“Relocating the past: ruins for the future”

Ahmad Ghossein (LB)

The blast wave from the bomb that exploded in Oslo’s government district on 22 July 2011 destroyed everything in its path, including the newspaper display cases outside the offices of Norwegian tabloid VG in Akersgata. For two years after the explosion the display cases stood untouched, with newspaper pages from the Friday of the tragedy still legible behind the shattered glass. When artist Ahmad Ghossein heard that the display cases were due to be removed in 2013, he started a campaign to preserve them.

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  • Relocating the past: ruins for the future. Photographer: Alette Schei Rørvik / KORO
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About the project

About the project

The bombing and massacre of 22 July 2011 constituted the worst attack suffered by Norway in peacetime. The car bomb, which exploded in Oslo’s government district, caused enormous damage to several ministerial buildings and shattered windows in the surrounding area. The display cases outside VG’s offices at No. 55 Akersgata, which contained the pages of the day’s newspaper, were damaged by the blast wave and the glass shattered. But as a silent reminder of what had happened, the cases remained untouched until 2013. Ghossein walked past periodically and saw people standing looking at the display cases, where what had once been current news had become part of history, a final image of Norwegian society before catastrophe struck. When Ghossein heard that the display cases were to be removed, he looked into the possibility of preserving them as an artwork. His idea was for the cases to be preserved as physical evidence of the bomb attack, and also as a final image of Norwegian society before the catastrophe that so fundamentally challenged Norway’s national sense of community and the country’s self-image.

Ghossein’s first move was to make a film This is not the news of today, in which people on the street were asked whether the damaged display cases should be preserved. Many of those interviewed expressed the view that the cases were important for future understanding of the terror attacks.

The display cases were moved to a bus shelter next to the VG building in 2013 and remain there today. Ghossein considers it essential to preserve the cases in the vicinity of their original location. If they were to be moved from the area where they stood during the bombing, they would not longer function as messengers of the tragic events that took place on that July day in 2011. In order to circumvent the security rules that now apply to the government district, the cases are suspended two centimetres above the ground. A final site for the artwork cannot be identified until the entire plan for the government district is in place.

For an artist who engages with an extraordinary event such as the 22 July attacks, it is crucial to approach the project with caution, respect and understanding. With his project Relocating the past: ruins for the future, Ghossein has encouraged us to preserve a physical trace of the catastrophe for the future. This raw and authentic object captures a moment of history as it took place.

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