A museum with no walls

When visitors to the Avan Limbus Art Museum survey the scene, their gaze wanders over carefully tended and softly rounded lawns. The character of the landscape naturally changes depending on the season, the state of the weather and the time of day but there is a constant impression of greenness. Many of the people in the area move sedately from hole to hole. The site was once the town rubbish tip but today it is a golf course. That it is also an art museum can be difficult to realize. For there is no physical building identifiable with the institution; and even stranger is the fact that there is an almost total lack of visible objects. But for all that it is a museum: a museum of the unlimited.

  Perhaps things will become clearer if we go back to the beginning. On 21 August 1982, artist Hans Limbus Tjörneryd erected eight granite monoliths on the recently abandoned Avan rubbish tip in the town of Gävle and declared the site a gigantic sculpture. This action transformed the site into a work of art with both historical and contemporary dimensions. A rubbish tip can be described as the material deposit of society’s reverse side and the Avan site, as well as receiving a never ending stream of rubbish, also absorbed much of the debris from buildings that were torn down in a “Faustian” spirit in order to make way for new ones during the sixties of the last century. For people who have an archaeological bent, rubbish tips of this sort are a source of knowledge about modern life. When Avan had been thus appropriated in an artistic sense and the monoliths had been erected, Limbus then laid out 700 paving stones – all of them inscribed with the figure seven – in order to create what he calls a separation layer.

  An important link in the chain was forged during a period spent in a studio in Paris in 1983 when he coined the notion of Status Limbus. This describes a condition of border-crossing activities that, for example, might take the form of sky sculptures of smoke and ash which he has produced from time to time using a specially equipped aeroplane. During the period from 1983 to 1988 he systematically buried prepared canvases and other objects at a large number of holy sites. This activity was given the name of Status Terra Nova. The canvases have since been retrieved and moved to Avan (where they are now buried) or have been turned into ashes in order to create the above-mentioned sculptures in the sky above the tip.

  Work continued and on 12 October 1992 the Limbusation Expedition commenced (ending in Rome on 17 February 2000). The expedition staked a claim to the Mount of the Virgin in Falun and some 76 canvases and recorded tapes were buried. These so-called Mission Results have since been spread to other places: Avan, Rome, Miletus and, finally, to the Limbus Centre of the Universe in Barra do Cunhau in Brazil – the place from which Hans Limbus Tjörneryd’s new expeditions depart.

  There was a continuation to the buried paving stones. Two stones have been taken from each of the collections and of this total of 152 stones, 76 are at Avan, 31 are located at holy sites in various parts of the world, 7 are in constant movement on aeroplanes, boats or other vessels and 38 twin stones will be placed in South America. Each buried stone is marked with special “space sticks” – markers that have then been used to indicate other areas of exploration.

  The (eternal) city of Rome plays an important role in Hans Limbus Tjöneryd’s artistic universe and it was there that Operation Lifeboat/Scialuppa di Salvataggio was started on 17 February 2000. The project, which will end on 17 February 2034, after lasting for exactly 34 years, is coupled to events in Avan in various ways. But the geographical links that have been established with various places on earth – from the Mount of the Virgin in Sweden to Brazil – in point of fact stretch even further away. In order to facilitate contacts with the unknown, there is an approach beacon for UFAOs (Unidentified Flying Art Objects) at Avan. When the landing beacon was inaugurated in 2002, sky sculptures were drawn in the airspace above the tip; this time with material from the Limbusation Expedition which had been burnt to ashes. The actual reuse of matter – and, in a wider sense, the cyclical processes that especially pervade nature – are a fundamental component of the Limbus activities.

  Another of the objects that are to be found above the earth is the No. 7 sculpture. It was moved to Avan in 2003 to manifest the meeting place for buried paving stones and it provides a fixed point which helps us to experience the parts that are not immediately perceptible.


A quarter of a century has now elapsed since Hans Limbus Tjörnberyd’s first action on the rubbish tip and the formal opening of the Avan Limbus Art Museum takes place on the twenty-fifth anniversary of this event. He has described the site as both a meeting place and a place of transition. Avan has now become a hierophany, a place in which the sacred can appear, though this should not be seen as an ending but the beginning of something new.

  Perhaps an account of the historical record helps to clarify what the Avan Limbus Art Museum actually is. That it is an unusual museum hardly needs mentioning. Since almost everything is buried in the ground, and thus hidden from sight, the museum represents something other than merely regarding objects of various sorts. The artist has described it as an “imaginary sculpture museum”. This is a fascinating and contradictory image: the idea that the imagination can have the physical proximity of the sculpture. But the Avan Limbus Art Museum is also paradoxical in the sense that it succeeds in combining things that are intangible and visionary with a palpability that can be summed up in the phrase: “Dig where you stand”.


Niclas Östlind

Curator at the Avan Limbus Art Museum


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