Torås Fort: Bunker Palimpsest
In July 2016, the mountain bunkers of Toras Fort on the Norwegian island of Tjøme were opened for the first time in decades. The 400 acre military base was first established as an ‘optical telegraph’ station in 1807, but was substantially developed prior to the Nazi occupation of 1940, then refortified by the invaders as a heavy artillery base for the duration of the Second World War. Little is known about its function during the Cold War except for being a key site in the Norwegian ‘Stay Behind’ programme, in which operatives would be trained by CIA, MI6 and NIS agents to provide support for covert resistance during a possible Soviet invasion. After being sealed since the 1990s with concrete and armoured steel doors, the bunkers were left to the microbes, mildews and slime moulds. The bunker walls reveal a history in paint, a palimpsest of military renovation and neglect, and describe a habitat for microbial life left to thrive in the voids of human absence. Paul Virilio’s analysis of ‘the military institution is a cyclothymic animal hibernating during peacetime and awake for war’, does not entirely do justice to the breadth and variety of life forms thriving in the dark cavities of war.