Through Rupture and Belonging: Interview with Nermine El Ansari

Through Rupture and Belonging: Interview with Nermine El Ansari

Through Rupture and Belonging: Interview with Nermine El Ansari

The body carries memories; we remember things that seem unconnected but are associated through the reminiscence of something distantly familiar. Social geography, collective, and personal memory are the keywords to approaching Nermine El Ansari’s art practice. She explores how we connect to places through the memories we carry within our bodies (or mental spaces) through drawing, print, video art, installations, and performances.

El Ansari (b. 1975) is a French-born Egyptian visual artist who has lived and worked in Reykjavík, Iceland, for eight years. During that time, she has become an integral part of the community of artists working and living in Iceland by being a board member of the Living Art Museum, participating in Komd’inn, a public programming initiative at Gerðarsafn, Kópavogur and teaching at the LungA Art School, Myndlistarskólinn. Currently, she is doing a residency at Skaftfell Art Center, Seyðisfjörður, where she will focus on the idea of displacement.

I spoke to Nermine El Ansari about her current residency, practice, recent works, engagement with cultural institutions, and public programming.

I want to start by discussing your intentions, hopes, and dreams during the Skaftfell residency. What are you planning on working on?

My project explores ways to give new forms of visual expression to ideas of displacement and exile, to seek a deeper understanding of isolation and the eternal search for a place to truly belong. The project is inspired by my personal experiences going through multiple relocations since childhood. Inspiration is also drawn from those asylum seekers who sought refuge in Iceland, whose stories I have been able to bear witness to since 2015 as an interpreter (from Arabic, Spanish to English) at the LGBTQ organisation in Reykjavik and the government immigration office. The asylum seekers’ stories echo through my work: the intense rupture brought about by separating from one’s homeland and the memories—set against a new, unfamiliar land. In creating an imaginary scenery crossing geographical and emotional borders, I aim to cultivate understanding and empathy, reminding us that belonging is a shared human quest. The project will be undertaken in a six-week residency at Skaftfell Art Center in Seyðisfjörður from October 15-November 30 and culminate in an exhibition in the Skaftfell Gallery.

In your work, you often deal with topics of memory. Why did you start being interested in memory? Has it always been the concept you work on within your visual art?

To answer this question, I have to be personal, go back to memory, and analyse my situation. At one point in my career, I shifted my focus from working with the body and its distorted human and animal forms to social geography and memory. I grew up in a multicultural environment between Paris, where I was born, and Cairo, where my parents are from. I constantly travelled between these two cities from a very young age. At 19, after completing my first year at the Fine Arts School of Cairo, I left to study art in Paris, where I stayed for eight years.

During this period, I started using the body as the main subject in my work. My interest in body arose during the live model and morphology classes we had in the fine arts in France. Coming from Fine Arts of Cairo, a very conservative school in which the models we drew were fully covered, I found myself in a classroom with many different nude models changing position every few minutes for three hours. The change in methods was already fascinating, a radical change.

Arab culture is very bashful about the female and male body, to the point where the body becomes this invisible presence that wanders from place to place. I grew up in two very different cultures (Egyptian and French) in their tradition, religion, and beliefs, where the thoughts and forms of education are sometimes almost in total opposition. As a child, I had to combine them and adapt to my environment. I call this phenomenon the journey of the distorted body. In this case, examining the human form was an integral part of the concept of identity that I circumvented by studies of the body in its most human state up to the bestiary.

On my return to Cairo in 2002, much geopolitical upheaval took place in the Middle East following the attacks of September 11 (the collapse of the World Trade Center). When the 2003 invasion of Iraq turned into the Iraq war for almost a decade and ‘the Arab spring’, a series of revolutions spread across much of the Arab countries, including Egypt, back in Cairo felt like being in an explosive city (region) with the very bad and very good all together maybe like the weather in Iceland when it gets extreme with the storm hail snow rain. You can hardly walk in the street, and your face hurts because of the hail mixed with the storm that whips the skin of your face. It’s the intense moment where all kinds of emotions come between love and hate. The environment or social geography slowly replaced the human and bestial physicality as an object of study for identity.

Memory is an imprint of something that no longer exists in its physical form but remains in people’s minds and is inherited from person to person, making it last over time, from past to present to future. I’m intrigued by its time duration and ability to shape the future of spaces, locations, regions, and individuals.

In your most recent work, Fleeting Remembrance, Erroneous Image (2020), memory plays an integral role. Can you tell me more about how that work came to be?

