On future and fortune

On future and fortune

On future and fortune

A detailed model of a house in ruins lays on the floor on a pile of black sand, the miniature interior design furniture clashes with the wreckage scattered around the building. The roof, as well as one of the four walls, has collapsed, nonetheless two design metal chairs are placed on the second floor close to a window, a corner where to relax and enjoy the view. A white corridor with a futuristic design resembling that of Star Trek spacecrafts extends outside of the house, goes around it and leads to the inside: a fancy entrance which offers an alternative to stepping through the detritus of the torn down wall and access the house with another perspective. 

The floor of the gallery is demarcated by black lines, a sports field of a game which rules are unknown to us. A chair on the corner, the human-size version of the scaled down design metal chairs in the model of the house, opens up to the possibility of a privileged point of view which is however for no one to enjoy – the gallery is in fact closed and the exhibition can be seen only through the wide window of Harbinger. One of the arms of the chair is replaced by a small metal plinth on which a twelve-faced die lays.

The same die is presented to us in two paintings on the walls of the gallery, but this time is depicted as broken. A painting of a naked person turning their back to us and holding a spear constitutes the only human presence in the exhibition.

Dcethrone (armored luxury), polished steel, sand, dice.

Detail of dice rolling bowl, polished steel, sand, dice.

2020, prospect (20 sided die in 20 pieces), oil on woodboard and 2020, retrospect (20 sided die in 20 pieces), oil on woodboard.

The exhibition Core Temperature by Fritz Hendrik looks at the future of “our house”, planet Earth, it focuses on and brings together two specific perspectives on the fate of the world: that of those who see the future as a sort of Mad Max post-apocalyptic scenery, where extreme global warming and its consequential catastrophic natural events destroy everything humans have built throughout the centuries, bringing the human species to extinction; and that of those who have faith in the humankind technological progress and believe geoengineering will save us.

Global warming and ecology are issues which are taking up more and more space in global discussions about the future of our species, in particular nowadays, since the year 2020 brought us to face the fragility of our humankind. Coronavirus managed to bring the whole world on its knees. We, first world countries citizens and wealthy enough to be able to isolate in our own homes, have found ourselves lost and broken. We renewed and incremented our long lasting relationship with technology, a companion which gives us access to endless entertainment, allowed us to keep working from home and to engage with loved ones when restrictions prohibited us from meeting in person. 

Philosopher Rosi Braidotti in her recent essay We Are In This Together, But We Are Not One and the Same claims that Covid-19 is a man-made disease, it is the result of human interference with the ecological balance. In her opinion it is a paradox that we turned to technology as a result, because that is what caused the problem in the first place. In the same essay she calls for a reconsideration of the binarism between culture and nature, drawing from post/de-colonial and indigenous theories which, in her words, “have a great deal to teach us”. This is for Rosi Braidotti, a time to avoid and fight apocalyptic thinking, it is instead “a time to organize and not agonize”, to reconsider how we live.

Detail of core temperature, mixed media.

Detail of core temperature, mixed media.

Detail of core temperature, mixed media.

The exhibition is strongly inspired by the roleplaying game Dungeon & Dragons, in which players create their own character and embark upon adventures in a fantasy world. The success or failure of actions taken by players are dictated by the rolling of dice. Fortune plays a big role in the game, as well in the exhibition Core Temperature. Dice appear here and there as symbols of the uncertain result of our actions: the future of our world is beyond our control. A die pops up when one scans the QR code on the gallery window with a smartphone, the polyhedric die rolls into our screens and breaks apart. 

Dice are there to feedback on our actions, just like they do in Dungeon & Dragon, to give us a result on which we can adjust our actions for a better future. This does not only concern collective actions taken on a bigger scale by humankind, but also our individual commitment to a more sustainable life-style, small gestures that most of us undertake daily to take care of the environment in the hope to contribute to saving our planet. Despite everything around us collapsing, we still make sure to carefully wash jam jars and beer bottles before putting them in the recycling bin. 

The dice in the exhibition represent the questioning of these actions: Are they even useful in the short or long run? Are we contributing in a tiny, tiny, tiny way to change the course of human destiny?

An intact die lays on the chair of the privilege point of view, the empty chair on the corner to which no viewer has access. Capitalism and social and ecological issues are so strictly connected that it is hard to avoid reading that empty chair as where CEOs of big companies and industrialists sit, as they are the ones who could really make a difference, but the capitalist machine is all about one thing: Profit. 

Installation view of the exhibition Core Temperature.

