‘El Buen Vivir’ at Hvervenbukta
by Rodrigo Ghattas & Andrea Fritsvold
12-18 July 2021
Organized by Vibeke Frost Andersen
The title of our one-week biopolitical intervention in Oslo Kommune’s pavilion at Hvervenbukta Beach (in Holmlia neighborhood) is Slutten på velferdsstaten nærmer seg…er vi klare for ‘El Buen Vivir’?  which translates to English as “The end of the welfare state is approaching…are we ready for ‘Living in Plenitude’?”. ‘El Buen Vivir’ is a pluralistic worldview that’s prevalent among indigenous communities across Latin America and whose principles are shared by different cultures around the world. This philosophy holds that an individual’s wellbeing can only be achieved through harmonious relationships with the wider community – including people, the environment, other living beings, their ancestors, and the cosmos. Practically speaking, it encompasses themes like food sovereignty, land rights, environmental justice, economic solidarity, and the protection of local biodiversity.
‘El Buen Vivir’ is here introduced in the form of a question, therefore embedded in post-capitalist speculation. Are we ready to explore alternatives to capitalism that inevitably force us to scrutinize the roots of our own ‘successful’ systems, for instance, The Nordic Model – the social welfare and economic system adopted by Nordic countries, including Norway? A model that has been regarded all over the world for its progressive human development, however, as the economic anthropologist Jason Hickel writes in The dark side of the Nordic model (2019) , “Scandinavian countries may top every ranking on human development, but they are a disaster for the environment”. He continues arguing that it is time to update the Nordic model for the Anthropocene and that the only way to build a truly ecological economy is to stop chasing GDP growth. Thus, in an era of ecological breakdown, it becomes more evident that even hybrid systems rooted in any form of capitalism are and will never be long-term alternatives.
Those were the premises of our time here. During a whole week, we practiced slowing down, resting, napping, descaling, while keeping the doors open to interact and chat with passersby, locals, and beach enthusiasts about the future of a post-growth economic model in Norway and elsewhere. We went one step ahead and took the conversation offshore. We spray-painted the intervention’s title on a sail and took off into the Oslo fjord in a two-person boat. At times the message was visible from the shore and served as an invitation to initiate nearshore dialogues with strangers.
We use this time both as a holiday for the mind, the spirit, and the body as well as for the construction of moments to produce collective knowledge together with Holmlia’s summer population. In our search for ways to imagine a new ecological civilization, we aim to “dislocate” everyday environments by introducing unexpected and open questions into the public debate. The recordings and documentation of our time there will shed some more light on our experience and highlight the need for a metamorphosis of virtually every aspect of our human experience, including our values, goals, and behavioral norms both local and globally.
Rodrigo Ghattas is a Peruvian-Palestinian artist and restivist based in Norway.
Andrea Fritsvold is a Norwegian political ecologist and museum director.