Society

In Oslo, Where Munch's Iconic "Scream" Will Never Fade Away

Ice statues of Munch's "Scream" in Oslo's main street
Ice statues of Munch's "Scream" in Oslo's main street
Dominique de La Tour

OSLO – Before we even begin, it’s not pronounced “munch,” “mench” or even “manch” – it’s “moonk!” It’s a question of politeness, and also the locals are more likely to understand us if we pronounce his name correctly.

In Olso, the artist is everywhere, just like his iconic masterpiece. Just like a spoiled child, Skrik, aka The Scream, shouts from every corner of the city. Warhol colorized it. It was even made into a mask for the Scream horror movie franchise. Tweeted, posted, Skyped, flash-coded from design galleries to gift shops, from mugs to sex dolls, the Mona Lisa of expressionism is an icon of both psychiatry and humor. A blacksmith uses it to remind his employees to wear earplugs and in a hotel room, its panicked face illustrates the “In Case of Fire” sign. We are talking about the most expensive piece of art in the world – in May 2012, Sotheby’s sold one of its 22 copies for $119,922,600.

On the cliff, in this southern suburb, the wooden guardrail has been replaced by iron. The Scream is set on this road: “suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city,” wrote Munch in a poem. During the solstices and white nights, it’s not uncommon to see the same heavy skies, with Oslo surrounded by fjords and further out, the Bygdoy peninsula, where the Norwegian maritime treasures are kept: three Viking ships, Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki raft, and Antarctic explorer Roal Admunsen’s fishing vessel, Gjoa.

Quayside, Oslo is more of a land city. Its red fortress does not impose – it is deeply rooted in the ground like a molar in an artillery-ridden gum. With its subway and its trams, Oslo’s town center is not very big. Perfect for a quick visit under the fleeting winter sun: there is the cathedral, pretty as a lantern, the sandstone arcades, the classy wooden docks of the Aker Brygge and the stylish Karl-Johan street, looking sharp between the train station, the parliament’s white drum, the national theater or the uncomplicated royal palace.

At its foot there is the university. The gigantic concert hall bears Munch’s frescos, including his famous Sun. But in this relaxed city, the main art is sculpture. In front of the city hall’s backless chair, statues stand, sit or lie or rise – some flattened on the walls as limestone or bronze bas-relief, celebrating under the low sky.

In Oslo, Munch is everywhere - Photo: Frankieb

The parliament’s two lions tell an interesting story. Two convicts had torn a woman to pieces. A sculptor put his trust into the two men’s skilled hands and asked them to carve two granite lions. The result was so beautiful that the members of parliament petitioned for amnesty on behalf of the men.

“Paint it yourself!”

The National Gallery of Norway doesn’t reflect the discreet context in which Munch thrived. Their Norwegian art collection – which was quite limited – was enriched by a Renoir, a Van Gogh and some Emil Nolde. Munch has his own room. The Scream is accompanied by the unbridled heroines of the Ashes and his Madonna, both erotically cadaveric. Redheads in agony, messy bed sheets not for sex but for a funeral, all of his paintings scream the death of the mother and sister – even though he was a military doctor, the father couldn’t do anything about the scourge of those times, tuberculosis.

Edvard Munch was not born in Oslo, but 100-kilometers north of the city, in a farm near Loten, which isn’t open to the public. Did he even grow up in the capital, when the city was still called Kristiana? The decor of those dark times was the brick and yellow facades and from the Grunerlokka neighborhood. Trendy jewelry stores, Eritrean restaurants, organic hairdressers – an exotic sample of India and Ethiopia for hipsters. Between1864 and 1889, when Munch left for Paris and then Berlin to find glory, he lived in five different places in this city. Thorvald Meyers gate, Olaf Ryes Plass, Fossveien, Schous Plass and of course, Vas Frelsers Gravlund, his final resting place.

But the real monument of Grunerlokka is Freia. The chocolate factory arouses the olfactory sense with its sugary fumes. A laughing guide leads you to the dining hall. Employees eat their lunch under the watchful eye of fishermen, pick-nickers, and gardeners – all painted by Munch. In 1922, Holst, the factory’s fatherly CEO decided to bring art into the dining hall. Munch asked for 80,000 crowns ($4 million dollars) to paint a 12-piece mural. Unfortunately, the result was quite unappealing – blank expressions that had a tendency to put the factory’s workers off their food. Holst called Munch back and asked him to add mouths and eyes. He agreed under one condition – the CEO’s car would come to pick him up every day. A few days in, the car failed to pick him up. Munch rushed to Holst’s office, threw his paint palette on the desk. “I can’t even rely on your car, so paint it yourself!” The mural remains unfinished.

Freia’s twelve scenes show everyday scenes from the resort of Asgardstrand, 50 kilometers south of Oslo. This is where the Vikings thought paradise was. Munch bought a little house from a fisherman, and lived here for a while. It is open to the public and has been kept exactly as it was when the artist lived there.

Jan 1944, Norwegian resistance fighters bomb the port of Olso. Windows are shattered, Munch dies from the cold. He didn’t like to sell his paintings and kept the best for himself – the state inherited 1100 paintings, 3000 drawings and 20,000 engravings.

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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