Art lovers flock to Norway’s SALT Festival for group “sweat-ins”

By Spencer Peterson
July 20, 2015
Norway Spa
Credit: Martin Losvik

Though winter storms nearly compromised its main gallery—a long A-frame pavilion inspired by traditional Scandinavian fish-drying racks—Norway’s SALT festival has returned for a second summer to the island of Sandhornøya. Once again, the main draw is a packed schedule of art installations and performances staged on a stunning remote beach. That, and the group sweat-ins, in what’s claimed to be the world’s largest public sauna.

SALT’s prism-shaped “ampisauna” can fit over 100 bathers on tiered wooden benches facing the Norwegian Sea through a wall of glass. It’s got a bar, for the “hair of the dog” approach to sweating out the previous evening’s excess. This year, the experience has been set to a soundtrack of ambient electronica from the Norwegian recording artist Biosphere.

The best place to stay for a weekend at SALT is right on the beach, in a njalla, a mobile tent on wooden skis you can push to a spot of your choosing. Most attendees reach this remote gathering, which also features concerts, club nights, and themed dinners, by boat from the town of Bodø, which has an airport offering direct flights to Oslo and Trondheim.

The project will remain on the island until 2016, after which co-founder Helga-Marie Nordby wants to expand it to places like the Faroe Islands, Spitsbergen, Greenland, or Iceland. The U.K. and Alaska are also possibilities. Last summer she told the Guardian, “If you bring something human-made into that scenery, it’s not just about nature, but about our role in that landscape.”

Norway Spa
Credit: Gunnar Holmstad