2nd of April 2020
Oslo, Norway
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Anne Beate Hovind

Why invest in public art, what tangible benefits it provides and what can cities learn: case Future Library

Anne Beate Hovind is the Project Director at Bjørvika Utvikling and Chair of the Future Library Trust.

Here is a recipe for future-making: vision, a forest, imagination, writers and 100 years.

Future Library is a public artwork by Scottish artist Katie Paterson. 1 000 trees have been planted in Nordmarka, a forest just outside Oslo. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished, until 2114.

Even though the project Future Library is a completely independent art project, it has helped boost Oslo’s profile and brand. This is one of those projects that gives a clear indication of how the city thinks and acts. The project started small. Soon however, Oslo discovered how much attention it started to get, how it evokes feelings and thoughts in people.  Press coverage all over the world followed. The interest in the Future Library and outreach in the world has been enormous, crossing borders, languages, religions and generations.

Future Library makes us engage with our surrounding space and time in a different way. Why?

Why do people like Future Library?

To begin with, it is a unique work of art. It also is a very tangible, concrete way of thinking beyond our own needs and doing something that is meant only for the future generation.

Doing something for future generations is rare. Doing something only for them is even more unique.

Future Library requires and praises co-operation, about human beings doing something together. After all, its success requires more than one person and organisations. No-one living today will see their work’s end result. Perhaps most importantly, in a very concrete way, Future Library makes it clear how small we humans are and how limited our time here on earth is and there will be others after us.

Conceived by Katie Paterson, Future Library is commissioned and produced by Bjørvika Utvikling, and managed by the Future Library Trust. The room in the Deichman Bjørvika is designed by the artist and architects Atelier Oslo and Lund Hagem. Supported by the City of Oslo, Agency for Cultural Affairs and Agency for Urban Environment. All 100 manuscripts will be held in a specially designed room in the Deichman Bjørvika (public library opening spring 2020), Oslo. No adult living today will ever know what is inside the boxes, other than that they are texts of some kind that will withstand the ravages of time. The Canadian author Margaret Atwood was the first author to contribute (2014) followed by British novelist David Mitchell (2015), Icelandic poet, novelist lyricist Sjón (2016), the author and political commentator Elif Shafak (2017), and last year the novelist Han Kang from South Korea. The Future Library Trust has selected Karl Ove Knausgård as the sixth author.

Branding Oslo

Now, to pull the reader down from literary heights, consider for a moment how this was made possible. Some prosaic work needed to be done. A forest was needed. The story about the Future Library is about many things, among them a story about how the Agency for Urban Environment provided the project with a forest, and the foresters that hand out coffee and chocolate to the people that attends the ceremony in the forest each year. It says something about the Oslo values in a rather exact way. that you can call directly to politicians and ask for a forest, for something other than a factory or real estate development. It says something about how green Oslo is.

It shows that cities can thing big and dare to be different and do something that is truly inspiring. “This project at least believes the human race will still be around in 100 years,” Margaret Atwood said to BBC.

Anne Beate will talk about why invest in public art, what tangible benefits it provides a city and how others can learn from it.

Anne Beate Hovind,
Future Library | Why invest in public art, what tangible benefits it gives a city and how other cities can learn from it. 

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