Detail, Scorelord, digital print, blý.

Donna Haraway, in her book Staying with the Trouble (2016), talks about making-with, which refers to engaging with the present, staying with other planetary organisms which are facing our same fate. The Covid-19 pandemic has proved that no matter how hard humans like to think of themselves as separate from nature, we are as a matter of fact part of the same ecosystem. That single bottle that we decide to recycle might not solve the waste overproduction problem, as well as cycling might not solve the pollution problem, but all the small actions we take represent steps toward a better society, as well as normalise a way of understanding our position in the world and our role in it which leans toward symbiogenesis – becoming by living together.

The dice are broken, but, after all, it doesn’t really matter.

POV (point of view), oil on woodboard.

Core Temperature was on view at Harbinger from November the 13th, 2020 to January the 1st, 2021.

Photographs published with the permission of the artist.
Fritz Hendrik’s website: www.fritzhendrik.com

Pavilion Nordico: a bridge between the Nordic countries and Argentina

Pavilion Nordico: a bridge between the Nordic countries and Argentina

Pavilion Nordico: a bridge between the Nordic countries and Argentina

I met with Sara Løve Daðadóttir, Josefin Askfelt and Emil Willumsen who are part of the team behind Pavilion Nordico in Buenos Aires, a project established in early 2019 which functions as exhibition space, residency and art centre for Nordic creators. The project aims at creating connections between the Nordic countries and Argentina, facilitating the encounter of these two different cultures and promoting cooperations and exchanges between Nordic and Argentinian creators and professionals.  

Ana: First of all, why did you decide to bring this project to Buenos Aires? 

Sara: This is a question a lot of people ask, especially Argentinians. What is so special about Buenos Aires? Well for one, it has a very rich cultural scene — you could compare it to Berlin some years ago. It’s very lively, with a lot of things happening and a lot of independent spaces and temporary spaces. But also it has a real infrastructure when it comes to art and culture. There are many big private and public museums and international galleries. These are perfect circumstances for a project like Pavilion Nordico.

Plus, Buenos Aires is one of the epicentres of the Spanish-speaking art world, and one of the things we wanted to do with Pavilion Nordico is to create bridges between the Nordic region and different international regions. There’s a divide between the English-speaking and the Spanish-speaking art world, and the Nordic region leans more towards the former, so we wanted to see if we could connect them more. Oh, and then there was also a lucky circumstance that made us start the project in Argentina. Now we are already considering expanding the concept to other regions!

Facade and interior of the historical villa hosting Pavilion Nordico. Photos: Javier Agustín Rojas.

Hyper Hyper aka Kolbeinn Hugi and Franzeska Zahl being interviewed by PAVILION NORDICO’s Nele Ruckelshausen at the residency in Buenos Aires. Photo: Dagurke.

A: This is quite a big project, did you get any funding to run it and develop it?

S: This first year was our “pilot year”. It was meant for us as a period to test out the concept and find what works and what doesn’t. For this, we received generous funding from the Nordic Culture Fund and The Nordics, a new initiative by the Nordic Council of Ministers. For our tour of the Nordic countries later on, we also receive some national support, for example from the Iceland Art Center and Myndlistarsjóður.

And of course, all partners and art professionals we have collaborated with all have put in a lot of time and resources. Without them, the project would not have been possible.

I think it’s noteworthy to mention that most art and cultural projects are run on the goodwill of a lot of talented individuals, who often only get paid for a margin of their time, if at all. In the Nordic region we pride ourselves on our creatives, but this does not reflect in the support these sectors are given. I do hope that forward-thinking politicians and private companies who support the arts and culture in the Nordic region, will come to acknowledge this substantial unpaid labour and create better infrastructures to accompany this fact.

A: The team behind the Pavilion Nordico is constituted by people from different Nordic countries, how did you meet?

Josefin: Well, Sara and I met through a project called Utopian Union. Emil and I run a graphic design studio called Kiosk Studio. Pavilion Nordico invited us to pitch a visual identity for the project. We put a lot of effort in our proposal because we really wanted to be part of this project — and were selected.

We wanted to create a visual identity that represented the project’s spirit of connecting people from different regions. So we used the concept of modern maps and locations systems as a reference.

Most residencies don’t put a lot of focus on their visual identities. The older institutions have a very sober, non-communicative way of presenting themselves. But graphic design is a very democratic way of opening up the project: good visuals are a great way of inviting communication. It’s not about making something cool, it’s about inviting people, and that’s what this project is all about.

