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Moving a King: A Social Semiotic Analysis of Knut Steen’s Sculpture of the Norwegian King Olav V, and Its Relocation

Eva Maagerø / Aslaug Veum
Published Online: 2015-11-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mc-2015-0010


This article presents an analysis of Knut Steen’s sculpture of the Norwegian king Olav V from 2006. The sculpture was planned to be placed in the center of Oslo, in front of Oslo City Hall, but was moved to a fjord and mountain landscape in Western Norway, the old trading post Skjerjehamn at the gateway to the Sognefjord. The 7.5 m high massive sculpture of king Olav lifting his arm to a greeting provoked the art commission of the municipality of Oslo. According to the commission, the sculpture was reminicent of art in the Nazi time and of Hitler’s way of greeting. The meaning potential of the sculpture is analysed in three levels, inspired by Jay Lemke’s sandwich model (2000): Level 1, the focus level, the sculpture and its interplay with the local context, Level 2, the level below, the sculpture’s form and material, and Level 3, the level above, the socio-political history of the sculpture which includes its recontextualisation from a busy location in the Norwegian capital to a remote place in a fjord and mountain landscape. The model is also inspired by Michael O’Toole’s rank model for analysing three dimensional art objects (O’Toole, 1994b). The theoretical background for the analysis is social semiotics (Halliday, 1978, 1985; van Leeuwen, 2005; Kress and van Leeuwen, 2001, 2006). We also draw on works of Abousnnouga and Machin (2010a and 2010b, 2011, 2013, 2014) on multimodality and monuments, on works of Barthes (1973, 1997), Duby and Daval (2010), Johnson (1995, 2002), and Kruk (2008, 2010) on monuments and ideology, on Serck-Hanssen (2014) on royal portraits, and on Linell (1998) on theory of recontextualisation.

Keywords: royal monuments; social semiotics; multimodality; recontextualisation


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About the article

Eva Maagerø

Eva Maagerø is professor in Norwegian at Buskerud and Vestfold University College, Norway. Her research interests are systemic functional linguistics, multimodality, literacy, and reception studies. She has participated in several research projects supported by the Norwegian Research Council and in international research groups such as CRIC: Children Reading Iconotexts across Cultures. She is also active in the Nordic Association for SFL and social semiotics. Recent publications: Social Semiotics. Key Figures, New Directions (Routledge 2015) (with Thomas Hestbæk Andersen, Morten Boeriis, and Elise Seip Tønnessen), Kontekst, språk, multimodalitet. Nyere sosialsemiotiske perspektiver (Fagbokforlaget 2015) (with Gunhild Kvåle and Aslaug Veum), “Child readers and the worlds of the picture book”, Children’s Literature in Education 2015, Volum 46 (with Adela Baird, Janet Laugharne, and Elise Seip Tønnessen), “Den strenge samtalen. Tekstsamtalen i sjangerpedagogikken” i Samtalens didaktiske muligheter (eds. Hanne Christensen & Ruth Seierstad Stokke, Gyldendal Akademisk 2015), and Multimodal tekstkompetanse (Portal Forlag 2014) (with Elise Seip Tønnessen).

Aslaug Veum

Aslaug Veum is associate professor in Text and Communication Studies at Buskerud and Vestfold University College, Norway. Her research interests are multimodality, critical discourse analysis, systemic functional linguistics and literacy studies. She has done research on newspapers, blogs, school textbooks, monuments and craft. She is coeditor and coauthor of several books presenting Scandinavian research in discourse analysis, multimodality and literacy. Recent publicatons: Diskursanalyse i praksis (eds. Hitching, Nilsen, Veum, 2013, Høgskoleforlaget), Literacy i læringskontekster (eds. Skjelbred & Veum 2013, Cappelen Damm), Kontekst, språk, multimodalitet. Nyere sosialsemiotiske perspektiver (eds. Kvaale, Maagerø and Veum, Fagbokforlaget 2015).

Published Online: 2015-11-28

Published in Print: 2015-12-01

Citation Information: Multimodal Communication, Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 133–150, ISSN (Online) 2230-6587, ISSN (Print) 2230-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mc-2015-0010.

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