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Body Positive Norway: Vigeland’s Park

August 25, 2009

Hei Hei! I have been a poor excuse for a blogger lately as I’m studying abroad in Norway (Oslo, particularly). But don’t worry! I’ve been taking mental notes about approaches to health, size acceptance, and women’s equality here, which will hopefully become blog posts soon. But when I saw pictures from Vigeland’s Park – a sculpture garden in Oslo, completed between 1939 and 1949, showcasing the work of Gustav Vigeland – I knew I had to immediately visit and blog it.

Check this out:
Vigeland's monolith

That’s Vigeland’s Monolith, located at the center of the park

And just in case that’s a little to phallic for you, there’s also the Wheel of Life.

Both represent the central theme of all the sculptures in the park:

Man’s journey from cradle to grave, through happiness and grief, through fantasy, hope and wishes of eternity.

While the theme definitely comes through expertly and dramatically, I was most moved by the sheer representation of bodies. None of the bodies were there simply to be aesthetically pleasing, although all were nude, and sometimes sexual, the bodies were celebrated for their capacities, and were often are active and powerful.

And even when stationary, have the capacity to comfort and support.

The female forms, although feminine, still carried weight and strength.

I was particularly excited by the portrayal of parenting. Mothers and fathers were portrayed similarly with their kids. Both had the capacity to be tender and nurturing, as well as playful and disciplinary.

There were sculptures of people of all ages, and I liked that older bodies were represented the same as young ones. Still nude, honest, and strong.

Lastly, I found the intertwining of bodies to be completely beautiful. They related to each other openly and honestly and without violence. We have a culture of such strict boundaries of personal space, which I think is important for everyone’s body to feel safe, but have you ever gone a day (or longer) without touching anyone at all? Physical comfort and intimacy is so important, and I think we can relate to each other as human beings and as human bodies. In the world created by Vigeland, the body seems to be safe from violence, and able to relate and interact with other bodies as bodies, as physical selves with value and strength and meaning.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Lyndsay permalink
    August 25, 2009 9:01 PM

    That is so cool. I don’t know how similar Norway is to Denmark and Sweden. I studied abroad in Sweden and visited Denmark a year ago. People seemed more into their health than in North America but in a healthy way. I mean people didn’t get obsessed with healthy eating and exercise and sometimes fail at their goals in the end. It was more just their way of living. Or at least that was the impression I got. I also loved how many dads I saw carrying their babies or pushing them in strollers. I see that in Canada but I thought men almost did it more than women over there.

    • Andrew permalink
      August 26, 2009 6:55 PM

      Norway, Denmark and Sweden are neigbors, cousins and closely related in all ways. Our cultures are practically the same. Norway is culturally tied to both neighbors from the Viking Age to modern day social-democracies. We’re fellow Scandinavians.

  2. Carolyn permalink
    August 26, 2009 2:06 PM

    I’ve always wanted to visit Oslo and see the garden.

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