S: Our team and collaborators are all from very different backgrounds. We have people in Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and of course in Argentina. And the list is only expanding… even though we are working on a project together, everyone lives in different cities. Of course, we all spend time together when we can in Buenos Aires, Copenhagen or Berlin, but it’s definitely a very nomadic way of working. We rely on video calls, lots of mails and slack to make things happen.

Other than Kiosk Studio our partners in this first year included Icelandic Cycle Music Art & Festival, Berlin-based Gruppe Magazine and a big group of super skilled art and cultural professionals that really helped drive the project forward — such as Icelandic artist and curator Birta Guðjónsdóttir, Director of Cycle Music & Art Festival Guðny Guðmundsdóttir, German art historian and curator Niko Anklam and Danish political scientist Karl Granov. We are very lucky for having such a driven and inspired team!

A: Could you elaborate a little bit more the aim of Pavilion Nordico? How you are creating connections between the Nordic countries and other regions?

S: Existing residencies from Nordic countries outside of Europe, for example Swedish Iaspis or the Danish Cultural Institute, manage their own national residencies — but we wanted to push collaboration on a united Nordic level. We think it makes sense to represent the Nordic region as united when outside of Europe. Combining our different resources under our shared Nordic values will only result in stronger platforms for Nordic artists and creators.

On an international level, joint Nordic initiatives like Pavilion Nordico also foster strong new collaborations with creatives from other countries, which often continue in new projects and collaborations. This is already happening for us. One of our residents, designer Bettina Nelson, developed a chair in collaboration with local design studios and craftspeople. Now we have a new project, PN1, underway that specifically aims to bring together Nordic designers with Argentinian creatives. This is a good example of how we would like to work: it’s not about the Nordic culture being exported to Argentina; but more of a cooperative process from which both parties benefit.

A: You have hosted artists and designers in Pavilion Nordico, so it is a multidisciplinary residency, right?

S: Yeah, it’s indeed multidisciplinary, and it’s not just artists and designers, we are also open for applications from chefs, activists, scientists, writers, filmmakers and more. We are not interested in the usual criteria. Rather, we want to ensure there will be a strong collaborative element in the residencies and project ideas that connects the project to Argentina.

J: We are interested in creating a community, working as a community, and representing Nordic values such as equality, openness, and environmental protection.

S: Equality is a topic we got really involved in during this first year. The 8t​h​ of March, International Women’s Day, is a BIG day in Argentina. Pavilion Nordico dedicated parts of his program to the issues that where raised during the protests and festivities of that day. We joined the around 400.000 people marching the streets of Buenos Aires, and organised a dinner and informal talk after for female creatives to exchange their experiences. Iceland is number one in the world when it comes to equality; Argentina is unfortunately very behind — even though it is a modern and developed society. That’s why we really encourage applicants to propose projects that centre around the topic of equality.

A: How has it been the response of the local community to this new Nordic project in Buenos Aires?

J: Emil and I spent a month there, researching within and around the design scene. We felt really welcomed. People were eager to get in contact with us, and it was an awesome experience.

S: When we were there together in the first month we also had to fix a lot of things in the residency space, and everyone we encountered had a really positive attitude. You really get the feeling that things are going to turn out well.

We also felt really welcomed by the art world and the design world: curators, directors of the biggest museums in Buenos Aires, people from the galleries — everyone came to our opening!

A: Is the development of the program still in progress? You had a really long open call, right? How did you define the program?

S: This first edition was a sort of prototype, so we created the widest possible call for projects and residents. We just wanted to give people the chance to bring their ideas to the table. Since it was such a fresh project applicants could shape it a lot, and they can still shape it a lot.

We have just announced an Open Call for designers, and we are planning on testing a lot of other things as well. It’s much like a laboratory at the moment for us to find the perfect model for the coming years.

A: Can you compare the art scene in Buenos Aires with the one in Reykjavik?

S: That’s difficult because Reykjavik is so much smaller, and there is hardly an infrastructure for art. I feel like the art scene in Reykjavik is still in its infancy, and that’s not the case in Argentina, where you have a developed art scene with museums, galleries and international fairs. Argentina used to be among the richest countries in the world, and I think this is why they could put so much money in art and culture. In Iceland the art scene is quite fresh, so I think that in this sense, actually Argentina is way ahead. If you compare people’s energy however, you’ll find both Argentinians and Icelandic people have a really proactive way of working and doing things.

