Arctic living – the SALTed experience

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On the Norwegian island Sandhornøy, where the white Arctic beach meets the high mountains, the cultural project SALT takes place. SALT celebrates the Arctic culture and nature with this unique arts and music festival. Visitors can swim in the Arctic sea, enjoy the magnificent views while taking a sauna, and spend the night in the traditional Norwegian Njalla huts. SALT invites us to engage with the landscape through art and music, and balances the present awareness on political issues of the Arctic region with the contemporary interest in living an authentic life.

SALT hosts the cultural events in temporary wooden structures which form a man-made stage for a varied arts and music programme. A significant 150 metre long A-frame structure serves as the core venue for specially commissioned events, concerts and art projects. The first site-specific art installation was The Light That I Feel, a film by the internationally acclaimed Chinese artist, Yang Fudong. Rather than narrating a story, the black and white film captures the spectacular atmosphere of the poetic location.

In August SALT launched the site-specific art installation Pust by Norwegian artist Edvine Larssen. Pust, meaning breath or breathe, consists of a neon green fabric similar to a curtain or a sail, which is attached to the triangular gable of the largest A-frame structure. When the wind blows through the timber structure it feels like we are witnessing the structure actually breathing. The bright sail both highlights and marks the landscape and connects to the Arctic culture where people used to navigate through landmarks.

The art installation Pust epitomises the concept behind SALT. The idea is to raise awareness of the Arctic culture and nature, as well as to reflect on our common future. Inspired by the indigenous people who have inhabited the Arctic landscape through thousands of years, the initiators of SALT celebrate human life by showcasing its close relationship between culture and nature. SALT offers visitors the opportunity to engage and reconnect with the mythical landscape and its traditional way of living.

The large A-frame structures are based on the traditional Norwegian Fiskehjeller – constructions which have been used for thousands of years for drying fish on the racks. The indigenous people of the region were nomads who travelled with their animals across the Arctic landscape. They were forced to invent methods of preserving the fish in order to endure the long, dark winters, and hung their fish, where the winds were strong. The A-frame structure allowed the wind to slip through and the fish would dry fast, which is the characteristic feature the art installation Pust elegantly illustrates. The fish racks, which used to be a common sight in the region, are a strong symbol of the Arctic culture. Today, the structures are sadly part of a dying building tradition.

As a visitor you are guaranteed an authentic Nordic experience. SALT also offers a sauna, the world’s largest, which accommodates more than hundred people. The sauna fitted with a glass-front presents a panoramic view of the Arctic Sea and the majestic sky. The sauna also sometimes doubles as an amphitheatre for events, concerts and talks. Local food is served in the restaurant and bar, and small lodges inspired by the traditional Njalla huts are available for visitors who wish to spend the night at the beach.

The Njalla is a traditional type of Sami storage hut built on stilts to prevent wild animals from attacking the food kept in storage. The SALT Njallas are designed as a hybrid between a house and a tent, and leave no marks behind on the ground. They are complete with two beds, reindeer furs on dried birch branches, wood-burning stoves, and a glass ceiling so you can gaze at the midnight sun or at the Northern lights from your bed.

All the timber structures on the site are inspired by traditional Norwegian architecture. They are flexible and lightweight making them easy to build, remove and transport, and therefore perfectly suited for the nomadic lifestyle. They are designed by the renowned architectural studio Rintala Eggertsson and the artist Joar Nango. Rintala Eggertsson Architects are famous for their strong integration of architecture and nature, both in concept and material, paired with a rough aesthetic sensibility.

SALT takes its inspiration from the movement of people and animals in a wild Arctic landscape. The festival itself is a nomadic project, which will travel during the next few years and circle the Arctic region across Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Ireland, Scotland, Spitsbergen, and Alaska. It is sure to be an extraordinary and authentic pan-nordic experience.

by Jeanne Rank Schelde

SALT Sandhornøy, Norway is open until Autumn 2015

Find SALT on
Follow SALT on twitter: @salt_art_music


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Glass Online architecture and art writer

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