The vision

The faces of history, the voices of humanism.

This year it will be 80 years since Norway was invaded in 1940, and 75 years since its liberation in 1945. Rose Castle 2020 is an art installation and an educational project which aims to tell the story of the occupation of Norway and of the fundamental principles of democracy, the constitutional state and humanism which were invalidated by the occupation. We want to tell the story of the war without demonising or glorifying, by focusing our narrative on individuals and their choices. We will touch on well-known and less well-known aspects of the occupation: the sufferings of prisoners of war, the unknown individual’s story, everyday life, the drama of the naval servicemen, and the resistance campaigns in the south and north. There will be a strong focus on the persecution of Norwegian Jews in the series of pictures, and a depiction of anti-Semitism before and during the war.

The language of the artwork seeks to engage, challenge and confront. In short, to revive. We are not looking at the world in an academic or analytical way. That is not our task – and a work of art can never be true in a scientific sense. Art is a subjective narrative about the world, inviting us to start a dialogue. We want Rose Castle to be an arena which challenges a variety of historical specialist fields. In this space between art and science, we may gain new insight.

With the narrative of the five war years as a backdrop, we will attempt to dig down and reveal the cornerstones of our society: The constitutional state, democracy and humanism – and demonstrate that these treasures are values which we can easily lose if we do not look after them. Values which we must never stop defending, and which form the fundamental power of resistance in the individual and in society. Rose Castle as a whole will therefore stand as a dignified, unobtrusive and clear ‘no’ in our present-day world: a ‘no’ to intolerance, anti-Semitism and racism – and remind us to ‘revive within us’ the values which were taken from us during the occupation.

Norwegian society is deeply rooted in the values of the Constitution which was signed in Eidsvoll in 1814, and on the later democratic developments of the parliamentary system and universal suffrage. Many of these values were inspired by the American Declaration of Independence, which itself was influenced by the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen from the French Revolution. High above Oslo – at the same elevation as Frognerseteren – and easily visible from the city and surrounding area, five illuminated ‘golden’ structures will symbolise the fight for freedom and democracy of the five war years. A 26 metre high column will form an illuminated sail in honour of the naval servicemen and the Navy. Two equally high structures, shaped like a tree and a mountain, will honour the resistance campaign which stretched from Southern Norway to Northern Norway. A column shaped like a cross-section of the wing of a plane, and half a quill represent the Air Force, civilian resistance and the underground press. The final installation, the King Birch, will stand in the centre.

With its 30 metres, it represents the King and his ‘no’. The King Birch is testament to the courageous choices of the individual and the belief in the principles of our democratic constitution. This mental protection is our strongest means of defence. Paragraphs from the Constitution are written into the ‘bark’ of the tree. Like an illuminated backbone, the birch reminds us that these principles only remain alive as long as we believe in them. The King Birch is the vision of the free individual and civil resistance. The ‘White Rose’ is at the entrance, representing the opposition group within Germany which bore that name, and is also an example of humanity’s fight against oppression – even when it can appear to be absolutely hopeless.
lysende ryggsøyle som minner oss om at disse prinsippene bare lever så lenge vi tror på dem. Kongebjerka er visjonen av det frie individet og sivil motstandskraft.

Ved inngangen står «Den hvite rose» og peker på gruppen av tyske opposisjonelle med samme navn, og er samtidig et eksempel på menneskers kamp mot undertrykkelse – selv når det kan synes aller mest håpløst.

Man is at the centre!

Democracy and its philosophical thinking came into being in the plazas and streets of the Greek city states while questions filled the air. This was a time when the concept of natural law arose, a thinking which culminated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Greeks also created a method of teaching, to school its citizens in free thinking and free speech, with geometry being a key element in this teaching. Rose Castle aspires to exhibit geometric installations which represent the free art of the ancient world and the fascination of the Renaissance humanists with the harmony of the geometric form. The astronomer Johannes Kepler hopes that the geometry of the planetary system can teach mankind friendship and peace. Leonardo da Vinci illustrates a textbook on geometry, and draws a man within a square and a circle. Man is at the centre, and the human body has become an ideal and an objective.

