I can’t remember exactly how I found out about the Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum, which is located in the Slemdal neighborhood of Oslo. I was spending a few summer days in the city, after a press trip to a nearby biennial. Either my Airbnb host told me about it, or I read about it online, or someone on the press trip had made the recommendation. In any case, I arrived via tram to a brick building with a low stone entryway.
Inside, my eyes eventually adjusted to the pitch black, revealing a continuous, floor-to-ceiling painting that commingled themes of sex and death. In one section, two skeletons copulate in a white cloud, surrounded by nude, intertwined bodies. Throughout the work, male and female figures embrace in such intricate tangles that it’s difficult to tell where one body begins and the next ends. Yet it’s hardly a happy orgy; anguished facial expressions are more prevalent than those of ecstasy. As the mausoleum’s website states, “Lovemaking and procreation in the honour of God takes place in front of a dark and infinite universe, dimly lit by the life-giving, divine sun but also by the blazing fires of hell.” If that wasn’t exactly how I felt about my relationship with my ex! In the cool, dark mausoleum, surrounded by such a bold, melodramatic display of sexual angst, I felt a sense of tranquility and funny recognition.