A K Dolven
The artist A K Dolven found the 1.4-tonne bell dumb on the ground and has brought it back. It hangs on a wire between two high steel columns on Rådhusplassen, Oslo, with the sea and the sky as a backdrop. Photo: Alette Schei Rørvik.

Opening of Untuned Bell 2020

The untuned town hall bell, which was removed from its 48 fellow bells in the tower of Oslo City Hall in year 2000, is on its way back to its old neighborhood. On Saturday 22 of August, the artwork will be installed at Honnørbrygga on Rådhusplassen in Oslo.

A bell was removed from the bell tower of Oslo City Hall in connection with Oslo’s millennium celebrations, when it was found to be out of tune with the other 48 bells in the carillon. The artist A K Dolven discovered this 1.4-ton bell mute on the ground and has conserved its voice. Untuned Bell is installed close to the City Hall at Honnørbrygga, one of the quays adjacent to Rådhusplassen, The City Hall Square. The bell hangs suspended from a 30-metre wire strung between two 20-metre steel columns, directly opposite its former home, with the sea and sky as a backdrop.

A “Cry Baby” pedal, of the same type used by rock guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix and others, has been set onto the ground. By pushing the pedal, the audience can call forth sound from the shunned, out-of-tune and long-silenced bell.

The Norwegian composer Rolf Wallin has composed a specially commissioned work for Untuned Bell – each day over the course of a week, the composition gradually activates the bells remaining in the City Hall’s carillon. One by one, they join in. As always, when an outcast is welcomed back into the fold, only a few initially dare to speak out on the outcast’s behalf. The composition will be performed in connection with the bell’s return. Close to its original home, the bell can once again converse with its former community at the top of the tower.

Oslo City Hall was built between 1931 and 1950 as a gathering place for the city’s inhabitants and continues to serve as a symbol of urban solidarity. From the beginning, art has had a central place in the building of the City Hall: all the indoor public spaces, façades, and civic spaces around the building are adorned with a wealth of site-specific art. The works reflect upon core values of the Norwegian society; the constitution and nation-building, human rights and freedom of speech. The carillon in the eastern tower and the artists’ studios in the western tower also emphasize the importance of art in Oslo’s “most public building”, which was envisaged as a city hall not only for Norway’s capital, but for the whole of the young nation. Untuned Bell, a freestanding monumental work by a female artist, now occupies a position facing the art historical heritage of this public space, which was created almost exclusively by men.

On Saturday 22 August, Untuned Bell will be installed on Honnørbrygga on Rådhusplassen in Oslo, the same place where King Haakon went ashore on 7 June 1945 – after World War II. Photo: Oslo City Museum.
A K Dolven
Honnørbrygga on Rådhusplassen august 2020. Photo: Alette Schei Rørvik

Untuned Bell is part of an ongoing project by A K Dolven about the untuned among us. The sea connects these untuned voices in Folkestone, UK Ekenes, Finland and now in Oslo, Norway.

Involved in the project

  • Artist: A K Dolven
  • Composer: Rolf Wallin
  • Curator: Kristine Jærn Pilgaard
  • Carillonneur: Laura-Marie Rueslåtten
  • Producer: Bo Krister Wallström 
  • Bell foundry: Olsen Nauen Bell Foundry (the bell is on loan from Nauen Bell Foundry)
  • Engineer: Øistein O. Pettersen
  • Contractor: Bengt Schulze
  • Produced by Public Art Norway
  • Funded by The City of Oslo Art Collection
  • Other partners: Agency for Urban Environment; City Hall Management Service; and Oslo Port Authority

Facts about the opening

  • Saturday 22 of August at 13.00, Honnørbrygga on Rådhusplassen in Oslo.
  • Rolf Wallins Untuned Bell is played at 13.00 and the work is officially opened. The inauguration ends at 13.30.
  • Installation of the work (columns, wires, bell and pedal) takes place in week 34. During this period, the town hall bells will play daily greetings, composed by Rolf Wallin, for the untuned, returned bell.
  • Press inquiries: Contact communications manager Åsne Hjukse