Geometry demonstrates the humanists’ scientific exploration of the world, and with its clear language it highlights the transparency of the free society. Its symmetries relate to the balanced temperament and the balance between the forces within the state. Geometry is an illustration of reason, and like music, it reveals the fundamental harmonies of nature. This is not just a legacy from the ancient world, but the system of physics itself. Geometry is universal – like freedom.

The geometric sculptures are encircled by more than 90 giant paintings, mainly of subjects relating to the Second World War in Norway. The war in Norway is depicted in new and surprising ways, in a range of artistic languages.

An experience for everyone

Rose Castle is an art installation and an educational landscape which nourishes the senses, intellect and heart. We call it a sensory arena for the whole person.
The educational concept is to bring history alive through personal accounts and a range of artistic expressions on a spectacular stage – at the edge of the deep forests. The project is secular and is aimed at everyone, regardless of their religion, beliefs or political views, or how old they are.

To counteract polarisation in society, it is important for us to have a vision which unites us – to have common values. The humanist Seneca was writing about the state of mankind as long as 2,000 years ago. This emphasises that the first and most important community to which we belong is that of mankind. Rose Castle aims to inspire people to create a future on the basis of a belief in human decency and freedom, thereby strengthening our mental protection, which is the real defence against totalitarian forces. If we believe in the inherent value of people, we can reveal a common standpoint and foundation. Our vision of human decency culminates in the main structure at the centre of Rose Castle: ‘The Unborn Star’. With its universal geometric language, it will depict universal values. It is a star which is shining towards us from the future and is evidence that we also have something in common with the generations which will come after us. At the star, the public will be able to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

At Rose Castle, we have taken art out of closed rooms and put it into the natural environment, where it can be seen through the changing seasons, in snow and rain, in light, darkness and twilight.

An educational landscape

When you walk through the gate of Rose Castle, you find yourself in an art park 75 metres in diameter, surrounded by a castle wall made of giant paintings. In front of you is a 250 metre long spiral path. The path marks a historic walk from antiquity to the present day, and ends with a vision of the future. Along the way there will be geometric spatial shapes that make the voices visible from the history of humanism, the rule of law and democracy. Through audio guides, the audience is taken around the Castle and through monumental paintings and geometry installations experience different aspects of the occupation and the story of humanism. Highlighting the witnesses of war and their stories is an important part of the art project that aims to tell about the events at the individual level.

In addition to this, we will also add multimedia performances from the stage in the Rose Castle, where paintings and geometry are placed in conjunction with each other. The Rose Castle stage will also be the venue for a concert program developed by the Rose Castle’s musical director Martin Romberg.

The faces of history

Among the paintings will be a series of around 30 portraits of contemporary witnesses. These include some of the last surviving members of the resistance to the occupation: Jakob Strandheim, who is the last survivor of the Shetland Bus, and Lillian Gabrielsen from Rjukan, female member of the resistance. Ranveig Forsberg is one of the contemporary witnesses from Narvik. We also meet Petra Olsen from Sørøya, the last surviving member of the Women’s Defence League there. There is a portrait of Eystein Røset, one of the last two survivors of those who fought for Narvik. There are also portraits of surviving ‘cave people’ from the forced evacuation of Finnmark. In the series of portraits, Vebjørn Sand has painted a number of the civilian victims of Nazism, including Herman Kahan, who is one of the few Norwegians alive today who survived the Holocaust.

The arena above the city

Rose Castle amed to become one of the official arenas of the 2020 celebrations, just as the Peace Star did at the same location in a collaboration with the government’s ‘Norge 2000’ events organisation and the Nobel Institute for New Year’s Eve 2000. When the Antarctic-inspired Troll Castle was erected on this site 20 years ago, it illustrated how unique this site is as an outdoor forum. Troll Castle, with its 26 metre high iceberg shapes, lit up like a Soria Moria fairytale castle in the winter night, attracted 180,000 people over the course of three months in the winter of 1997/98.