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Monica Bonvicini’s sculpture She Lies is now in place, its reflection glinting on the water outside the Opera House. H.M. Queen Sonja will take part in the official ceremony to mark the installation of the work on 11 May at 18.00, two years after the opening of the Opera House. “Two years that have been absolutely essential for the realisation of such a large and technically complex work,” says KORO director Gro Kraft. “With She Lies, eight years of work on the art programme for the Opera House reach completion and consummation. We wish to thank Christen Sveaas of Kistefos AS for a magnificent donation that has contributed greatly to the conclusion of this particular work.”

Utenfor Operaen

She Lies is a monumental sculpture built of acid-resistant steel and glass panels, measuring 12 x 17 x 16 m. It is a permanent work that stands on a concrete platform floating on the waters of the fjord, above which it reaches some 12 m. By turning on its own axis under the influence of the tides and the wind, the sculpture offers ever-shifting impressions, thanks to the play of light on its reflective and partially transparent surfaces.

The artist Monica Bonvicini won an international competition in 2007 with her proposal for She Lies, a three-dimensional interpretation of Caspar David Friedrich’s painting Das Eismeer (1823–1824). The central motif is a massive accumulation of ice, which, in the Nordic countries, is seen as a symbol of power and majesty. One important aspect of this commission is the impending transformation of the area around Bjørvika following the completion of the Opera House. Bonvicini wants She Lies to stand as a monument to change, yearning and hope as a permanent condition. This same combination of permanence and change is also apparent in the different meanings of the title; she is here to stay, yet should we believe someone who is forever presenting herself in a new light?

“The synthesis of structure/skin/ornament explores the interface between nature and culture, or that of a cultural artefact. While it reconstructs a famous Romantic painting, the work also represents in a visually striking way the shape of an iceberg, as if one had ended up in the fjord in front of the opera house due to the circumstances of global warming.” (Monica Bonvicini)

“Through the reference to Caspar David Friedrich’s painting, not only does Bonvicini create an art-historical dialogue and a cultural link to our European cultural heritage and its visual and operatic art,” says Gro Kraft, “she also establishes a direct exchange between her work and the architectural design of the Opera House. For it is this theme of white snow and glaciers as physical phenomena that Snøhetta plays on, alluding to climatic conditions and the leisure pursuits that we Norwegians view as an essential part of our identity.”

The decision to place an artwork in the water in front of the Opera House was ambitious. The work must turn on its own axis, and endure high winds, the salty sea water, and ice in winter. Given that it should also retain its artistic and expressive intention over many years, thoroughness in the choice of materials, technical specifications, and the manner of construction have been absolutely essential. The task of producing the work was entrusted to SIAS AS in Horten, who had to reconcile the formidable challenges of technical safety and aesthetic quality.

“The genesis of this work was multifaceted,” says Leif Løddesøl, chairman of the art committee. “The Directorate of Public Construction and Property executed the construction of Snøhetta’s building in an impressive manner. The art committee began its work long before the opera building was actually there, and, as a group consisting of artists, architects and “constructors”, also chose a demanding route that involved many complex choices. It called for cooperation between many people and institutions. Several of the art projects have also been technically very challenging. The water project is the last of the projects under our direction, and the most complex. Transforming an artist’s vision into a floating sculpture that weighs 335 tons and rises 12 metres above the surface of the water, a sculpture that should tolerate southerly winds no less than winter storms and ice while turning on its own axis, this has demanded the utmost of all involved. At the end of the road, we who have played a part in bringing the art projects at the Opera House to fruition are grateful for having been involved in something momentous.”

Monica Bonvicini is one of the most influential artists of her generation. The art of Monica Bonvicini investigates the relationships between space, gender and power. Utilizing different media, including drawing, collage, video and sculpture, her individual artworks are also steps in the process toward creating large-scale installations. The most interesting formal aspect of Bonvicini's work is her expressive formal exploration of environmental sculpture. Her critique of minimalism focuses on the incorporation of its forms in the bourgeois aesthetic of everyday structures. Through a reflection on gender issues, often reinforced by biting humour, her work addresses the problem of "building", both architectural and social.

Public Art Norway – KORO is a specialized government body for public art and the country’s major producer of artwork. In addition to regional and municipal projects and commissions for rented government buildings and outdoor spaces, KORO currently has 65 governmental projects under production. The largest of these is for the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet, where an appointed art committee has been developing the art programme since 2002. She Lies is the final project in this programme.

The forecourt and roof of the Opera House: Kristian Blystad, Jorunn Sannes and Kalle Grude
The metal facades: Løvaas & Wagle
The art book SITE SEEING: Marte Aas, Talleiv Taro Manum, Tom Sandberg, Gerd Tinglum and Nina Witoszek Fitzpatrick
The foundation stone: Linus Elmes and Ludvig Löfgren
The foyer project: Olafur Eliasson
Stage curtain: Pae White
The water project: Monica Bonvicini
The film and video project: Bodil Furu and Trine Lise Nedreaas

The Art Committee for the Opera House:
Committee chairman, Representative of the Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs and Chairman of the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet from 1996-2005, Leif Terje Løddesøl
The artistic consultants from Public Art Norway (KORO), Oddvar I.N. Daren, Anne Knutsen and Sonja Wiik.
Stage director at the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet, Hilde Andersen.
Project director from Snøhetta (Snoarc), Kjetil Trædal Thorsen.
Secretary to the committee chairman, Erik Engerud

Beate Styri / KORO - Head of Communications /tel +47 90 60 66 61 /  bst@koro.no / www.koro.no

Translation: Peter Cripps