J: I think it’s also important to keep in mind the distinction between the Spanish-speaking art scene and the Western art scene. Like Sara said Icelandic art is in its infancy because it’s so new, but Icelandic artists are getting much more recognition in the Western art scene than Latin American artists. It’s hard to compare the two systems, but we’re hoping to create a dialogue between them!

From left to right: Anna Rún Tryggvadóttir ‘Internally’ (2015) / Arnar Ásgeirsson ‘Soaps’ (2017). Installation view of the exhibition Reaccion á Islandia. Photo: Graysc.

From left to right: Leifur Ýmir Eyjólfsson ‘Manuscripts’ (2018) / Ivalo Frank ‘Untitled’ (2017). Installation view of the exhibition Reaccion á Islandia. Photo: Graysc.

Front: Anna Júlía Friðbjörnsdóttir, Natural Fringe 2018 / Back: Ivalo Frank ‘Untitled’ (2017). Installation view of the exhibition Reaccion á Islandia. Photo: Graysc.

A: Both Iceland and Argentina are former colonies, do you think there is some kind of decolonizing process going on now in Argentina?

S: In April, during the Buenos Aires Art week, we had a show called Reaccion á Islandia​, named after a Borgers’ poem about Iceland. The exhibition was organized and curated by Cycle Music and Art Festival which has taken place in Gerðasafn since 2015 and has worked a great deal with postcolonialism in the Nordic Region. They brought this theme to Buenos Aires inviting artists from Greenland, Iceland and Norway. A lot of the guests who came to see the exhibition were surprised that there has been, and there still is, colonialism in the Nordic Region, and I think we ourselves are only beginning to reckon with things like the Danish treatment of Greenland.

I can’t speak on the efficiency of the decolonization process in Argentina, but it’s very clear that class structures are still quite pronounced. That’s why in future editions, we hope to work more closely not just with urban creatives, but also local, rural communities such as the craftspeople and traditional workshop that will be involved in the design project.

The reaction to the exhibition opened our eyes to the necessity of building bridges and creating a deeper understanding between two very far away places. The sympathy and understanding that the international language art and culture can create, new perspectives can unfold, and I think it’s good.

A: What’s the plan for the future of the project?

S: Over the next three years we want to develop PAVILION NORDICO further and see where that takes us. We are looking at the possibility of opening residencies in other countries as well, since the idea has always been a Nordic exchange with the whole world, not just one region. Our dream is to get the Nordic Council of Ministers involved as an official supporter. Let’s see!

Ana Victoria Bruno

Featured image: Graphics for the International Women’s Day by Kiosk Studio.
Pavilion Nordico: https://pavilionnordico.org
Kiosk Studio: https://www.kioskstudio.nu

A Kassen’s exhibition „Mother and Child“ at Kling & Bang

A Kassen’s exhibition „Mother and Child“ at Kling & Bang

A Kassen’s exhibition „Mother and Child“ at Kling & Bang

The exhibition Mother and Child by A Kassen acts on the relationships between the viewers, the architecture and the artworks, inviting us to look at things from different points of view and to take into account the physical space surrounding us and the works. Mother and Child is a show that seems to confront borders, engaging with the architecture which at some point seems to be both the subject of the exhibition and the viewer to which the show is addressed.

View from below (Standing woman) is the first piece we encounter. The work is to be enjoyed from two locations which offer completely different angles on the piece: it can be seen from Kling & Bang, from where we get an actual view from below the basis of the sculpture, and from the Living Art Museum, the exhibition space downstairs, where we can enjoy the sculpture emerging upside down from the ceiling. This work operates in the specificity of the Marshall House, in fact it functions as a connection between the two exhibition spaces. Kling & Bang, the Living Art Museum and the Stúdió Ólafur Elíasson are three art spaces which coexist in the building without really collaborate with each other, coming together every other year when the Reykjavik biennial Sequences takes place, but keeping their activities separate and the borders between them quite defined during the rest of the time. Kling & Bang and The Living Art Museum have a really intertwined history as they used to collaborate intensively, but nowadays they both want to keep their own identity, which is completely understandable. However, it is somehow pleasant to see a sculpture breaking through these limits and creating an element of disruption into the everyday order.

