Aleksandra Mir

Out of Time Out of Place, Public Art (Now)

Ed. Claire Doherty
Art Books, London, 2015

Aleksandra Mir
Narvik Superstars
Narvik, Nordland, Norway, (2004-6, unrealized)

The Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles has over two and a half thousand stars embedded in the sidewalk, stretching for fifteen blocks. Each bears the name of an well-known actor, musician, or media figure. The world-famous feature, which was first installed in 1960 as a way to perpetuate the achievements of the city's entertainment industry, receives around ten million visitors each year.

Nearly six thousands miles away from the celebrated walkway, Narvik, a small town on the north coast of Norway, has been shaped by its use since the late nineteenth century as a port for the shipping of iron from the mines in northern Sweden. The industry remained the basis for the town's economy and its primary source of employment for more than a hundred years. These days, it has a population of just under 19,000, with an average of 170 births and 135 deaths per year.

In 2004, the artist Alexandra Mir proposed to make a work of public art called Narvik Superstars, designating that the next thousand babies born in the town would each get their own star in a new Narvik Walk of Fame. With the official approval and blessing from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which administrates the Los Angeles Walk of Fame, the stars would have been made with the same brass and terazzo material as their American counterparts, colored in an alternative pink and three-quarter of the original size. They were to line the the stretch of the a newly redeveloped area of the harbour. The project was envisioned to take up to seven years to complete, depending on the number of births, as each new-born would have their own name in brass lettering embedded in the waterfront pavement. A prototype star was built and shipped over from California by the same company that provides the stars for Hollywood's Walk of fame.

Mir’s films, installations, and events often revolve around the creation and transformation of meaning through community interaction and media portrayal, such as her event and film First Woman on the Moon (1999), which re-imagined space exploration history via a one-day action which transformed a Dutch beach into a cratered landscape claimed by an all-female crew; or her Newsroom 1986-2000 (2007) project, in which visitors and assistants helped create two hundred large black-and-white marker drawings based on New York tabloid newspaper covers.

Narvik Superstars was envisioned as a community monument, to both the new citizens of the town and their mothers. It was predicted that the piece would have an impact on the population of Narvik, with women coming there to give birth just so that their children could be given a star. More essentially, Mir envisioned it as a refocusing of the labour, literally, that had created the town. While much was made of Narvik’s ore-loading railroad and harbour history, Narvik Superstars emphasised and celebrated the female role that underlined and enabled this in the first place. Due to budget cuts, the work was cancelled in 2006 and Narvik Superstars was never produced.