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Pages of a book folded into 3-D geometric shapes
Pages of a book folded into 3-D geometric shapes

Oscar Tuazon, Untitled (Dome Cookbook #1), 2008, detail. Variable dimensions. Photo: Thor Brødreskift. Courtesy of Fekene Art Collection.

Scandinavian welfare is wobbling on unsteady legs these days. Having a full fridge and heating flowing freely into our homes is no longer a given. Our welfare system has come under pressure from both an urgent need to change our relationship with natural resources and a nasty warlord in Russia. Perhaps that is why it was such a relief to explore Oscar Tuazon’s architectural cardboard structures inside Bergen Kunsthall. They make for dark and comfortable hiding places, like badger dens, and actually feel a bit warm and cosy now that the space between me and the soaring ceiling is a few degrees cooler than usual due to high electricity prices.

We scrimp and save and shower at the gym (let them pick up the tab). There, the hot water flows out of the taps as expected, and we are hardly likely to turn our palms upwards and say our thanks for the water. The people of Bergen do not need to get down on our knees and thank Svartediket lake for bringing us high-quality drinking water. Or do we? “I wake up every day and thank the water,” says a member of the Newe tribe from Spring Valley outside Las Vegas in a video featured in Tuazon’s exhibition. I am reminded of a way of thinking where humankind takes up less space than we are used to in the West. Humanity is not the CEO, but a co-worker in the cosmos, and the good things that come to us are to be regarded as gifts from our generous protectors, Mother Earth and Grandfather Sun.

The cardboard houses inside the kunsthall are scaled-down models based on the Zome House (1969–1972) designed by American architects Holly and Steve Baer. These so-called Earthships were made to stand in the desert and utilise passive solar energy. Water runs inside the walls, helping to both heat and cool the house in extreme desert environments where day and night see great differences in temperature. The Baers were, among other things, inspired by another utopian architect, Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983), who built spectacular domes and biospheres. Feel free to imagine round domes assembled from triangles, pentagons, or hexagons. Tuazon has used the Baers’ designs to build a series of water schools for the general education and edification of a human race that needs to stop acting as if the earth were a limitless free-for-all buffet set out for our pleasure.

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