SERVING UP YOUR BIAS AT THE BIAS BAR

An unusual bar is serving up biases and its patrons are sending their own biases right back.

The bar is the Bias Bar, an interactive exhibit at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. It shares space on the first floor with Detours, an exhibition about people who find themselves forcibly displaced from their homes. It is a floor below Hope Over Fear, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize exhibition that presents a strong portrait of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his efforts to integrate members of the FARC rebel group with the rest of the Colombian people.

Participants at the Bias Bar get small cards designed to look like drink coasters. A bias is written on the front of the card. On the backside of the card is a blank space where people can write and share biases of their own. The cards are displayed on racks mounted on the museum wall.

The front of a typical card has a bias such as, “I am not a racist but…” Turning around the card people have written their own biases such as, “I’d rather live in a white than black neighborhood,” “You don’t look like a foreigner,” “But you are white,” and “#BREXIT.”

Another bias card reads, “All terrorists are Muslims. What do you think?” A patron’s reply to that was, “If all terrorists are Muslim that means all Italians are Mafia, all Russians are part of the Bratva and no one is a human being. Everyone is different, everyone is special and everyone needs an opportunity prove themselves [sic] and be who they are. Be proud of who you are.”

“We have printed, I think, 2000 cards since March and people are writing and sharing biases and their thoughts,” said Ingvill Bryn Rambøl, Director of Information at Nobel Peace Center. “It’s quite entertaining to explore the cards on the wall there and see what people write. People are very open about the fact that they have biases themselves and that they have met biases.”

The Bias Bar even has its own version of an open mic event.

“A Bias Night is where we invite Norwegians with different backgrounds to sit and discuss biases and people can sit behind and talk to them afterwards,” Rambøl said. The first Bias Night “was very popular and we had a lot of visitors that night with an immigration background or with different ethnic backgrounds, and they were very excited about discussing something very dangerous in such a light manner.”

The next Bias Night will be in August. “It will focus on Islam,” Rambøl said.

Exhibits like Detours and the Bias Bar have connected with Norwegian school children, because topics such as immigration are covered in school curriculums, but the school books have not been updated yet on the current refugee crisis and the war in Syria.

“They have been very happy to have the opportunity to come here and learn about that issue with updated information,” Rambøl said.

The Nobel Peace Center was opened in 2005. The building used to be a railway station, which closed in 1990 and was reinvented as the home for Nobel in Oslo. The museum depicts stories through a variety of permanent installations, and temporary exhibits of paintings, photographs, interactive digital films and other art.

Rambøl said the museum is famous for its modern, artistic design conceived by the British architect David Adjayeand.

“He did what he calls ‘room manipulation.’ You can tear down the whole museum from the inside and you will have the train station the way it used to be,” Rambøl said.

Nobel prizes are awarded in six categories including Literature, Physics, Physiology/Medicine, Chemistry, Economics and Peace. The Nobel Prize in any category is one of the most prestigious awards in the world. It was founded by the multi-millionaire philanthropist Alfred Nobel in 1901. Nobel created his immense wealth by inventing and manufacturing modern explosives into dynamite and patented it in 1867. He left his estate (the modern equivalent of $200 million) to be used as award money for the betterment of the world.

Swedish institutions choose winners in five categories (Literature, Physics, Physiology/Medicine, Chemistry, Economics) and the awards are presented in Stockholm, Sweden. The winner of the Peace Prize is chosen by a Norwegian committee and is awarded in Oslo.

The challenge for the Nobel Peace Center is to create an exhibition honoring the winner in just eight weeks. That exhibition is created within the context of the permanent and temporary exhibitions. The Peace Center, including the Bias Bar, is open seven days a week and the center has averaged more than 100,000 visitors annually since it opened in 2005.

Oslo’s Hidden Gem: Hausmania

 

“I really enjoy being a functional human being in the society, still living like this. This way of life is actually working out and I am actually happy with it.”

Ida Frisch and her boyfriend, Martin Osvold, are temporarily crashing in an art studio in Hausmania, located in the center of Oslo, Norway. Hausmania was an abandoned building occupied by squatters until 1999. Now it is a cultural center for artists and musicians in the city of about 650,000 souls.

Ida grew up in a hippie family where she got used to people moving in and out of the house as well as her life. She started her career as a puppeteer in September 2016. Her professor encouraged her to study abroad in Prague for a semester where she was introduced to the art of puppetry. This intrigued her so much that she randomly decided to carve a niche for herself in this art form.

Martin on the other hand is a professional pirate of the good kind. He is an actor and his assignments as a pirate include organizing treasure hunts and magic shows for kids. He says that people believe in the romanticized version of pirates, in which they are generally associated with treasures, but it’s all a myth. He started this career as a gag and then just got rolling with it.

