Humans are complex creatures. No other animal has a larynx specialized for speech, walks upright as their chief mode of locomotion, or buys hundreds of dollars worth of products online but then complains about the $3.99 shipping cost.
Our species has a lot going on.
But there’s a single park in Oslo that covers the entire spectrum of human emotions and experiences. A place where you can let it all hang out.
Frogner Park is the largest park in Oslo, and is popular with tourists and locals alike.
Within this park, is the Vigeland art installation. It has more than 200 sculptures made of bronze, granite, and iron. And it’s the world’s largest sculpture park with all of the pieces made by a single artist.
Vigeland rarely gave titles to his works, and didn’t like to comment on their meaning. His reasoning was that he didn’t want to steer the viewer’s expectations in any given direction.
However, most people agree that the park symbolizes the breadth of the human experience, and illustrates the “circle of life” (cue the Lion King music). From newborn babies to old age… plus all of the experiences and emotions that a full life entails.
While most of the statues were completed from 1939–1949, Vigeland wanted them to be timeless and universal. Which might explain why they don’t have any clothes. (He didn’t want to visually date them to any particular time period.)
However, some visitors do try to provide partial outfits for the statues.
While I personally chose to walk around the park fully dressed, I still found A LOT of emotions that I could relate to. So I would say Vigeland’s art was indeed pretty universal.
This statue reminds me of when I’m trying to get comfortable in a strange hotel bed, but one pillow is too low, and two pillows is too high.
But there were happy emotions too.
Like busting out the cheesy dance moves at a wedding reception. (One of my specialties.)
Other emotions include being startled and uncomfortable.
Like when you arrive at a party, and it’s not quiiite what you were expecting…
Vigeland also portrays irritation and judgement.
Because who hasn’t gone to the grocery store and seen some annoying kid knocking over displays and kicking cereal boxes down the aisle? We’ve all been that person on the right, pretending to carefully read through our grocery list, but secretly judging.
I could also (unfortunately) relate to this statue.
It depicts the EXACT feeling I have when I spend forever doing my hair, feel good about it all day, but then don’t look in the mirror again until going to bed.
Michael also agreed that the statues were relatable.
For example, this is how he feels when a kid repeatedly kicks the back of his seat for an entire 8-hour flight.
And although we’ve never actually done it, we both imagine this is probably how it feels the first time you try to do couples yoga. (And fail miserably.)
So overall, I was pretty glad Vigeland didn’t name his sculptures, and that they covered such a broad spectrum of human emotions. I could totally relate, even 60+ years after they were made. If his goal was to examine human relationships, and reflect the human experience, he nailed it.
I mean, everyone can understand what it’s like to be attacked by a pile of 800 babies.
Or be ridden like a horse, with a braid bridle.
Okay, so maybe some of the statues were a little bit less relatable.
But it’s not like Vigeland had a time machine. He couldn’t make a “waiting on someone to text back and they were totally typing but then deleted it” statue. Or a “my flight got upgraded!” statue. But he still got all of the basic emotions right. And I think it’s a beautiful thing that millions of people walk through this park each year and relate to these statues and to each other.
I even got a little carried away, and temporarily became part of the art installation. (Apparently this is a thing with me.)
Because humans are complex creatures. We feel awkward in unexpected situations. We get tranky (tired and cranky) when our pillows are the wrong height. We bust out cheesy dance moves when we’re happy. And we activate bear mode on unsuspecting hyperactive children.
But ya know… every once in a while, it’s nice to let our emotions get the best of us and just let it all hang out. And I’d say that the Vigeland art installation in Frogner Park is the perfect place for that.