Magne Furuholmen: Reclaimed aluminium in the climate debate

Artist Magne Furuholmen’s aluminium sculpture at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo is a house of cards on the verge of collapse, a symbol of the fragile balance of the world we live in. By re-using aluminium, the artist wanted to address the climate debate without making too big a carbon footprint himself.

December 7, 2007
Magne Furuholmen, a multi-layered artist perhaps best known as a member of the Norwegian pop group a-ha, was commissioned by Hydro to create a work of art to be displayed at the Nobel Peace Center in connection with this year’s Peace Prize. The only condition attached was that aluminium must be used material.

“This commission really sparked my interest! I had never used aluminium before, and didn’t know the material very well. I wanted to set myself a challenge. I like trying out new things, while having a certain framework in which to work. In this case, though, the framework was almost too extensive...

"Two days before the winner was announced, I thought I couldn’t do it, and I nearly felt like giving up. But when I heard the winners were Al Gore and the IPCC I got renewed inspiration. All I really knew about aluminium was that it is made of bauxite which is one of the most widespread materials in the world, and that it is very energy intensive to produce the first time. But I also knew that it is very recyclable, and that recycling demands very little energy. I see recycling as one of the means of solving the dilemma between our consumer culture and the climate crisis.

“I think we are living at time when there is a delicate balance, and in a time of major change, regardless of whether it is we ourselves or the sun that is responsible for our environmental problems. I started working on the title before I knew what I was going to make. I tried to find words that describe the situation we’re in and I came up with the concept of  “Climax”. It means ladder in Greek. Apart from its use as term in drama, and its erotic connotations, the word is also used rhetorically by Gore and ecologists to describe an ecosystem strained to the maximum.”

Furuholmen wanted to produce art of aluminium using as little energy use as possible. The solution was to employ sections of used aluminium sheet.

“I wanted to use sheet aluminium that had a history. I got in touch with scrap dealers from across Europe and told them I was looking for sections that had been used industrially, in ships, planes and other transport industry applications. All of a sudden I was offered an old fighter plane, parts of tankers with old oil company logos, traffic signs and all sorts of stuff. You can see that these pieces have lived one life and that they are now getting another one. The best way of giving this a visual expression was through a card house about to collapse.”

Furuholmen is very comfortable with his sculpture, which has a carbon footprint that is as small as it can be, because all the pieces were used as they were, without being smelted and recycled first. The point is to give the material from the sculpture to another artist to use in a new work of art, so the aluminium can continue to be given a new life, over and over again.

“I don’t need this to exist as a permanent monument, I want it to be a part of a dynamic process.”

As an add-on to the tottering house of cards, the idea of a small deck of cards made of aluminium emerged.

“This is more of humorous concept, whereby you can place the fate of the world in your own hands.”

Engraved by laser on 15 small aluminium sheets is the whole of the Kyoto agreement, which Furholmen calls a “tablet of stone” for our time.  The deck of cards has been made in 250 copies, and Al Gore and the head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri,  will get the first two copies, while the Heir Apparent of  the state of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, will receive the third.


Updated: October 11, 2016