“The kids are being taught that the world is not magic anymore and I find that quite horrifying. I just want to make some magic,” Martin said.

Some artists and musicians come to develop their creativity. Others, well, they might stay a little longer.

“There Is a Director who has the right to use the room so we contacted him and he said send me a glass of dry white wine every day and that would be it for the rent,” Ida said.

Ida and Martin were homeless when they first met in one of Ida’s children’s puppeteer show called Home. She believes it was symbolic, as they now co-exist in a tiny room at Hausmania.

According to Nicolai Gulowsen, a cultural worker and activist, Hausmania is run by the artists and everyone currently renting there has a vote. “It’s like a direct democracy style we are operating,” he said. “It’s like running a small village in a way, with its local politics. We have the same issues you have in city council but on a smaller scale. Everybody has to take some responsibility about the house and the future of the house. It’s a very good school to learn about society.”

Gulowsen said the difference between neighboring squats and Hausmania is mainly the relationship with the owner where the squat is part of a “housing action,” which has a main goal to create social housing, communal housing as a free place. Also, because there is a big need for social housing due to the sale of social housing from the city to private owners.

“The politicians say that they want to protect Hausmania, but they signed papers to sell all the rest except Hausmania,” Gulowsen said. “We would be surrounded by new buildings. Those things can work to our benefit, but it can easily kind of whitewash everything. We will be like a little spot in between that nobody is enjoying.”

Gulowsen said while the squats are kind of illegal, they are accepted since they have been working for so long.

According to Gulowsen, Number 40 squat, a neighboring building to Hausmania, has always wanted to get a rent deal with the community to acknowledge their responsibility and ownership. “There were negotiations and stuff but it failed,” he said. “While Hausmania got a contract in 2008 so we are not here illegally.”

Gulowsen is scared for the future of Hausmania and its tenants. The land and building once had very little value, but now with the city growing, Hausmania’s value has increased dramatically. “Our contract is expiring in five years,” he said. “Many of us feel a little bit choked by the development around us.”

As for Ida and Martin, they enjoy their unique lives at Hausmania. “It’s an active choice to live here,” she said. “It’s so good because it’s so different from the way that everyone else lives. I really enjoy not having my own bathroom and we have to walk through the building to take shower and walk outside to get water.”

“We don’t call it our home as such,” Martin said. “We have given it a name, ‘the cabin’ or ‘ship’s cabin.’ We know it’s temporary and just because we know it’s temporary we really appreciate all the hours we have here,” Martin said.

Martin calls Hausmania a ‘hidden gem.’ “It feels like I get very creative while I am here, because it does not feel like I am in the thick of the soup of Oslo. It feels like I am somewhere else,” he said.

 

  My Date with the Land of the Midnight Sun

18926335_10209441177691792_1159656070_o.jpgBy Mrisha Sharma

A month in Norway! Who would want to miss that? The idea of spending a month in the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’ has fascinated me since childhood. I was thrilled to take up this opportunity of International Reporting as a Journalist in Oslo, the capital of Norway.

Researching about the city I was awestruck when I discovered that it is much more ancient then I ever imagined. It became the capital of Norway in 1299   (https://sites.google.com/a/macalester.edu/oslo2013/history) ; but has developed  into a modern city rooted in tradition over the centuries. No wonder I couldn’t contain my excitement to reach this hub of wondrous stories.

I was well received at Oslo airport by Prof. Steve Listopad and Prof. Robert A Reeder. We headed for our apartment with the rest of the team members. During the conversation with my professors I gathered that the apartment is far from the airport yet near my dreams. A variety of transportation was used to reach our student apartment.

After half an hour train ride and getting onto the wrong bus, we finally reached our ferry. The view from the ferry from Oslo to Nesoddtangen was breathtakingly beautiful. The cold breeze took away all the tiredness. Coming from the blistering heat of Jaipur, Rajasthan in India where it almost touches 40 degree Celsius (104 degree Fahrenheit) in May and landing into the cold, breezy and rainy Oslo – was pure bliss. Took a bus again and finally a ten-minute walk uphill. There I spotted my dreamhouse for the next 30 days.

Dead tired by now all we wanted was food and sleep. An amazing barbeque hosted by the landlords ended our day perfectly. Ready for the next day’s 12-hour reporting schedule, we got into our cozy beds.

Woke up to a pleasant morning full of chirping birds and the blue clear waters overlooking our apartment. Soon we all had a sumptuous breakfast before heading off to downtown Oslo. Though everyone speaks English in Norway, everything is written in Norwegian. While trying to figure out this foreign language, it was amazing to see how it didn’t feel foreign as everyone is so polite and helpful in this country. No wonder they say it’s the happiest country in the world.

A group of five journalists, living in Nesoddtangen, a village near Oslo city embarked on a new journey on June 2, 2017 to explore Norway in the best possible way.

Ha det  ( Bye)