Art, Music and Architecture in the Polar Landscape of Norway


SALT is an ambitious and conceptual “leave-no-trace” event inspired by a small number of archaeological artifacts found in the polar regions pointing to traces of cultural civilization. At the focus of the event is the future of the polar region, which is undeniably melting in front of our eyes.

From August 29 through September 1 of next year, the music, art and architecture destination SALT will reverently situate itself in Norway’s polar landscape. Like a vibrant mirage, it will manifest in this barren terrain, and then, as the last concert notes fade away, it will disappear into the ether, as if it had never been… Perhaps leaving just an addendum to time’s undocumented chronicles of man and nature.

We asked the organizational team: Why the title of “SALT”? “Salt is a requirement of life. The salty sea surrounds the Arctic and is a supplier of food and resources. Until recent times, the main way for people to travel was by sea. Salt was, and is, used to preserve food, so that the people in the North could survive the long and cold winters. Salt is also a metaphor for wisdom. Salt is a word shared by many languages, and in ancient times, it was so valuable that it was used as currency; ‘salt’ is actually the root of the word ‘salary’.”

Lasting a whole year in length, SALT will give its visitors and audience the opportunity to experience its offerings both indoors and out – from exhibitions and experimental performances, to concerts of classical and modern music, campfire readings, and child-friendly events.

SALT will cover the art, culture and environments found in various corners of the region within the Arctic Circle. The first festival series will take place on the beach of the cliff-edged island of Sandhornøya, which lies south of the town of Bodø, in northern Norway. For one week in June, a group of architects – Sami Rintala (Finland), Joar Nango (Norway) and Roger Mullin (Canada) – held an architecture seminar during which the participants began building the physical constructs for SALT. Construction will continue throughout the summer, at the end of which the grand opening of SALT will then be held.

The backbone and central symbol of SALT is the architecture project “Fiske hjelle” – a traditional Norwegian structure for the drying of fish – which was developed by the Finnish architect and artist, Sami Rintala.

At the core of SALT are two central artworks: “SALT Night” for the dark part of the year, and “SALT Day”, for the light-filled summer season.

Site-specific installations – reflecting modern-day existence in a poetic and very delicate manner – have been specially made for the event by internationally renown artists. Yang Fudong (Beijing), currently one of China’s most well-known filmmakers, has created an open-air video installation.

Fudong’s films are mostly black and white, plot-less and fragmented, but at the same time – hypnotic and expressive. His work is inspired by ancient Eastern traditions that claim that the true meaning of things cannot be expressed with words, which is why the silence that is understood by the heart plays a major part in his works. Fudong’s video material for the project was filmed in both China and Norway.

In the SALT restaurant, guests will be served seasonal, authentically prepared local foods – fish, game and edibles gathered from the forest.

The architects have also designed modest, yet comfortable, lodging on site at SALT. Inspired by the the simple, yet functional, construction methods employed by the nomadic peoples of the Arctic, the architects have created a brilliant mobile tent suitable for the harsh northern climate “Njalla”.

Visitors to the event will also be able to overnight in the SALT “Siida” shelter, which can be set up anywhere – even right on the Atlantic coast if that seems comfortable to you.

This is definitely a wonderful opportunity to experience the polar landscape of Norway, combining summer festival plans with soul-enriching eco-tourism in the sublime natural environment of remote Northern Norway, and to do it all through the prism of culture and art.

In the upcoming years, SALT will travel to neighboring countries and create new festival camps in Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Ireland, Scotland, Spitsbergen and Alaska.

These plans led us to ask SALT’s creative team the following question: In future years, will the SALT concept continue with the same philosophy as this year’s event, or will it be celebrating other aspects of each particular region? To which we received the following reply: “Yes, the philosophy will follow us where we go. It is inspired by the shared history, culture and present situation in the Arctic and across the different countries that we travel to. However, every destination has its own uniqueness and SALT will try to capture and communicate this as favorably, and as interestingly, as possible.”

We also asked the creative team to sketch out their vision of what a visitor could gain from SALT: Just for a brief second, imagine that person X  lives in the SALT resort of Sandhornøy for one whole year, with all of the SALT-offered goods and events at his or her disposal. In your opinion, how would this unique adventure – a whole year of SALT – change person X? And what can visitor Y, who spends just one day at SALT, gain?

“That is a very imaginative question, but also a difficult one to answer. I believe that even just one visit can have a profound impact on people. The beach itself and the surrounding landscapes are mind-blowing, even without SALT. It made a deep impression on me the first time I visited. Our hope is that one or several SALT experiences will fill people with respect, love and engagement for the planet we live on, and that they will take the urgent challenges that we face seriously.”

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Photo above: Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest, Part 4, 2007. Deutsche Bank Collection. © Yang Fudong Courtesy Yang Fudong and ShanghArt Gallery, Shanghai

Opening weekend programme:

– On 29 August 2014, at 6pm, SALT’s journey will begin on the beach at Sandhornøy, with a unique experience: Chinese artist Yang Fudong’s film installation, The Light that I Feel.


– During 29 – 30 August, SALT will present an exciting combination of international, national and local visual and performing artists.

– Following the opening of Yang Fudong’s specially commissioned, site-specific installation, Friday 29 August will see an array of exciting and unique music performances, including American artist and musician Lonnie Holley.

The night will also feature performances by musicians from the Arctic Symphonic Orchestra, the world’s most northerly orchestral institution; plus DJ Are Mokkelbost and Ensemble Ylajali, a 20-piece all-female choir.

– Following the launch night, Saturday 30 August will see a second night of music and visuals, including performances by Biosphere, Wardruna, Slagr and Elle Marja Eira.

Written by: Elīna Čivle Üye Featured image (on top): Matti Aikio