Sculptures, unlike paintings, are made to engage with visitors in a different way, statues extend in three dimensions and this allows visitors to move around them and contemplate them from different perspectives. However, showing a view from below of a sculpture is not a conventional way of exhibiting it, therefore when making sculptures I believe few artists consider the viewer’s gaze from that perspective. Allowing the viewers to examine the underside of a sculpture translates conceptually into letting them glimpse a more intimate part of the artwork, where the relationship of the artist with the piece is unveiled, a part which is not usually meant to be seen and therefore contains traces of spontaneous and unrefined gestures. The statue is a classical female nude statue, and the view from below doesn’t actually offer much to see: the square foundation of the sculpture is embedded into the floor, two small footprints from which two holes constituting the legs origin and disappear into the dark interior of the bronze cast sculpture, but the conceptual twist is that the piece somehow lets viewers peek into the secret of art-making.

A Kassen, View from below (Standing woman), view from Kling & Bang. Photo credit: A Kassen.

A Kassen, View from below (Standing woman), view from The Living Art Museum. Photo credit: Ana Victoria Bruno

Walking into the second room of the exhibition space we encounter the work Exhibition Poster (Marshall house) which constitutes a pile of posters depicting the ceiling directly above the work. Unlike most of the artworks exhibited in museums and galleries, this one can be taken and brought home by visitors. This gives the possibility for that specific bit of ceiling to become a mobile object, inverting its characteristic of being static, countering our idea of buildings as immobile shelters. This remarks the importance of the space hosting the exhibition, since when the poster has found a new home on the wall of someone’s place, it will recall the exhibition space, as if that was the actual subject of the exhibition.

A Kassen, Exhibition Poster (Marshall house). Photo credit: Ana Victoria Bruno.

In the main room of Kling and Bang two sculptures are inserted into the floor, revealing to the viewer the negative of the statue, the inside of the cast. The upper part of these works, View from below (Mother and Child) and View from below (Il Porcellino), are not meant to be seen by human eyes as they are embedded in the architecture: the sculptures are small and they don’t make it through the floor, herby we can just picture in our mind how they look, and that comes easily since both of them are well known sculptures. Both of the works are hidden, as if their purpose wasn’t to be showcased but to bring our attention to that obstacle which blocks our view: the floor. The architectural elements are barriers delimiting private and public spaces, structures through which we organise our lives, physical borders which affect the way our lives and our society function.

These well-known sculptures incorporated into the floor make my mind runs toward those symbols which shape our society and are very much embedded in our lives, we might not realise how much what we think and do is the result of those invisible ancient structures shaping our existence. We don’t need to see a sculpture of the Mother and Child to know how it looks, because we have thousands of images of that composition in our mind, the symbol of Maria holding a baby Jesus is as embedded in our mental structures as that sculpture is in the floor.

A Kassen, View from below (Mother and Child)Photo credit: A Kassen.

Installation view View from below (Mother and Child), View from below (Il Porcellino) and Ocean underneath. Photo credit: Ana Victoria Bruno.

On the wall three photographs titled Oceans underneath portray pieces of a broken world globe corresponding to the oceans, where lines draw the ocean beds representing mountains emerging from the ground deep down in the oceans. On one hand these photographs seem to operate in an opposite way of View from below (Mother and Child) and View from below (Il Porcellino) as they show the viewers something one can’t usually see, on the other hand this work conceptually functions like the statues in the floor: there are various layers of representation in the works, they are pictures of the world globe, so a representation of a representation of the bottom of the oceans, and this creates a distance between the viewer and the subject, and it seems to hinder the visualisation of the object just like the floor hinders the viewer’s gaze on the statues. This piece seems to refer to the structure through which we know the world: many things we are not able to experience in first person, but we see or become aware of their existence through representations, either photographs or writings about them.

A Kasssen, Ocean underneath. Photo credit: A Kassen.

A Kassen, Geothermal heating / fountain statuePhoto credit: A Kassen.

In the last room we encounter the work Geothermal heating / fountain statue, bronze statues of fishes are placed in the room, crossed by extension pipes which connect them to the heating system of the building. Hot water runs into the pipes, which go through the wall, enter the fish statues bronze mouths, exit from the bottom of the sculptures, and back through the wall to reconnect with the heater system in the adjacent room. This work seems to reverse the meaning of fountain, if these statues were fountains we would see water sprinkling out of their open mouths, while in the piece the water gets into the statues, contained into the pipes. The water is more of a metaphysical concept in the system of the work, since we can’t see it but just imagining it running into the tubes.

In the Icelandic long and cold winter, the heater system is to the building, and the people working there, as the circulatory system is to the human body. The hot water is life-blood of the building, and by attaching the work to the heater system this piece places itself at the very core of the former fish factory, reminding us of the importance of the building. Art is here connected to the physical space, the whole show seems to drive out attention on the physicality of the building, operating on it, creating new connections and making us aware of the space and its specificities.


