Year: 2016

Project type: Temporary installation

Location: Oslo Central Station, Norway

Artist: Ingrid Solvik

Generative light animations: Reidun Solvik

Robot engineering: James Fox

Lighting system: Gard Gitlestad


Traditionally, the time leading up to Christmas in Norway was filled with hard labour; the work of turning the farm’s crops, livestock and dairy into the finest clothes and foods was the most important activity in the final month of the year.

Today, December is still a busy period, but the tasks are different – now, a lot of the stress of December is about buying things: Christmas presents, decorations and all sorts of commodities that we think we need to find the true Christmas spirit. But who is it that produce our christmas decorations? Is there any Christmas spirit to be found in the town of Yiwu, China? – a town 300 km south of Shanghai, where 600 factories churn out 60% of all Christmas decorations sold worldwide.

The installation Yiwutide consists of luminous triangles whose sizes are proportionate to the increasing sums spent on Christmas shopping in Norway over the last 30 years. The lighting is controlled by generative animations which escalate in intensity from day to day to reflect the building up of Christmas spirit (and of Christmas stress) during the weeks of Advent.

At ground level beneath the installation, an industrial robot, a Kuka KR 16-2, kept trying to make Christmas paper chains. As one of the few Christmas decorations not yet commercialised, paper chains are put together by clumsy hands of children, and the chains are connected together, resulting in long rows of charmingly flawed links – where all that matters is making something together. The results are secondary, thus representing a generous and genuine Christmas spirit.

This symbolic value makes an industrial robot’s attempt at making paper chains both fascinating and uncanny. What is the point of metre upon metre of paper chains if no-one had the pleasure of making them?