Project Space


For the fourth time we show an exhibition dedicated to Vestfos Cellulosefabrik and the history that played out between these rough walls. 


The Project Space is the voice of the old factory.

In here, we can follow the traces of industry that have left their mark on the walls of the Art Laboratory. In here, we can show ways to revisit the history of paper production in Vestfossen. This time, the stories we have recovered from the Vestfold Archive are about the three phases of the factory’s life, and about an extraordinary piece of theatre.

1 The work at the factory  
Conditions were ideal by the River Vestfoss and the Holmefoss waterfall for an industrial enterprise like Vestfos Cellulosefabrik. The factory was founded in March 1886, and for the next 84 years there were several hundred people working to produce paper in the buildings that today house Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium.

In a briefing from 1962 we can read that ‘at the present time the factory has work for c. 400 male and female employees’. Some worked in the forest felling trees or creating from timber the pulp that is the raw material in paper production, while others worked the machines forming pulp into paper. The last stage of the process was sorting and preparing the paper for sale. And there was paper for every need. For newsprint, books, writing, and drawing – even very thin tissue paper for wrapping. The products were exported all around the world, and the administration of this trade was among the many duties of the office staff.

2 The factory closes
The demand for paper from Vestfos Cellulosefabrik sank steadily from the early 1960s. The reason was tough competition from similar factories abroad. It was also expensive to meet new standards governing the discharge of waste water into the river. The financial situation deteriorated rapidly and the concern was declared bankrupt in December 1970, as the first of the large timber processing plants in the Drammen district.


3 Svartkatten (The Black Cat)
The closure created huge headlines in Norway’s newspapers. The workers who had lost their jobs were the object of attention and sympathy from all quarters, including from a group of politically active actors at Nationaltheatret. They formed a new group called Det oppsøkende teater and produced a documentary drama, Svartkatten (The Black Cat). The story was borrowed from the closure of the factory in Vestfossen. An LP also resulted from the group’s work on Svartkatten – together making for a politically minded production unafraid of criticising the factory leadership, and the power of capital in general.


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The project is supported by Øvre Eiker Municipality and Viken Country Council, and is a collaboration between Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium and Eiker Arkiv.




Photo: Arbeiderbladet / Arbeiderbevegelsens arkiv og bibliotek