Ana Victoria Bruno


The last exhibition at Listastofan: a conversation with founder Martyna Daniel

The last exhibition at Listastofan: a conversation with founder Martyna Daniel

The last exhibition at Listastofan: a conversation with founder Martyna Daniel

I had a chat with the founder and director of the artist-run space Listastofan, Martyna Daniel. We talked about the closure of Listastofan, and looked back at its history, its accomplishments and its last exhibition WE RUINED EVERYTHING. 

Listastofan has been active since 2015, it hosted 63 shows plus a number of workshops, reading and all kind of art events, and has offered studios to local and international artists. It sounds like Listastofan has accomplished a lot during its four years of activity. Why is it closing?

Indeed, we hosted so many! Actually, yesterday I went back and checked in more details and on top of the 63 exhibitions we also hosted 40 life drawing sessions, many reading nights, concerts, workshops, artist talks, screenings and the total of events in four years is 167! I had not realised there were so many.
The reason why I have decided not to renew the lease is that Listastofan started as a small scale project that was supposed to be a volunteer position next to my creative work and it soon became so busy that I had to postpone all or nearly all personal projects. I feel like it is time to move on to new things and I believe it is nicer to end a project on a high note to keep good feelings from the experience.  I did not want the project to become tired and lose interest. For the last exhibition WE RUINED EVERYTHING, Claire Paugam and I worked with 6 other Iceland based artists, each of them has a humorous take on the theme of destruction. The exhibition features works by Logi Leo Gunnarsson, Anne Rombach, Þröstur Valgardsson, Sean Patrick O’Brien, Martyna Daniel, Serge Comte, Claire Paugam and Drengurinn fengurinn. Claire Paugam and I worked as curators on this last exhibition that I consider our actual goodbye statement. It is a loud scream for attention, an arrogant show, a cultural mix and very true to what Listastofan always stood by. With this last exhibition we want people to see the lightness in this closing and that walls are just walls. We now form a community of artists that are free to take on any new projects and that is powerful. 

Could you tell me something about your background? Where are you originally from? When did you move to Iceland?

I was born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland but my family is one big cultural mix. My mother is polish and my father was born in New York from South American parents so we always had many languages at home growing up. Surrounded by people of different cultures, nationalities and speaking several languages all my life, it felt natural to create an international artist run space in Reykjavik.
My dad is a musician and my mom teaches flower arrangements so vivid colours, music and art were a huge part of my upbringing. I always felt like a painter and decided to study cinematography to get a new perspective on colours and explore other ways to tell stories. I studied filmmaking in Prague and graduated with a specialisation in cinematography in 2012. Today I work as a cinematographer on freelance projects and I paint from home any chance I get.  I moved to Iceland after I graduated from film school so about 5 and a half years ago.

Sean Patrick O’Brien, ‪Tveikjari‬ (Ég kem að vörmu spori). Photo Credit: Claire Paugam

Installation view: Fix Me, My Mamma Broke Me by Martyna Daniel and Zéroticône by Serge Comte. Photo Credit: Claire Paugam.

Remains of Þröstur Valgarðsson’s performance So fucking Symbolic it hurts. Photo Credit: Claire Paugam.

How was it to establish an exhibition space in Reykjavik as a foreigner? How was it to engage the Icelandic art community in Listastofan’s activities?

It did not feel particularly difficult to establish the space as foreigners. In fact we used to joke that it felt easier than to integrate the existing art scene as a foreigner who did not study here. All the obstacles we had were things we could fix or deal with ourselves. We did not rely on anybody’s approval to move forward and that felt refreshing as young artists. Having an Icelandic name made perfect sense to us because we never wanted to be a foreign space in Iceland.  We welcomed Icelanders and foreigners alike. We wanted to engage with the Icelandic community from the very beginning and our second exhibition was a group show of three Icelandic artists. Most exhibitions we had were from artists based in Iceland, both Icelandic and foreign.

Looking back at Listastofan program, are you happy with what you have accomplished? Is there anything you are particularly proud of? And something which didn’t go as you wanted?

I am happy with the work we have accomplished. I am particularly proud of the diverse program, the inclusive ideology and the fact that we remained a space true to its roots over the past four years. We have always had a genuine interest in people’s work and since we have been running as a non-profit and all on a volunteer basis, we have managed to keep things very detached from the financial reality of art galleries. This was a real luxury and a fact that allowed us to exhibit whoever we wanted without ever taking sales, reputation or background into consideration.
We never got a chance to be disappointed because we never really had an objective that could be missed. Things happened organically and spontaneously. 

