Kistefos is one of Europe’s most important destinations for contemporary art. Built on the grounds of a historical pulp mill, Kistefos today offers world-class architecture, an Industrial Museum, two art galleries, and an impressive sculpture park in the scenic surroundings of Jevnaker north of Oslo.
Kistefos, as we know it today, was established in 1996 by businessman and art collector Christen Sveaas, grandson of Anders Sveaas who once established A/S Kistefos Træsliberi. The company produced wood pulp at the site from 1889 to the mid-1950s. The industrial heritage is preserved, creating a beautiful framework for the art.
In 2019, the museum opened The Twist, an award-winning new gallery space designed by BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group. The Twist is a gallery, a bridge and a sculpture all in one — taking a sculptural form spanning the River Randselva and twisting at the mid-point. The Twist has won several prizes and nominations for its cutting edge design. The sculpture park expands with one or more sculptures each year and includes works by leading artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Tony Cragg, Fernando Botero, Oldenburg & Van Bruggen, Elmgreen & Dragset, Marc Quinn and Anish Kapoor. The unveiling of Pierre Huyghe’s If The Swamp will mark the 50th sculpture in the park.
Every year Kistefos presents new art exhibitions by highly recognised national and international artists in their two art galleries – The Twist and Nybruket Gallery. A site-specific new commission by French artist Pierre Huyghe will be unveiled on 12 June. Titled If The Swamp, the vast permanent work will be the artist’s largest site-specific work to date and the most ambitious to ever be conceived for Kistefos.
As the 50th artwork to be included in the park, If The Swamp will inaugurate a previously inaccessible area of the park extending the visitor landscape. The site for If The Swamp, chosen by the artist, is in a regularly flooded area of the park next to the working power plant, linking Kistefos’ industrial heritage with what it has become today.
Huyghe is known for his immersive artworks and continues to expand our notion of what sculptural art can be. Responding to Kistefos’ environment, If The Swamp is an entity, a milieu, both physical and digital, permeable, continuously shaped by the surrounding floodwaters and modified by what it perceives. The work is simultaneously an island and the possibility of what this island could be under alternate conditions of reality.
The forest’s entire site has been scanned, down to its details, and digitalised. In a simulated environment, unbound from physical limitations, algorithmic and biological agent intelligence cooperate. A fiction-based set of rules is played out by learning machines that continually generate mutations of existing features, such as trees, trash, animals, or humans. The mutations change behaviours in real-time according to external factors, accelerating their growth with the floodwater, and transforming over the years. At times they randomly exit the simulation to manifest themselves physically on the actual island. They sustain or decompose, modifying the island’s appearance and progressively contaminate the existing reality with another possibility of itself. At the far end of the forest stands a screen where an autonomous eye navigates the simulated environment, witnessing its ever-changing nature.