WERNER ZELLIEN – UTØYA
20.01. - 09.03.2024
Exhibition Opening: 19.01.2024, 7 p.m. | Greeting by Else Kveinen, Counsellor for Culture, Norwegian Embassy, Opening Speech by Nils Ohlsen, Director Lillehammer Art Museum
Artist Talk: 20.01.2024, 11 a.m. | Werner Zellien and Nils Ohlsen in conversation
Curator: Nils Ohlsen
Opening hours: Thu/Fri 4pm-8pm, Sat 12pm-4pm and by appointment
On the 22nd of July 2011, a Norwegian murderer committed a devastating crime against the nation of Norway. On the island of Utøya, 69 members of the Worker`s Youth League (AUF) were killed that day and 110 injured.
Ahead of the killing on the island, the perpetrator detonated a bomb in the city center of Oslo killing 8, injuring 209 and causing massive destruction of government buildings.
A few months after the massacre, Werner Zellien contacted the Worker´s Youth League (AUF) to not only obtain permission but also to establish a mutual understanding that such an event calls for the necessity to make a work of art.
The work is about the process of being in mourning, about the deeply felt sadness of why and what human beings are committing against each other.
Clearly the perpetrator, having trained himself to be a neo-nationalist, a neo-Nazi, hating all foreign influences on his nation especially immigration of people from Muslim countries, went on the killing spree determined to kill as many as possible. The urge to destroy and to kill human beings is clearly visible behind his smoke screen of ideology.
For those who have been directly affected by this crime it means that an event like this never ever leaves you, you may be able to forget it for a while, but eventually it will come back to you.
Human nature is such that we desperately want to forget, that we even change entire landscapes and buildings and people to distance ourselves from a horrible event that had taken place.
It is therefore Zellien's objective to preserve within a photograph that which is going to disappear. What you see today in Zellien's photographs you will nevermore be able to find in reality.
The idea of this work is to get away from the atrocities to a different plane where mourning and sadness and comfort becomes visible. Yet, knowing that, deadly facts are faithful followers.
Zellien decided to photograph the island with a thin layer of snow, just enough to cover up any visible traces and to photograph at the darkest time of the year when the sun only rises well into the morning at around 10:00 AM. He was alone on the island and I began photographing at 07:00 AM and ended at around noon.
This series of 45 images begins in pitch black darkness and ends with the sun just above the horizon.
The idea is based on a poem by Friedrich Rückert. Born one year before the French Revolution in 1788,
Rückert was a poet, a translator and a professor for oriental languages. A true multicultural personality. He mastered 30 languages translating from Sanskrit and Arabic into German works such as al-Hariri of Basra, Quran, The Wisdom of the Brahmin.
In 1838, Rückert wrote 428 poems grieving the death of two of his children who had died of scarlet fever. Gustav Mahler composed music for five of these poems and they became known as the Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children), just as Rückert had named them.
Nun will die Sonn’ so hell aufgeh’n
als sei kein Unglück die Nacht gescheh’n.
Das Unglück geschah nur mir allein.
Die Sonne, sie scheinet allgemein.
The sun will rise as brightly now
as though the night had brought no tragedy.
The tragedy is mine alone.
The sun, it shines for everyone.
Of course, one can not compare death caused by sickness and death to one caused by a murderous action. But they do have one thing in common, the indifference of the gods, of nature and indeed of the cosmos as we see it. Regardless of our despair, the sun is rising again. In a childlike manner, we wonder why she can´t stay down.
The poems and the music and my pictures are an uproar against senseless cruelty. They offer peaceful scenes on an island tainted by murder, scenes of both mourning and solace.
One should look at the pictures in both directions, from darkness to brightness and back to darkness.
Thus, is the pendulum of grief and mourning.