Through an open call, Munchmuseet and the Young Artists’ Society (UKS) invited artists to submit proposals for art projects in the borough of Old Oslo. The jury selected two projects: Hanne Ramsdal & Rebekka Nystabakk’s writing workshops in Oslo Prison, and a new performance by Amelia Beavis-Harrison based on the resulting texts.
Hey, you there on the other side of the wall, look up at me!
Over the summer, Hanne Ramsdal and Rebekka Nystabakk carried out a number of writing workshops with inmates in Oslo Prison. The texts produced in these workshops provide the basis for The sun comes up or the world spins round, call it what you want, a project that seeks to create a meeting place between the inside and the outside of an almost invisible institution, located centrally in Oslo. Through a collection of texts, sound recordings and a series of live readings, audiences will encounter the thoughts of a group of people they normally, by definition, would not meet. The inmates’ texts are about daily routines, boredom, longing for a normal life, coffee, TV, dreams and aspirations. Visitors are invited to create a conversation by giving something back to the prison in the form of their own writings and reflections.
The exhibition at Landbrukets Hus creates a temporary meeting between two places, a stone’s throw apart, uniting the inside and the outside – freedom and its opposite – if only for a few weeks.
Into the prison coffee goes […] All enemies of health are put in prison in Health Land.
In the texts from the writing workshops, Amelia Beavis-Harrison noticed a number references to coffee as a normalizing element in the daily life in the prison. Research into the connection between prisons and propaganda in Norway led her to the 1930s campaign Melkeveien til Helseland, devised to encourage children to drink milk. This cartoon presented utopian life in Health Land, in which coffee was characterized as something evil that belonged in prison. This campaign connected to the former role of Landbrukets Hus as the headquarters for milk distribution in Oslo. Through conversations with Hanne and Rebekka, Amelia was told that the writing workshop had inadvertently led to the cancellation of the inmates’ football match. The Milky Way is a site-specific performance in which Coffee and Milk play each against each other in an unusual game of football, accompanied by a vocal score.
Participants in The Milky Way: Benjamin Lønne Røsler, Don Lawrence, Eirik Slyngstad, Per Magnus Barlaug, Silje Johannessen, Espen Solsbak, Eline Reve and Ksenia Aksenova.
Photographer: Rena Li / Munchmuseet
Hanne Ramsdal (b. 1974) holds a degree in Literature from the University of Oslo and is currently undertaking an MA in Theatre at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts. She debuted as a novelist with «Jeg lukket døren bak ham da han gikk» (Gyldendal Forlag) in 2006. Since then, Ramsdal has produced text for theatre, film, literature and art. Ramsdal also runs the theatre company Treverket with two actors, and has experience as a producer, director and writing workshop manager.
Rebekka Nystabakk (b. 1984) studied Acting at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Fredrikstad and the Oslo National Academy of the Arts in Oslo. Upon graduating, she formed the theatre company Rebekka/Huy with Huy Le Vo. The duo are behind such shows as «Happy Birthday Putin» and «Apokalypse da». In recent years, Nystabakk has been working at Hålogaland Theatre in Tromsø. In addition to working as an actor, she has worked with project development, text production and directing.
The collaboration between Ramsdal and Nystabakk started with the project «22/7» at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts, a dramatic arts piece based on the incidents on July 22, 2011. They conducted a writing workshop at Tromsø prison, which culminated in an exhibition of texts in the prison for both inmates and staff.
Amelia Beavis-Harrison (b.1986) is a British artist based between Norway and UK, working primarily with performance, installation and video. Amelia initiated and ran Lincoln Art Programme, a live art commissioning body in Lincoln, UK, (2009-2013). In 2015, she founded Kunst Vardo, a nomadic art platform.