Upon clearing out a storage room, discovering boxes of old posters from the movie theatre in Svolvær felt a bit like opening a time capsule. This became the starting point for creating an exhibition at the North Norwegian Art Centre, investigating the past and present of the cinema in a small town in Northern Norway. With their peculiarities of overpainted translations, the posters serve as a springboard for memories about the movie theatre in Svolvær, Lofoten.
There is a distinct lack of written sources surrounding this cinema, and the knowledge of its past relies mostly on memory and oral storytelling. To scratch behind the paint and look behind the words – that is, further investigate the movie theatre – and to do a commissioned work, artist Helene Sommer has been invited. Her practice is research based, often relying on a combination of archive material and oral histories. She has previously done projects where she dug into film history and memory. For this project Sommer is investigating the architecture of the movie theatre in relation to people’s recollections of the cinema. Photographer Kjell Ove Storvik is also invited, to show a series of photographs he did on Svolvær Movie Theatre in the 1980s. They serve as visual memories in themselves, while also echoing some of the images from Helene Sommers installation from another moment in time.
As any movie theatre in any town, the one in Svolvær has gone through changes since the current venue was opened in 1938. It once served as an important social meeting point. But the last decades of competition with other media has made going to the cinema an increasingly marginalised experience. Knowing that times have changed, the openness and togetherness unique to a movie theatre can be worth a reminder. The cinema in Svolvær is still running and still bringing people together in the dark, although in smaller numbers. In its heyday, it gathered a great number of both locals and visitors, with queues of excited movie-goers winding down the street. A wide variety of films was on the program, offering a generous repertoire compared to other small towns in Norway. As such it can stand as a symbol of Lofoten’s connection to the world: A place in the periphery, yet always open to impulses from around the world. In the exhibition at the North Norwegian Art Centre, the movies themselves are not the focus of attention. Rather, the focus is on everything around what was screened: memorabilia, architecture, people and their stories.
Central to the project is the layering of meaning, and how these different layers relate to each other. The layering of the overpainted titles in the posters and the built layers of the architecture of the cinema act as metaphors on how both memory and translation works. Memory operates partly independently from the source experience, much like how a translation relates to a source text. In this sense they are ways of creating one’s own twist – as both an homage and a diversion – to a story.
Curated by Torill Østby Haaland
About the artists:
Helene Sommer (b. 1978) lives and works in Oslo. Sommer received her education from the
National Academy of Fine Arts in Oslo. Through video, collage, installation and text she
explores the relationship between official history and subjective memory, between the past
and the present. Sommer is interested in the many levels of strategies, interpretation and
translation involved in all storytelling. Her work is often based on a montage of a large, but
selective assortment of found source material in combination with material produced by
herself. Her works have been exhibited at, among other places, Atelier Nord (Oslo),
Fotografisk Center (Copenhagen), Kunstnernes Hus (Oslo), Fotogalleriet (Oslo), Oslo
Kunstforening, Stenersenmuseet (Oslo), Tromsø Kunstforening, De Appel (Amsterdam),
Neue Berliner Kunstverein (Berlin) and Chert Gallery (Berlin).
Kjell Ove Storvik (b. 1952, Svolvær) lives in Northern Norway and is working as an expedition
photographer in The Arctic and Antarctic. In addition he is a photographer of a large variety
of topics related to art and life style. A number of assignments for polar expeditions has led
to visits at both the North and South pole. Since 2003 he has been connected to Arctic Mars
Analog Svalbard Expedition, where instruments and hardware for ongoing and future Mars
expedition has been tested on Mars analog geology. Kjell Ove Storvik earlier work was
related to printed media, and his pictures has been extensively published in different
magazines and news papers, including Time Magazine, National Geographic, New York Times
and Lofotposten. He has also illustrated more than 70 books, with a variety of themes
spending from food, children books, travel and poetry.