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Norway will cut through an island in tribute to massacre victims

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How do you adequately craft a memorial for one of the worst days in a country's modern history? That's the question that was posed to architects and artists as part of a competition for a dual-site memorial commemorating the attacks in Norway on July 22nd, 2011. On that day, 77 people were killed, eight by an Oslo car bomb and 69 in a massacre at a youth event on the island of Utøya. After holding an open competition, Norway has decided to install a pair of memorials designed by Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the attacks.

As Bustler reports, Dahlberg's proposal for an Utøya memorial is at once simple and striking. An 11-foot (3.5 meter) cut will be made in the nearby headland at Tyrifjorden, forever separating it from the mainland with the water that now surrounds it. This cut represents the loss of life caused by the attack by literally removing a chunk of the country's land and figuratively carving an unhealable wound into its landscape.

Visitors to the memorial, which is titled Memory Wound, will by guided down a pathway through the island's forest into a tunnel that leads to the wound. The tunnel ends abruptly at the cut, where visitors will be able to see to the other side. Opposite this viewing window will be the names of all those who lost their lives on July 22nd. "The names will be close enough to see and read clearly," explains Dahlberg, "yet ultimately out of reach. This cut is an acknowledgement of what is forever irreplaceable."

The earth, plants, and trees removed through excavating the cut will be transferred to Oslo, where it will act as the foundation for the city's memorial. The Oslo tribute comprises a contemplative path situated alongside an existing busy walkway. The memorial will take visitors off their regular path but ultimately lead them in the right direction. It speaks to the massive impact the attacks had on the everyday lives of Norwegians, but concludes that although we should take time to remember what happened, life must carry on.

  • <em>Memory Wound</em> will be an 11-foot wide cut through headland near the island of Utøya.

    Memory Wound will be an 11-foot wide cut through headland near the island of Utøya.

  • Visitors to the memorial will be able to walk inside the headland through a short tunnel.

    Visitors to the memorial will be able to walk inside the headland through a short tunnel.

  • Opposite the viewing area, the victims' names will be viewable, but out of reach.

    Opposite the viewing area, the victims' names will be viewable, but out of reach.

  • Earth and trees from the cut will be transported to Oslo to form the foundation of a separate monument.

    Earth and trees from the cut will be transported to Oslo to form the foundation of a separate monument.

All images copyright Jonas Dahlberg Studio, courtesy of KORO / Public Art Norway.

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