Steilneset Memorial by Peter Zumthor + Louise Bourgeois

Steilneset Memorial by Peter Zumthor + Louise Bourgeois

In Vardø, an island at the most northeasterly point of Norway, Pritzker prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor and artist Louise Bourgeois collaborated on a monument to 91 witches burned at the stake in the 17th century.

The monument stretches out into the stark Scandinavian landscape, a modern addition to remember the past crimes of a harsh era. Svein Ronning, curator of Norway’s ongoing National Tourist Routes programme, invited Bourgeois and Zumthor to collaborate on the tourist attraction, as part of an ambitious scheme which involves man-made follies popping up across the Norwegian landscape.

Zumthor’s pine scaffolding supports a suspended silk cocoon. Within the cocoon, visitors walk along a 400-foot long oak-floored corridor. A hanging light bulb floats behind each of the 91 windows, illuminating them in memory of the 91 individuals who were convicted of sorcery and burnt at the stake. Each window is accompanied by a plaque that reveals the story of each individual.

Serving as Bourgeois’s last major installation, “The Damned, The Possessed and The Beloved” contains an endless flame burning upon a steel chair that lies within a hollow concrete cone. The installation is housed within a smoky, reflective glass structure that contrasts Zumthor’s long, wooden installation.

Zumthor simply describes his collaboration with Bourgeois in an interview with ArtInfo as the following:

“I had my idea, I sent it to her, she liked it, and she came up with her idea, reacted to my idea, then I offered to abandon my idea and to do only hers, and she said, ‘No, please stay.’ So, the result is really about two things — there is a line, which is mine, and a dot, which is hers… Louise’s installation is more about the burning and the aggression, and my installation is more about the life and the emotions .”