Society as a Whole @ Kunsternes Hus, Oslo


On Hovedøya, an island in Oslo, Norway, a group of 12 people met and wrote poetic laws for a better future.

Through quick and playful writing exercises led by the poet Marte Huke we examined our thoughts and our relationships with the environment.

Then Jørn Øyrehagen Sunde, professor of law (legal history) at the University of Oslo, joined us and discussed our texts in the context of environmental law through the ages.

We talked about the relationship between poetry and law, between abstract rules and poetic meetings.

Whose voices will be heard in the laws of the future? How can we represent other lifeforms in our language?

The workshop was part of “The Wild Living Marine Resources Belong to Society as a Whole”, a series of interdisciplinary events have been named after section 2 of the Norwegian Marine Resources Act. The project was organized by Randi Nygård, Geir Tore Holm and Søssa Jørgensen at Kunstnernes Hus, Norway in 2019-21. It related to the law not only with the usual legal definitions, but also with a more poetic and fundamental approach. It examined different ideas about the environment and our role in nature, our management of natural resources, responsibilities, world views, language and values.

The poetic laws that the group produced during the workshop are below: 

The death of a plant or an animal shall breathe life into new creatures.
But before climate change turns into a dead, dry branch, the humans must see soul in what is alive (the living) and hear the voices of the animals.

When plants and animals are stepped upon,
when poisonous rain destroys seeds and sprouts,
when the sun burns the community away,
when the air becomes too heavy to carry for all of us,
when climate change feels like cold glue that does not let go of the fingers,
we must step out of time
and then the billowing threatening dark and unknown sea will take over.

The living growth space of the universe should never be invaded.

The differences that exist between living beings do not give us sovereignty, but obligation.

Anything that joins something shall be able to depart from everything.

The freedom to dive to 10-meters requires intimate feelings for the fjord.

All living beings (everything that is alive) carry the right to the horizon.

The project was supported by Fritt Ord and Arts Council Norway.

Contributed by Randi Nygård

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