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Photo: Joanna Piotrowska
Photo: Joanna Piotrowska

Press release -

"Oltre Terra. Why Wool Matters" by Formafantasma opens at the National Museum in Oslo

Oltre Terra. Why Wool Matters
The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design the Light Hall
26 May – 1 October 2023

Press preview 24 May, 11 am. Please contact for attendance.

In the exhibition “Oltre Terra. Why Wool Matters” the multidisciplinary design studio Formafantasma investigates the history, ecology and global dynamics of the extraction and production of wool.

“Oltre Terra” is the first design exhibition in the new National Museum. However, it features almost no objects that one typically finds in a design exhibition. Instead, it gathers a broad array of agricultural and cultural objects, photographs, videos, and other materials with the aim of showing how wool is more than simply a raw material for the design and textile industries.

Around 11,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers began to follow and cull flocks of sheep instead of killing them wholesale. With time, a new relation between human and animal was established and domestic sheep as we know them today evolved over the course of hundreds of years. This process, however, was never unidirectional – that is, humans acting upon animals. Rather, a complex co-evolution and co-creation has taken place. Humans gave sheep food and protection from predators and got wool in return – a material with magical properties that profoundly altered the course of both human and animal history.

The title Oltre Terra comes from the etymology of the word transhumance, a combination of the Latin wordstrans (across, “oltre” in Italian) and humus (grounds, “terra”). The ancient custom of transhumance relies on the movement of livestock from one grazing ground to another in seasonal cycles and according to the nutrients and resources available.

This idea of “crossing grounds” also reflects the transdisciplinary attitude that defines the show. The research for Oltre Terra has been undertaken via conversations and collaborations with a variety of different practitioners such as designers, artists, anthropologists, evolutionists, legal experts, curators, shepherds, musicians and farmers.

The wider installation of Oltre Terra is a critical take on the display mode of the diorama. Commonly used in natural history museums to represent a static scene from nature, here the diorama is exploded into an installation that contains six life-size reproductions of different sheep breeds, a carpet made from discarded wool fibers, as well as documents, films, by-products of manufacturing processes and various types of organic matter. All the elements are presented side by side to counteract persisting categorizations that separate human from animal and product from biological matter.

Through numerous exhibitions, research projects and teaching activities, the Italian design studio Formafantasma (founded 2009) has advocated the need for a new direction and vision for the field of design at large, with the overall ambition of fostering a deeper understanding of both our natural and built environments. Their work typically consists of transformative interventions that use the very act of design in all its material, technical and social aspects.  Previous works include a research project into e-waste, a collection of furniture made of lava, and the exhibition project "Cambio", an in-depth investigation into the global governance of the timber industry.

Works by Formafantasma have been acquired by museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum, Chicago Art Institute, Victoria and Albert Museum, Centre Pompidou, Stedelijk Museum, and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.

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The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design is the largest art museum in the Nordics. The collection contains 400,000 objects ranging from the antiquity to the present day and includes paintings, sculpture, drawings, textiles, furniture and architectural models. The new museum building opened in June 2022. At the National Museum visitors can experience a comprehensive Collection presentation of around 6,500 works, as well as a varied programme of temporary exhibitions and events. 


Simen Joachim Helsvig

Simen Joachim Helsvig

Press contact Communications advisor +47 917 64 327

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