UNF symposium / National symbols and secularization of state /

  • Price GRATIS
  • Date 2021.11.04
  • Time from 05:00 PM
  • Address Henrik Ibsens gate 110
  • Location / Region Norway/ Oslo
  • Venue Nasjonalbiblioteket
  • Listing categories Lecture

The final exploration of the series “Utforsking av Norges flagg” was a symposium to reflect on possible effects of the current secularization process of Norway on its national symbols. In this frame, antipodes café launched the publication “Utforsking av Norges flagg”.

I løpet av de senere årene har vi sett bevegelser i den norske stats sekularisering. Da statskirken opphørte i 2012 ble den i grunnloven videreført som Norges folkekirke, og fortsatt opprettholdes forholdet mellom den evangelisk lutherske kirke og staten i lovverket. Idealet om en sekulær stat, står i kontrast til det å ønske et sekulært samfunnsliv forøvrig, men hvilke endringer kan et stadig mer mangfoldig samfunn, der tros- og livssynsfriheten står sterkt, medføre også i den visuelle representasjonen av staten?

antipodes café inviterer til samtale for å se på hvordan sekulariseringsprosessene staten står i potensielt også kan påvirke statlig bruk av visuelle symboler.

(view event on nb.no)


• antipodes café, Felipe (keynote lecture)

• Jan Oskar Engene (presentation / debate)
Statsviter og førsteamanuensis ved Institutt for sammenliknende politikk, Universitetet i Bergen, der han var instituttleder 2017-2021. Han har vært redaktør for tidsskriftet Nordisk Flaggkontakt og skrevet om både norske og utenlandske flagg, samtidige så vel som historiske.

• Jens Brun-Pedersen (presentation / debate)
Har studert sosiologi og historie ved UiO, og har lang og mangfoldig erfaring som journalist.  Fram til i år var han pressesjef i Human-Etisk Forbund, og har deltatt i flere debatter vedrørende statsreligion og livssyn.

• SV / Nicholas Wilkinson (presentation)
Har vært stortingsrepresentant for Akershus SV 2017-2021. I juni 2020 fremmet han forslag om å fullføre skillet mellom staten og Den norske kirke i Dokument 12:5 (2019-2020) på vegne av SV og Venstre. Han har vært aktiv både i Den norske kirke og i Oppegård Humanetisk Forbund i flere år.

• Bente Sandvig, Human-Etisk Forbund (debate)

• Sturla Stålsett, MF Vitenskapelig Høyskole (debate)


antipodes café, Tuva


antipodes café


Nasjonalbiblioteket – Store Auditorium

Live streaming


Keynote lecture:

“Hi, Thank you all for coming. My name is Felipe.
I run antipodes café with Tuva, and this is like a map of the entire Universe.
For captivating that it may sound to cartographers and emperors among us, it is evidently useless to make a map of an EMPIRE in the same size of THAT EMPIRE.
Despite of their dimension and functional purposes, maps, –and all visual representations–, can come in hand for specific agendas.
Projection, orientation, sizes, language, colours, which information is shown, which one is not, and so forth…
So I set the map on my phone with the south pointing forward, and the world turned up very interesting.
In Spain, to become disoriented, can be said as “perder el norte” to lose the north.

I am not re inventing the wheel in here. We took the word antipodes from Timaeus by Plato. I’m just arriving later with a map as I am learning to be present.
To read the sun and other stars, the moon, shadows, and even some currents…
In the same coordinates of some maps, we can find historical books, history books, books of his–story.Together with reassuring fables if not merged,
they managed to leave small room for other papers… But the worker who read can also build bookshelves, and can not stop making questions…
To win a sense of direction? To leave the privileged reference frame behind? To travel fearless into the unknown?

Without entering into amazing singularities, I’ll try to condense 10 years in 10-15 minutes, if then you want more, let’s continue on the streets, in a bar, watching the horizon… your move, we are here. And we have time. This week world population increased by 1: million. For human history four days is less than a sneeze, for the infinite universe its just nothing, as all we do, as all we will.

“We emerged from microbes in muck;
Apes are our cousins;
our thoughts are not entirely our own, and on top of that
we’re making a mess of our planet and becoming a danger to ourselves.”

10 years ago, Norway had around half million less people than today. On that 2011, 77 Norwegians lost their life in hands of an ethno-nationalistic fellow countryman.
In the aftermath of those attacks against diversity and humanity, I moved to Norway as a rapid response, with love as a core reason, and for curiosity regarding design too.
Non of those three options were on any migration forms. I will not expand on what made me start with this series. Reasons are many.
It can’t surprise any butterfly that I am born in a place with free, compulsory, and secular education since 1876. But lets focus on what was done from antipodes café with «Utforsking av Norges flagg». Strategically speaking, the series follow a similar dynamic structure as other comments we have made. But as a big difference, we did not conceive this comment with any sort of supplantation of reality as in other of our cultural initiatives. There is nothing new in exploring national symbols across creative industries. An archetypical platitude. Flat as placing a flag on a gallery floor, or burning another in a comedy show.
However, those two cases were quite significative for changes in Laws regarding desacralisation of flags, in both sides of the ocean. In Norway were placed in 2008 but enter into force in 2015.
I doubt is possible the desacralisation of this particular flag. Its definition in law can be read as secular, but the coincidence of the proportions of the cross with the main Christian symbol makes this reading quite childish. When mounting the urban intervention in Torggata, we received dozens of insults and threats, including death threats. Despite that non of the hanged banner was the Norwegian flag. Some people got really offended because how the Christian cross was affected,
or that it was shown as the one of Saint Peter… We took barks as Don Quijote.
Later in Bergen we got no threats, just again the expected yellow press and its religious ink.

