building , now formally is incorporated into Bergen University. Talking to a central dorm full of students and lecturers about his operate, ranging from his re-enactment of the Battle of Orgreave during the miners’ ten-strike to his ” bouncy castle” Stonehenge, Deller emphasised the relevant recommendations that an artist can bring their work to the public in a variety of forms.” I haven’t really done any project that is conventional artwork for a long time now. Everything changed when I realised I could work with people, with communities, instead ,” he said.
It is a particularly appropriate message for this new house, which has been designed by the acclaimed Norwegian designers Snohetta specifically as a home for multi-displinary collaborations. The notion behind the KMD building, an amalgam of six schools previously scattered across the city, is that sculptors and ceramicists should be able to work right alongside fine artists and fabric decorators. It is interactions like these, said programme director Astrid Renata Van Veen, that may trigger new ways of thinking:” These encounters cannot be forced by an architect, of course, but you have to create spaces where these things might happen, to find ways for students to watch one another and find their work .”
Indeed, the logo Deller has created for the commencement of the celebrations presents an octopus deftly juggling several musical instruments, a paintbrush, a camera and knitting needles; a different artistic tool in each tentacle.
The first school of art was established in Bergen in 1772 and, while there is some unhappines about leaving the age-old faculty builds in the city centre, the big investment in the new site, coupled with the multi-disciplinary nightmare, seems to have won over most of the teaching staff.