Norway Officially Cancels a Controversial Memorial to Victims of Its 2011 Terror Attack

Upset locals called the proposed work "a rape of nature."

Model of Memory Wound by Jonas Dahlberg
Model of Memory Wound, a gap cut into the Sørbråten peninsula by artist Jonas Dahlberg as a memorial for the victims of the 2011 massacre. Photo: courtesy Jonas Dahlberg Studio.

The Norwegian government will not move forward with Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg’s planned memorial to the July 22, 2011, massacre that left 77 dead. The news, announced on June 21, will come as little surprise to residents of the island, where the controversial project has sparked heated debate since being proposed in 2014.

Dahlberg’s design, titled Memory Wound and selected through an international competition, would have dramatically cut away a 131-foot-long, 11-and-a-half-foot-wide section of the Sørbråten peninsula, which faces Utøya Island, where the tragedy took place. The earth taken from the site would have been used to create a second memorial in Oslo, on the site of the explosion of a car bomb that killed eight people that same day.

But the memorial did not sit well with many local residents, who threatened a lawsuit to stop the project from moving forward, according to the Guardian. Opponents of the design called it “a rape of nature,” and many were reportedly unhappy with the idea of living with such a striking visual reminder of the violence of that day.

Neither element of Dahlberg’s plan will be executed. Instead, the memorial will be located at the ferry stop at Utøykaia, from where people travel to the island. Norway will now start a new process “to create a dignified and low-key memorial at the new government complex,” said government minister Jan Tore Sanner in a statement, adding that “we hope to have a dignified end to the debate” that had plagued the project.

The new decision is not without its critics. In an opinion piece for Nye Menigner, Lars Elton argued that focusing on making a “low-key” memorial runs counter to the very idea of trying to honor and remember those lost during the attacks.


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