Nobel Peace Center

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  1. Photo: Nobel Peace Center
  2. Photo: Vibeke Christensene, Kulturbyrået Mesén
  3. Photo: Vibeke Christensene, Kulturbyrået Mesén
  4. Photo: Vibeke Christensene, Kulturbyrået Mesén
  5. Photo: Nobel Peace Center
  6. Photo: Illustration: Johannes Høie

Unknown Numbers

09 June 2016–01 Apr 2017

Unknown Numbers  is a 60-meter-long, 4-meter-tall artwork paying tribute to freedom of speech. The work is painted directly onto the Peace Wall outside the Nobel Peace Center.  

Eight big portraits fill the wall outside the Nobel Peace Center. Here is Carl von Ossietzky, the journalist who was imprisoned by the Nazis, and Adnan Hassanpour, the Kurdish journalist who has served nine years in prison in Iran. Here is also a young, female writer from Bahrain and a Mexican human rights lawyer who was shot and killed in her office. For a complete list, click here.

They have one thing in common: They have all made big sacrifices in their fight for free speech.

-Most of the people portrayed on the wall are alive today, and in the middle of their struggle. But some of them have died in their fight for free expression, says Shwan Dler Qaradaki, one of the artists behind the project.  –At the same time, the title “Unknown Numbers” suggests that there are many others facing the same faith.

Qaradaki is himself a Kurd and a refugee from Iraq. He and his family have experienced the consequences of lack of free speech and human rights. His brother is among the portraits on the wall. He was arrested during a demonstration in Iraq in the eighties, and was imprisoned and tortured.

-Free speech a very personal theme to me. When I was asked to join this project, I did not hesitate to say yes.

The other artist behind the work is Johannes Høie. He has worked with Shwan Dler Qaradaki on several occasions,

-The work has come to life through a dialogue between the two of us. We have used the wall as a large sketchbook, he says.

The two artists have painted the work directly onto the wall. They started the work in the beginning of May, and it took four weeks to finish. The work opened officially 9. June, and will remain until spring 2017.

The same day that the work on the Peace Wall was officially opened, the Nobel Peace Center opened a major exhibition about Carl von Ossietzky inside the museum. It is entitled The Dangerous Prize. Freedom of speech is the main focus of many of the activities at the Nobel Peace Center this coming season:

– “From many countries, we are receiving signals about bad conditions for freedom of speech and of the press. By shedding light on the stories of some of the individuals who are risking their lives for their freedom of speech, we want to remind all the people who are passing by, that freedom of speech is a right we need to defend and protect,” says Liv Tørres, executive director of the Nobel Peace Center.

The wall Unknown Numbers is painted on, hides the construction site of the new National Museum in Oslo. Last year, the wall was transformed into an arena for contemporary art in cooperation with Statsbygg. The project is curated by the culture agency Mesén and supported by Statsbygg, Bergesenstiftelsen, KORO, Fritt Ord and the City of Oslo.

Watch a short video of the artwork here:

Video: Visual Days / Nobel Peace Center.