“Gompen og andre beretninger om overvåking i Norge 1948–1989”

Lene Berg (NO)

Lene Berg is intrigued by the narratives omitted from official versions of history. Her project Gompen, which combines theatre and film, centres on clandestine surveillance operations in Norway during the Cold War.

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  • Gompen, Lene Berg. Photographer: Alette Schei Rørvik
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About the project

About the project

“Gompen” was the nickname of a small but vital component in a homemade switchboard. Installed in a secret room at Folkets Hus (the headquarters of Norway’s Confederation of Trade Unions – the “LO”). This switchboard was used to eavesdrop on meetings and conversations within the building. This surveillance was conducted in accordance with agreements, which strictly speaking were illegal, between the Labour Party, the LO, and the Norwegian intelligence services.

In 2014, Lene Berg staged a “hearing” in a room at the National Museum. During this hearing, which was open to the public, real people and actors took turns to sit in the witness box and speak about clandestine surveillance operations in Norway during the Cold War. The whole event was conducted as if it were a live television broadcast. The film, which comprises a selection of the witnesses’ accounts, together with dramatizations and critical commentaries, is a hybrid of historical fact and fiction. A courtroom artist is shown documenting the process, while witnesses describe surveillance operations that were highly intrusive but also at times absurd. The witnesses recall mysterious clicks on telephone lines, letters that arrived already opened, and the keeping of secret dossiers. They also tell of the far-reaching and destructive effects of the surveillance. The “cast”, which comprises targets of the surveillance as well as the people who carried it out, includes Finn Sjue, a former editor of the left-wing newspaper Klassekampen; Iver Frigaard, a former employee of the Police Surveillance Agency; former Labour politician Ronald Bye; and the author Dag Solstad. Through the accounts provided by this unique gallery of characters, the film offers a complex portrayal of both the essential nature of surveillance and some little known aspects of post-war Norway.

Berg’s project, which brings the chill of the Cold War into the present day, touches on issues of continued relevance. By subtle means, surveillance is becoming part of our everyday lives. Take, for example, the widespread registration of digital fingerprints and the recent legislative changes triggered by terrorism-related fears. The terrorism warning issued in Norway in the summer of 2014 breathed new life into debates about national security versus the individual’s right to privacy, highlighting the topicality of Berg’s project.

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Facts

Facts

Artist
Date completed

05.09.2014

Producer (URO)

Bo Krister Wallström
Helga Fjordholm

Producer

KORO (URO)
Studio Fjordholm AS

Project manager

Alette Schei Rørvik

Project partner

Stiftelsen Fritt Ord
Akershus Kunstsenter
Atelier Nord
Kunstnernes Hus

Program

Art scheme for outdoor public spaces (URO)

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