Since Listastofan was a non-profit exhibition space, how did you fund the several activities that Listastofan was carrying out?

We covered our rental and utility costs by renting desk space to artists and in some rare cases by charging an entrance fee to specific workshops or events other than exhibitions. We also received a grant from Reykjavik City two years in a row and that helped us renovate and improve our exhibition space and artist studio with new walls, lights and desk spaces. Two years ago we also did a successful Karolina Fund campaign where we raised money to sponsor all exhibitions for one year. Since all of our work was always volunteer we only needed money for rent, utilities and some rare things we needed to buy. Most of the things we have in the space were either donated or lent to us or bought second hand for very little money. Most of the work we did in the space we did ourselves to avoid extra costs as well.

Drengurinn fengurinn, Hvenær fær maður að vera í friði?. Photo Credit: Claire Paugam.

Installation view: Cut-Off Blade Looper by Logi Leó Gunnarsson, Hvenær fær maður að vera í friði? by Drengurinn fengurinn, Fix Me, My Mamma Broke Me by Martyna Daniel and Zéroticône by Serge Comte. Photo Credit: Claire Paugam.

Installation view: Insects by Claire Paugam and Pizza Tonton by Serge Comte. Photo Credit: Claire Paugam.

What was the role of Listastofan in the art scene in Reykjavik? And which exhibition space or institution is going to fill the gap left by its closure? 

To be honest we never really planned to be a gallery. We started as an independent artist studio that morphed into a workshop and exhibition space but it still remained a place of work for 8-14 people every month so the exhibition space was only one side of it. Perhaps looking back I could say it is a space that enabled creativity, a platform for young artists that always felt welcome to work and show what they are working on. It created a wonderful community of artists some of which still work together today.
I don’t think there is a need to fill the hole, projects and places come and go, people stay longer and the community that was born from Listastofan is still alive and well. All those artists will keep creating and sharing their work in new walls and that makes me happy.

When you started Listastofan, what was the plan for the future? Was it supposed to be a long-term project? Which were your goals?

When we started it in 2015 our goal was to create affordable studio and exhibition space for young artists and have a co-working space that would enable people to create and show what they do. Our goals were simple and clear and I believe we stood by that for the four years we were open. We did not know how long the project would be but we certainly intended for it to be long term and not just a short side project: we dedicated a big part of our free time, love and energy to the life of the space. 

In your opinion, has the local art scene changed during the last years? And how did you adapt to its changes?

It feels like the independent art scene got louder in recent years and I saw more independent art spaces opening up which is a great addition to the cultural diversity of Reykjavik. As Listastofan evolved in a very organic way it never felt like we had to adapt to a structure or be influenced by a trend.


Ana Victoria Bruno


Featured Image: group photo by Julie Rowland.


„Chromo Sapiens“: Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir/Shoplifter’s installation at the 58th Venice Biennale

„Chromo Sapiens“: Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir/Shoplifter’s installation at the 58th Venice Biennale

„Chromo Sapiens“: Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir/Shoplifter’s installation at the 58th Venice Biennale

The Icelandic pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale features Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir/Shoplifter’s installation Chromo Sapiens, an astonishing hair cave, a monstrous but at the same time a soft and colourful being which embraces the visitors into its warm and comfortable interior.

Chromo Sapiens is structured in three different sections representing a metaphorical evolution from Homo Sapiens to “Chromo Sapiens”, a journey conducted through exposure to different tones of colours prompts an escalation of emotional responses in the visitors. Dark tones predominate the first section of the installation; Primal Opus, which recalls the inside of a volcano, or a rock cave, elements of raw Icelandic nature: our adventure starts in the deep inside of earth, as primitive beings. Walking into the second section; Astral Gloria, an explosion of neon bright colours takes place around us, instantaneously we can feel our senses activated, curiosity and excitement take over our spirit, yet we realise how powerful colours can be and how much energy we can get from them. Colours fade to white and light pastel tones in the third and last section; in Opium Natura, calm floods our body as we experience an ecstatic moment of pure elevation of the soul and achieved awareness of the process we have been conducted through. 

