It has been a very heavy and strange weekend; I was out buying film when the first mentions of the bomb explosion appeared on Friday afternoon. Somehow I was walking down the streets with Lupercalia in my ears, being oblivious to the music, trying to get in touch with everyone I knew who was in or around Oslo to make sure they were okay. Hours (many of them spent glued in front of CNN) later, like everyone, I am speechless and disturbed by what happened – disturbed to see to what extent beliefs can become stronger, more important, than human lives.
It is disturbing not only because those were two awful and perverse acts – especially the massacre on Utøya – but also because no one had expected Norway to be a country where something like that would happen. But the worst always happens when and where you don’t expect it, which is something we seem to have to come to terms with. Sadly, these two acts could not have been avoided; and now, five days later, we stand looking at a nation in mourning. Norway has been one of the most welcoming countries to me. I first went there in 2006, summer, not knowing what to expect, completely without a plan. I was to be picked up at the Oslo airport by a couple of guys I had never met, musicians from Hedmark, and continue from there up north a couple of hours. The story goes that these people eventually became some of my closest friends; Vegard (Wintermare) who now has a beautiful family, was single at the time and let us sleep in his ex-flatmate’s room, on the floor of a beautiful crumbling white wooden house in Flisa. Uno (Møller) was quiet and loud and quiet on the way to the village, offering us homemade liquor in a plastic bottle, hyped up and making jokes about penguins. I clearly remember Eirik lightly shaking from the anticipation when I met him for the first time as we visited him at work the following day and Tyge barging into the house almost every day, running up the stairs unannounced, his car parked in the front. I remember talking about Patrick Wolf and Maximilian Hecker with Marius (Team Me), his eyes glittering when he talked about music. I remember crashing on a sofa in the rehearsal space to watch them practice and getting caught in an awkward and joyous jam session; seeing Wintermare play at a local festival, I remember counting dozens of shooting stars on that night, surrounded by that wonderful language I couldn’t understand and by people I hardly knew but who made me feel at home.I took these on a road trip in 2008 with my Canon & cross-processed film.
Whenever something in my life went wrong, Norway was there to fix it. Moving there when I was 21 was one of the very first, very important choices I made by myself; it wasn’t a thoroughly thought-out decision, but it felt right. I stood in lines to register address, bank account, and everything else and when I got the letter home from the police that made my stay official, I felt like one of them. Bizarre in a city (Bergen) where I’d never been, where I knew no one. Maybe a form of escapism, though I knew it was much more than that. Over the past couple of days, I have thought about the concept of ‘home’ a lot; about what it is and what it encompasses. Clearly home isn’t the place you’re from: my trips to my hometown always make me feel like a complete stranger, a tourist getting lost on side streets. As for home being where your heart is, physically this makes us grand voyageurs, snails with houses on their backs, and metaphorically, it makes us unable to have a life outside of romanticism. No, I don’t want home to be just where my heart is: it feels limiting and sad. Some say Home is the place you left. I say Home is the place you miss. And this week, seeing a disemboweled building with shattered windows, the streets I’d walked hundreds of times fuming and scattered with broken glass, all the desperation and the sadness of the Norwegian people, I missed that place more than any other place I have ever missed.