The tsunami in Southeast Asia 2004 was one of the greatest disasters in history, killing a quarter of a million people. Among the victims, 543 deceased and around 1,500 injured were Swedes. In connection with the 10th anniversary of the disaster, the government decided to commission a memorial in Sweden for the victims of the tsunami. The memorial shall be artistically designed to integrate with the landscape and offer a suitable setting for a broad range of feelings. The location of the memorial is a south-facing slope on south Djurgården in Stockholm. The site is part of the Royal National City Park, and the area is of great natural and cultural value. The budget for the artistic design and preparation of the memorial site is SEK 7 million.
In 2016, the Public Art Agency Sweden and the National Property Board Sweden initiated the competition for the artistic design of the Swedish memorial, which will be inaugurated in the summer of 2018. The interest to participate was large and many highly recognized international artists submitted applications. During the spring of 2016, the jury and the organizers selected five contestant artists or artist groups. Their five proposals were presented in January 2017.
In tough competition with prominent international artists, Danish artist Lea Porsager won the competition for artistic design of the national Swedish tsunami memorial, with a land art piece which connects to Einstein’s theory of ripples in spacetime.
The idea proposal Gravitational Ripples by Danish artist Lea Porsager, has been selected as the winner by the jury. Artist has created a site that links us human beings to nature and the cosmos, while at the same time makes room for a spectra of emotions, from loneliness and loss, to togetherness and remembrance. This memorial will remain long into the future as a memory of the devastating tragedy of 2004, says Lotta Mossum, member of the jury and curator for the artistic design of the memorial, Public Art Agency Sweden.
The jury described Lea Porsagers’ competing proposal as the one which “presents the highest artistic quality/artistic merit and the best conditions, after further development, to become the work that reminds and tells about the tsunami disaster to current and future generations. The proposal has qualities on different levels, which means that one can approach and experience the work in various ways. Spatial and landscape qualities are incorporated as well as existential value. The jury finds the idea proposal’s integrating design attractive in the manner that it takes on the whole site and is moving on many different levels.”
Gravitational Ripples departs from the cosmic phenomenon called gravitational waves, which was predicted by Einstein as early as 1916, but has not been measured by scientists until last year. The phenomenon concerns ripples in spacetime - the pulsating movement that is a part of all life in the universe, both in micro and macro format. The Memorial conveys the energy unleashed when natural forces are set in motion, as well as the ability of nature to heal wounds and restore balance after abrupt events. It is an expression of the continuous, everlasting interplay between human and nature.
The site is shaped as a spiral that turns around itself through ramparts that rise above the ground. This same type of double helix can often be found in nature, in galaxies, in snail shells and sunflowers. It is called the Fibonacci spiral. The artistic design allows the Memorial to merge with the surrounding landscape. At the same time, it offers a space for a broad range of experiences and feelings. From a distance, it resembles a picture; when one moves closer, is appears as a sculpture; and when visitors are inside it, they encounter both stillness and movement. The Memorial offers a space for both solitude and collective gatherings or ceremonies.
The soil ramparts that form the double helix, where the visitors can sit, are covered with wild grass and purple flowers. There are several cuts in the ramparts, marked by short edges covered in steel. They provide views and insights and create passages and pathways, both to the centre and to more distant places for privacy. They invite the visitors to find their own paths, places and experiences.
At the centre of the Memorial there is a large oval formation with the engraved names of those deceased in the tsunami. There is space to leave candles and flowers. There is also a small formation close by that gives an overview of the Memorial.
As part of the memorial, visitors should be able to find the names of the Swedish citizens who died in the tsunami. The relatives can decide if they want a deceased individual’s name to be featured in the memorial: only after their approval will the names be included
Filmed interview with the winner
Lea Porsager (b. 1981, Frederikssund, Denmark) started her studies in the field of film in the early 2000s in Denmark, and later enrolled at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, where she obtained a Master in Fine Arts in 2010. She also studied at Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main between 2008 and 2009. She is currently aPhD fellow in Fine Arts at Malmö Art Academy, Lund University, where she is developing a project about quantum theory and its relation to our thinking, art and spiritually.
Her work has been presented in several solo exhibitions in Denmark, as well as in Gothenburg (Sweden), New York (USA), Høvikodden (Norway), Göttingen and Berlin (Germany). She has participated in numerous group exhibitions internationally, including the 14th Istanbul Biennial (2015) and dOCUMENTA(13), Kassel (2012), both curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev.
Lea Porsager has received numerous grants and prizes, among which are the Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen’s Grant (2014), Montana ENTER Prize for her work LEAP – The Awakening of the Dark Muses (2008) and the Danish Arts Foundation’s three-year work-grant (2014-2016). She has also taken part in international artistic residencies in Europe and North-America. Her work has been featured in numerous books and publications, among which four solo artist books, all published in Denmark. Lea Porsager lives and works in Copenhagen.