Without specific goals, but many interests; and trying to not fall into clichés proper of this sort of venture; the very first exploration was to perform a detailed research around national flags and proposals in this latitude.

Leading this task, I tried to collect available information without visiting any place. Something that whatever person from wherever should be able to do
with some dictionaries in hand, VPN and translation services… and time. And we learned a lot this past decade, and not just about Norwegian idiosyncrasy:

• History of pigments,
• of fabrics,
• battle axes,
• how lions were represented across history,
and so on…

Did you know that lions lived in Europe for centuries?
A “Panthera Leo” was a type of lions that survived in the area of Bulgaria until the times when Sun Tsu wrote this quote from an older military book which remains unknown:
“Ord kan ikke oppfattes, defor bruker en gongonger og trommer; en kan ikke se hverandre, derfor bruker en bannere og flagg.”
“THE ART OF WAR” has at least 2500 years, and gave us a clear idea on how to continue with the series:

Firstly, to collect original information –or a reference closest to the date of a selected fact – and then, to arrange everything following a simple timeline.
We also decided to not write a single word, and to avoid translations –nor corrections– of any text.

A selection of the information collected was presented in two explorations:
• a website (the initial one)
• a publication (the last one)
Both of them introduce all the rest of explorations we made, so I’ll not expand on that here.

We went through thousands of publications at online libraries from diverse countries. We saw endless websites and photo archives.
We asked national archives and diverse specialists and institutions. We received digitalisations and images made by demand. We even spend several days to decipher old letters in handwritten gothic.
It was like playing a very nerdy board game.
We were very lucky to receive answers and comments from Jan Henrik Munksgaard, and this last year also from Jan Oscar Engene. We regret to not have counted with a Sami partner all the way.
It was quite hard to find information online related to military flags from 1905 to this day. But few days before offset printing this «proofs», doors opened at that public institution, and we met nice people that shared files, prints and one folder with copies of few documents.
This papers helped us to clarify that concealed part of the his–story. For sure it is –still– far from being complete. But we also arrived to some proposals that we never saw before.
Speaking of obscurantism, we couldn’t find documents, dates, nor who was the visual artist that changed the design of the Royal standards in around 1995. This change was never registered on public offices.
We paid special attention to how artists worked with the national flag across history,
from the most submissive, to the most subversive.
With all the information collected we created own interpretations:
• All flags and proposals we made follows how official flags are presented today:
– Flat design with plain colours, and simplified and scalable illustrations.
• All our drawings are vectorial, but made for the website, publication, and exhibitions of the series.
Thus, all details were simplified for small sizes on digital files, prints in paper and in fabric.
•We defined proportions with information from resolutions,
or data we collected on how flags and fabrics were made at each time.
• In some cases we removed waves or angles of visual representations
for calculating a possible proportion.
• We avoided adding contours or outlines.
• Colours were the most complex part and for sure are far from reality.
• In the publication you will find golden details here and there.
• When a flag was not available –or partially– we researched diverse sources to generate them.
• We also studied representations of symbols in diverse media, giving priority to symbols expressed on fabrics.
• For example, we used symbols from banners, stamps, maps and coins as in all those cases we were able to check for dates.
• All references on proportions, colours and sources for our own interpretations are detailed in the publication.
• Today November 4th, a file with all those drawings is available online, and gratis with a «Creative Commons Zero license».

Regarding the publication, in the first pages you will see all our interpretations,
and also official drawings of the current «rang and kommando tegn» from Forsvarsdepartement.
• Every drawing is arranged chronologically and includes a reference number.
• In the last pages you can find hundreds of references that helped us to create those drawings.
• All references are also chronologically arranged.
• This section includes other interesting information, as well as images and texts related to relevant artworks on the subject.
• ah yes, between drawings and references, you can find 750 personal flags. Collages made with kids at 45 school-workshops in each county of Norway and Svalbard…
• On end pages, we included a selection of words they chose to represent Norway and themselves.
National flags are more than design. They are charismatic totems that tend to be nailed to narrow narratives with a paradoxical desire of unifying while dividing.
Looking at them is similar to look at stars: A twinkle –in the present of a bright past … (at least for some).

We are looking forward to a day where flags are more dynamic and flexible.

“A critique seeking to go beyond the spectacle must know how to wait.”

  • Address Henrik Ibsens gate 110