The world knows Norwegian-born Magne Furuholmen (48) as the keyboard player, guitarist and composer of cult 80s pop icons a-ha. And, whilst all-time hits such as ‘Take on Me’ or ‘The Sun will always shine on TV’ will forever remain what he is the most known for, a lesser known fact is Furuholmen’s long-standing support for the environment, as well as his work as a visual artist. Indeed, for the past 15 years, the pop-star-turned-eco-conscious-artist has been creating a body of work that encourages the viewer to pause and think. Ranging in his use of different medias – he works with everything from ceramics and paintings to video and printmaking – Furuholmen’s works have been shown in New York, London, Paris, Copenhagen or Hong Kong. And it is precisely because of his ability to bring high thinking to high culture that the unlikely eco-warrior was selected as a jury for the recently-staged smart urban stage contest, which came to an end last week in Frankfurt. We had the chance to sit down with the legend to talk about the everlasting a-ha legacy, the challenges of maintaining a green lifestyle and building sandcastles.
Are you a ‘green’ person? Is being ecological important for you in your daily life?
I’ve always been interested in alternative solutions but at the same time have always considered technology as something positive. 25 years ago my band colleague Morten and I actually paid the import of the first electric car ever to Norway out of our own pockets – a Fiat. Afterwards we gave it to the environmental organisation Bellona, which collected parking fines with it to draw attention to the car. In the end this led to a new law in Norway allowing electric cars to drive in taxi lanes. We also collected money for anti-deforestation projects in the Amazon and supported the Green belt movement in Africa.
How did you link up with smart?
With the art collective Apparatjik that I am part of we did a project in Berlin. We organised symposiums about the role of creative people when it comes to eco-awareness and change. For this we chose smart as a sponsor because of their electric drive initiative.
It is impossible to interview you without mentioning a-ha – does it bother you that this is in a way haunting you?
I just find it rather unimaginative if people only refer to me as an a-ha member. Yes, I remember the 80s briefly (laughs) but that’s like 25 years ago. I’ve been working as a visual artist for 15 years now. If people want to reduce me to an entertainer, fine, I made my peace with it. It used to make me a bit angry, especially because I felt that my work as an artist was suffering from it, but nowadays it just bores me. I am not in this jury because I was a member of a-ha.
There is nothing more enjoyable than stepping on a sandcastle you’ve spent building all day.
Certain bands, such as Radiohead for example, recently started paying attention to the environment when organising their world tours, minimising their carbon emissions as much as possible. Is that something you ever thought about during your time with a-ha?
If we were a young new band today this would be a natural commitment for us. But in the end no one is perfect and we are all sinners, this wine that we’re drinking right now is probably imported from South America or elsewhere. It is important though to have a curiosity and interest in making the world a greener place. For example we are thinking about how to embed doing good for the environment into the process of buying a product. Something like ‘Buy music, plant a tree’. I’m very impressed by all the projects here tonight and hope they will live on and succeed.
You belong to the artist collective Apparatjik, can you tell us a bit about that?
The collective is an experimental forum that combines the artworld and entertainment and at the same time serves as a discussion forum. It’s a very flexible and open platform and deals with everything I’m interested in, resisting definition. We reject the mechanisms that ‘work’.
Is that maybe a rebellious reaction to the restrictions of the music business?
It is rather a need for freedom and inspiration. There is nothing more enjoyable than stepping on a sandcastle you’ve spent building all day.
Last week we already reported about The Peoples Supermarket, the final winner of the smart future minds award. If you don’t agree with the final decision, you can vote for your favourite contestants and contribute to choosing the winner for the smart urban stage community award by clicking on the image below.