The Voice of Jacob at Dawn

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Munch Museum / Norwegian Opera & Ballet, Oslo, Curated by Natalie Hope O’Donnell, 2019

The Voice of Jacob at Dawn is a performative piece and a collaboration by two institutions in Oslo: the Munch Museum which commissioned the work (opening its new building in the area of Bjørvika in 2020), and the Oslo Opera house where it is exhibited.

Departing from Bjørvika’s industrial history, the installation is presented at the Balcony of the Oslo Opera house. Here visitors step into a room of a fictional character loosely based on Jacob Jarmann, one of the founders of Nyland’s Verksted in 1854. This manufacturer, which at one time was Norway’s largest shipyard, was situated at the mouth of the Aker River, where the Opera and the new Munch Museum stand today.

Through a series of brief poetic chapters, Gómez-Egaña narrates the story of a character who resides in this room. He suffers from sleep paralysis, a condition that can set in just before one awakes, where one’s mind appears alert but the body cannot move. His daily rhythm is interrupted by the machines’ constant frequency, time seems to accelerate and the steam from the ship mixes with the Oslo Fog, which rolls in from the fjord and envelops the bay of Bjørvika.

Visitors are invited to sit on the character’s bed and may notice how the room gradually changes as the story unfolds. The installation includes sculptures of everyday objects: a flower vase, a floor lamp and a glass of water spinning at speeds so high that the movement becomes virtually imperceptible. The frequencies that these mechanisms produce are harmonised with a soundtrack that includes fragments of music by Anton Bruckner and Jacques Ibert, composers known to love engines and industrial machines.

Commissioned for The Munch Museum, Oslo, for Munchmuseet on the Move 2019

This project is supported by The Arts Council Norway

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