Catalogue text for “Earth to Earth”, Genius Loci 2000, land art at Søgne Gamle Prestegård. 250 cubic metres of earth shaped as a circle with an 18 metre diameter, sown with grass.
WHAT IS A PLACE?
The seen and the unseen: Can one speak of the outer and inner story of a place, the spirit of a place? Genius loci was in Roman times the term for the guardian deity of a place; in our day the Norwegian architect Christian Norberg-Schultz has reinvigorated the term.
Genius loci is the name of an art project based on an understanding of place. It started in 1999 with a seminar and an exhibition of two centuries of coastal landscape painting. The following year 2000, as the first part of the Land Art exhibition, six artists worked in the area round the church and rectory of Søgne Gamle Prestegård, through their work opening up a new understanding of the place. The project will end in 2002 with the work of another six artists on the islands of Ny-Hellesund.
The renowned Norwegian architect Sverre Fehn’s contribution was the drawing for the new multi-faith chapel on Kapelløya i Ny-Hellesund, literally open to the four corners of the earth. As the site for her earth sculpture in the Land Art exhibition of the millenium year, Barbro Raen Thomassen chose Kirkeneset, close to the the church. In the seminar the archeologist Frans Arne Stylegar reminded us of the significance of this place with its large imposing burial mounds in pre-christian times. Later one of the first churches in the region was built on that very spot. The river has provided fertile soil throughout the ages, and it was in this connection Barbro Raen Thomassen as an 11-year old first became acquainted with the place, on all fours weeding among the vegetables. And here she worked through the spring of 2000 to create her earth sculpture. In the words of the writer Gro Dahle: "A place has many places". "Earth to Earth" has given Kirkeneset a new place.
It has given us new insight into the site, it has opened up our imaginative understanding of the history of the place, and it has released a host of new questions. It is a strange and wonderful sculpture, calm and colossal. The grassy earthwork mound has changed with the seasons, marked by sun, wind and rain. Many people have enjoyed passing by at different times, seeing it lying there huge and extraordinary in the middle of the field. The sculpture is unobtrusively present as living "landscape art" outside the confines of the gallery, generously accessible. Thus it becomes part of the British Land Art tradition that is characterized by the way it works with, not against, the forces of nature.
We can move mountains. Today we have machines and technology that can do almost anything. But do we use our gift of awareness? Are we present in the present? As if it were some flying object from the future, or maybe from the past, I feel that this earthen mound has something to tell me. It moves me to reflection and sensations I was unaware of before it landed here at Kirkeneset and inside me.
Ingrid Juell Moe, leader of the project Genius Loci