Thursday, July 21, 2011

Free Things to Do in Oslo

Who doesn't like free things, especially when one is in Norway, where everything costs an arm, a leg and possible whatever other appendages you have to offer up. Here's a link for some ideas on how not to blow through your life savings in no time (which is shockingly easy to do here):

Free things to do in Oslo - Norway official travel guide -

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Darker Vigeland: Tomba Emmanuelle in Oslo

Well, here I am in Oslo.  I've been here three weeks now and if you're wondering why things have been somewhat silent lately, it's because I've been diligently studying.  But I want to deliver the goods, so here's the dish on one of my favorite Oslo visits thus far:

Gustav Vigeland's work at Frogner Park
Vigelandsparken with its 212 bronze and granite statues depicting the cycle of life and humanity is a tourist staple in Oslo, Norway. Designed by Gustaf Vigeland, it lies within Frognerparken and is a favorite locale for Norwegian picnics and barbeque. Even in the winter this astonishing depiction of the cycle of life is well populated by tourists and locals alike.

But fewer people know of Gustav's younger brother, Emanuel; also a gifted artist, but slightly more...twisted in his own depiction of the life cycle. In stark contrast to his work as an esteemed stained glass and fresco artist for cathedrals and public buildings, his mausoleum, which sits in the Slemdal neighborhood of Oslo (on the way to Holmenkolen ski jump) is a dreary opus, wrought with a very dark sense of humor.

Originally intended to be a museum for his work, Vigeland bricked up the windows and switched gears, instead creating his own mausoleum. The entire interior is painted with a fresco called “Vita” of which the central theme is human sexuality, nude human bodies piled upon each other in sensuous desperation interwoven with themes of birth, femininity, spirituality and death. Vigeland wished for as little artificial lighting to be present as possible and upon entering, one is initially swallowed up in the darkness. But as one lingers, (and it is essential to do so for some time if you want to enjoy this experience) one's eyes gradually adjust to the darkness just as the artist intended. The resultant gradual unveiling of the frescoes is nothing short of breathtaking.

Outside of the Emanuel Vigeland Museum
Doorway to the mausoleum.
Fresco, engulfed in darkness.

Vigelands ashes are encased in a “ovary” shaped stone urn placed over the low doorway. It is said that he placed the doorway so low so that all who visited would have to bow to him. Painted above his urn, the ultimate, a shared theme with his brother's work, a monolith of human forms rising eerily to the heavens, a haunting specter of the Frognerpark counterpart.
The acoustics in this place are phenomenal at approximately 45 seconds of reverb. The merest whisper resonates throughout the complex with a haunting tonality. Check out this recording of a flutist in the mausoleum, paired with images from within:

So, take in Gustav Vigeland's work during the day with all of the other tourists, but don't miss out on Oslo's dark secret, the creepy and morbid side of life as presented by the other renowned Vigeland, Emanuel.  
Emanuel Vigeland Museum Website
Note: opening hours are quite limited and on Sundays only. Check the website for precise details before visiting.