Chromo Sapiens is a fully immersive installation, it acts on three of our senses: the colours mutating from room to room feed our eyes, the installation is soft at the touch, and the Icelandic metal band HAM’s 24 channel surround sound piece accompanies our experience activating both our ears and our bodies with powerful deep bases: the sound waves resonate as if they were coming from inside our own organism, the piece extends inwards into our body.

While Shoplifter’s previous works usually consisted of a single jungle-like installation of bright coloured furry elements, it is interesting to see that Chromo Sapiens broke the uniformity of her previous shows, and articulated a journey of experiences through the work, an exciting evolvement through different steps. The installation makes use of different colours and music to prompt diverse reactions in the viewers, and in this regard it recalls Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and the masters of the beginning of the last century who had studied the symbolic meaning of colours and shapes, as well as their effects on human beings. Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir/Shoplifter’s work seems in a way a tridimensional development of their bidimensional experimentations. 

Beside colours, the overwhelming size of the installation and the material Shoplifter uses play an important role in her work and in the experience of the viewer. However, this furry and immersive artwork comes with a dark side: the whole installation is made of synthetic hair, a quite important detail which arises concerns about the environmental impact of the work. Shoplifter’s installations are supposed to “evoke the desire to return to nature in a modern culture where we are drowning in artificial matter”[1] , but is it worth using a ton of plastic which will contribute to the environmental issues our planet is facing? 

Installation view of Chromo Sapiens, the Icelandic Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 2019. Photo: Elisabet Davidsdottir © Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir / Shoplifter.

Installation view of Chromo Sapiens, the Icelandic Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 2019. Photo: Elisabet Davidsdottir © Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir / Shoplifter.

Installation view of Chromo Sapiens, the Icelandic Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 2019. Photo: Ugo Carmeni © Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir / Shoplifter.

Installation view of Chromo Sapiens, the Icelandic Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 2019. Photo: Elisabet Davidsdottir © Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir / Shoplifter. 

The climate crisis is the most pressing global emergency today, and it has modified the individuals’ approaches to plastic materials, arising a consciousness of the waste production at a global level. Being an artist and having the opportunity to take part at the Venice biennale means having the chance to convey a message to the world, what message is the installation communicating? Even though not every artist has to adopt a political or social focus in the work, I strongly believe every action we take in the world is political, and artists do have a certain responsibility over their actions and the material they decide to use. 

This installation prompts bitter-sweet feelings in the viewers, it satisfies our senses while we are there but then we walk away with these concerns and thoughts in our heads. However, Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir/Shoplifter explained to me that she started to use synthetic material when she felt the need to make bigger installations, and synthetic material meets the characteristic she needed for this purpose: it is easier to get, it costs less and allows her to play more with colours. She also assures that she recycles and reuses the material for different site specific installation, since it morphs and it can be manipulated easily. 

The press release of the pavilion states that “Chromo Sapiens is a visceral work: it evokes one’s desire to return to nature in a modern culture that is overwhelmed by artificial matters. […] The artist explores society’s obsession with beautification juxtaposed with its fascination with the grotesque”[2] . Unfortunately the artist’s intentions are undercurrent to the powerful installation which dominates viewers’ experience: such a powerful and overwhelming installation leaves little space to engage in an active critic, creating a gap between what the artist wants to communicate through her work and what the viewers read in it. The Venice Biennial is a great yet hard platform for artists, in fact it is one of the biggest shows in the world, visitors get overwhelmed by the huge amount of artworks they are exposed to, and in order for an artist to stand out in amongst the others and to be noticed, the artwork needs to be really impressive. Chromo Sapiens does its job, it has got a good international coverage and it is mentioned as one of the must-see pavilions of this year’s Venice Biennial in several articles, however it often ends up to be experienced as an enjoyable exaltation of the artificial and of the pop culture, a colourful and physical sensations fest, a totalising and fully positive experience, while the artists’ comments on the modern day society are often overlooked.


Ana Victoria Bruno

[1]- http://icelandicartcenter.is/projects/venice-biennale/hrafnhildur-arnardottir-shoplifter-represents-iceland-at-58th-venice-biennale/ 

[2] The press release can be read here: https://www.invenicetoday.com/en/exhibitions/Biennale/Icelandic-Pavilion-Iceland-Venice-Biennale-of-Art.htm#.XWzdyS2cY6U

Cover photo: Installation view of Chromo Sapiens, the Icelandic Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 2019. Photo: Ugo Carmeni © Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir / Shoplifter.

The Venice Biennale runs to  November the 24th, 2019. The Icelandic Pavilion is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 12:00 t0 18:00 at Spazio Punch, Giudecca 800.


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