Oslo, Norway

Public Art (Now): Claire Doherty talks to Amy Franceschini (Futurefarmers)

Futurefarmers Flatbread Society Oslo, Norway (2013 – ongoing)

Bjørvika, Oslo’s former container port, was built on reclaimed land adjacent to the founding medieval settlement of the city. As part development named Fjord City (1980s and approved in 2003), Bjørvika is undergoing radical structural change. This involves the relocation of the central highway under the fjord, the construction of a central business district and thousands of new waterfront apartments, and the dedication of public spaces woven between those new buildings as allmenningen (commons). The development is highly contested. ‘Slow Space’, Situations’ vision for the permanent programme, was developed from 2010 as part of the developer Bjørvika Utvikling’s progressive approach to public art commissioning, along with the ongoing support of the Oslo Konsthall. Enter Futurefarmers, a network of artists, researchers, designers, farmers, scientists and engineers, whose common interest is in creating work that challenges current social, political and economic systems. Futurefarmers deconstruct systems such as food policies, public transportation and rural farming networks to consider alternative ways of living.

Flatbread Society, conceived by Futurefarmers including Amy Franceschini, Stijn Schiffeleers, Lode Vranken and Marthe Vandessel, grew as a constellation of farmers, oven builders, astronomers, artists, soil scientists and bakers through conversations and actions in Oslo and elsewhere from 2011. The physical home of Flatbread Society is an unpromising site on Loallmenningen, one of the Bjørvika commons under the road tunnel’s ventilation shafts – the harbour’s twin towers between the fjord and the medieval park. Futurefarmers formed Flatbread Society – a proposition to build a public baking facility housed within an experimental architectural structure – as the organizing principle of their project in Oslo, through which they environmentally respectful form of grain production and cultivation. The change in land use at Loallmenningen was signalled by a parallel project – Herligheten – in which one hundred allotment beds were given away to Oslo residents.

From May to June 2013, Flatbread Society established a temporary presence at the waterfront near Loallmenningen to test out the function, form and community of the Bakehouse. Its provisional aesthetic contrasted starkly with the surrounding construction site: the hand-made meeting tables and tools, its radio canoe oven, a telescope rolling pin and shelter structure served to insert make-shift production into the highly planned and controlled public space of the new spirit of readiness. The Network of GMO-Free Food held a ‘Seed Action Bakehouse’ to host statements by a wide range of organisations. ‘The starting point for Bakehouse should not be a place of critical agitation, but rather a “strange” place where convictions disappear because it is such a strange place. This is where the arts come in: the magic and the amazement that stops the discussion and starts the dialogue in a Socratic dialectic manner’, argue the Futurefarmers. While the multi-functional public bakehouse will operate as a shelter and meeting house from 2015 onwards, the emphasis of the project has shifted from the facility itself to the legality of the land and sustained programming for the coming years. By autumn 2014, Flatbread Society had proposed that the acre of land be legally registered for the farming and distribution of ancient grains, with Loallmenningen potentially becoming a new chapter in the history of contested land use at this site since the 11th century. (Claire Doherty)


Text from Futurefarmers, Flatbread Society, Oslo, Norway (2013 – ongoing) in Claire Doherty’s edited volume Out of Time, Out of Place, Public Art (Now).

For more information on the book visit Situations website

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Public Art (Now) Produced in association with Spike Island Film and Video, eight film interviews with artists and curators on the subject of new forms of public art will be released over the next six months. The films form part of a national programme of talks, publications and workshops dedicated to challenging conventional assumptions about where, when and how public art takes place. #publicartnow



Situations Situations is an internationally renowned arts producer, based in Bristol. Situations opens up the potential for artists to make extraordinary ideas happen in unusual and unexpected places, inspiring audiences and participants to explore new horizons. Our work is guided by our core values: the arts have the capacity to change and enrich how we see, and act in, the world; artists should be trusted and supported to experiment and innovate; and spaces outside conventional arts venues offer rich and rewarding contexts in which this can happen.


Funding credits Public Art (Now) has been made possible through the generous support of Arts Council England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Cultural Value programme, European Cultural Programme, Paul Hamlyn Foundation Breakthrough Award, Public Art Agency Sweden and the European Network of Public Art Producers.

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