Dear Festival audience!
A beautiful day in May 1969, an elderly gentleman and a young couple alighted from a large black car in Bergen city centre. They were greeted by a cheering crowd, flowers, and a festive atmosphere. Everyone’s eyes were fixed upon them. The following day the newspapers gave descriptions of the young lady’s hat and coat, they reported her movements and the public’s meeting with her.
The young Crown Princess Sonja was making her very first official trip to Bergen. In the company of King Olav and the Crown Prince, this was to be her first experience of the Bergen International Festival.
Already in this scenario we encounter the theme for Bergen International Festival 2017: namely that of ‘identity’.
Who, then, was this young Crown Princess really? Who was I amid all this – behind the smile, the outfit, and the flowers?
Above the entrance to the temple of the Delphic Oracle in ancient Greece towered a fresco of Apollo with the inscription ‘Know thyself’.
Voltaire phrases it somewhat differently: ‘Il faut cultivar notre jardin …’ ‘We must cultivate our own garden’.
At its core, the content is the same: Our lifelong duty as humans is to pursue the best within ourselves. What matters are our attempts at acting in accordance with what we believe to be fair and proper. Our courage to stand by who we truly are. Otherwise we will stumble through all that we encounter in life.
Who am I?
This question has united people since the dawn of time. It conjoins us across eras, borders, culture, religion, age, and gender.
And this is the question so often posed by the arts – be it in music, visual art, literature, theatre, or dance.
Art possesses this special quality of meeting people with openness and without prejudice. It invites us all in – and offers recognition as well as shock, pleasure, denial, laughter, and tears.
During this year’s Festival, we are presented with a variety of performances that exceed borders as well as genres, challenging us. There is something rebellious in this. And the rebellious appeals to me!
As a contrast to a highly organized and scrutinized life, art and nature have become my sanctuary. And to me, those two are inseparable. In nature as well as in art, I find strength, joy, freedom, creativity. Hiking in nature – at places ‘where no one would believe that anyone could live’ (and where in most cases no one does!) – opens the mind and elevates the thought.
These impressions to the senses make an impact!
My camera is my sketchbook. Many a time it is the connecting link between what I observe, what I wish to convey, and that which, through fascinating work processes, may be transformed into art at the printing press in a graphic studio.
As children, we are all playful, open, and creative. Unfortunately, many of us loose a great proportion of this force along the path of our lives.
One of the most significant aspects of having been able to develop as an artist, is allowing for creativity to take up such an important place in my life. The joy! The joy of creating! The joy in the details, the joy of beauty!
So, who am I? And what is identity?
I am a human being, a woman, a mother, a queen, a wife, a grandmother, an artist. I am a friend, a lover of nature, and a collector of art. Among many other things. We are all made up in this fashion. We are not just one. We are many personas and of great diversity.
New citizens to Norway are constantly being asked about their national and cultural identity. Many of them know, better than others, that the answer is complex.
Bergen International Festival grasps this complexity and creates a space of possibility from it – for us all.
Art shapes us as humans, and as a nation, perhaps to a greater extent than we are aware of.
Thanks to artists through all ages who have challenged us and moved boundaries, unwavering in the face of opposition, we may all draw from this rich source the arts represent in our daily life and in society at large.
We need art. It is fundamental.
The young Crown Princess Sonja who alighted slightly nervous from the large black car in 1969, is fundamentally the same as the soon 80 year old Queen standing here today.
But the young one would never have believed the old one would still be on her way – even to open an exhibition of her own art in this city …!
I have never forgotten the warmth with which I was greeted in Bergen the very first time I visited you. It was genuinely heartening. And in this fashion the Royal Family has since been greeted every single time we have visited the Festival.
Today – as I am attending my 31st Festival! – I wish to address a heartfelt thank you to you all, and to Bergen for this very reception.
Bergen is truly a cultural city. Your cultural roots reach all way back to the Hanseatic era – and you appreciate the value of conserving them in an exemplary way!
Bergen International Festival is a fine example of the manner in which Bergen has shaped its identity. Your city brought along its international roots when the Festival tradition was established. By now, Bergen has maintained its cultural weight through 65 years of Festival history – and persisted in its claim ‘this is us, this is Bergen’ – based on your rich foundation from the old times and the new.
This is a tribute to rewarding encounters – between people and artistic genres alike!
In these next days, let us aspire to meet each other with the openness of art – and expose ourselves to human and artistic shock waves of the highest quality!
I wish you all magnificent experiences during these days ahead!
Thank you for your attention!