Fleeting Remembrance, Erroneous Image, is a performance that results from a long work process. The starting point was while I lived in Cairo during a curfew period set up by the army following the Rabaa massacre in August 2013. I started making a series of drawings in which I had to remember a specific childhood memory before age ten and try to redraw it as I saw it in my mind.

In 2014, I applied to an art residency in Iceland (SIM) to meet other artists in different contexts and to ask them to do the same exercise. It was an excellent introduction to Icelandic culture because you go directly deep into culture when you speak with people about their childhood memories.

Later, I asked many artists from Egypt and other countries to do the same and to meet to discuss the images we made, not to mention the memories. As we discussed the images, I was taking notes on what we were saying about each. Afterwards, I wrote a short text for each image inspired by our discussions. Then, I concentrated again on the series I made on A4 paper and decided to redraw them on much larger formats. During this process, I no longer thought of the memory but only of reproducing the small drawing on a larger scale. As a result, some of these drawings have been reproduced three or four times and have yet to be identical. Lastly, I created a narration between these drawings and images found on Google by associating them. This work was first presented as a solo exhibition at SIM Gallery in 2018 under the title Memory Spring, co-curated by Erin Honeycutt.

In 2020, I was commissioned to present a performance at the Mucem, Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations auditorium in Marseille (France). I transformed this work into a visual and auditory performance. I collaborated with Adam Switala, musician, composer, and researcher, and Piotr Pawlus, filmmaker and photographer. I first collected the drawings depicting memories, then the photos and documents from Google. I created new associations of images for storytelling that were aimed to be projected on two screens of different formats. Then, I reworked the texts for the auditory, sound, and performance parts. Unfortunately, this work was only broadcast via video streaming due to the lockdown restrictions (COVID period), which resumed during the last week of rehearsal at the museum auditorium. The audience consisted only of people working in the museum.

I would love to show it here in Iceland and have the artists who collaborated be a part of the performance; that would be a big dream. It would be performed in English, but it may also be nice to have Arabic and Icelandic since I worked with Icelandic and Egyptian artists and played with the languages.

The concept of identity is powerful within this work and is a theme that runs through most of my work. I like to question the idea of individual and national identities, for example, why there are so many physical and cultural borders between people and countries. When you return to the origin of childhood memories, you realise how many similarities we have.

Identity also played a significant role in your event with Komd’inn where you interviewed and interpreted Sara Mia about her experience of moving to Iceland.

When Helena, one of the programmers of Komd’inn, told me about Habibi Collective, a collection of movies from the Middle East collected by Róisín Tapponi, which were mainly made by women, I got very interested. Tapponi is a young Iraqi-Irish researcher living in London, we thought it would be exciting to show a movie from Habibi Collective in Gerðarsafn and organise an event.

Spontaneously, I thought of selecting a movie about transgender in the Middle East, and I thought about a very good friend of mine, Sara Mia, who is the first transgender person from the Middle East who has been received by Iceland. She didn’t come as a refugee. We met in Iceland when I arrived in 2015. She is the first foreigner transgender person in Iceland to go through the process of changing her gender and national identity, and she gained Icelandic citizenship after three years. Changing gender identity was also new in Iceland for Icelanders in 2014; the laws were finalised in 2019.

I work as an interpreter for Samtökin 78, one of my first jobs in Iceland, incidentally. I have worked there since 2015, mainly interpreting for Arab queer people seeking asylum in Iceland. I first worked with Sara, who arrived in Iceland in 2014. When Samtökin 78 reached out to me, I had only been in Iceland for a few months when they asked me whether I was willing to be an interpreter for her with a social worker.

Before the meeting with the social worker and Sara, I was taking Icelandic courses at the Tincan Factory school, and in the class, I found myself with Sara, but we didn’t know each other. Slowly, during the break, we started to find out that I would be her interpreter. The first time we met was a very special and serendipitous moment. In the coming months, we met a lot in Samtökin, doing many sessions, which was a deep and serious period, working with her and the social worker while she was in the process of changing her gender and identity, applying for Icelandic citizenship. We became close friends throughout the process, which was an intense experience. It wasn’t the first time I got to know someone who was transgender, but it was the first time that I got to hear and learn about the experience in such a profound way.

When Habibi Collective suggested that we would show a 90s documentary Cinema Fouad from Mohamed Soueid, about a transgender person living in Lebanon, it matched so well to have a conversation with Sara. She is very involved in the queer community, and she directly made the connection with Lebanon because she goes back there a lot and speaks openly about it. However, Sara is very far from the art scene and didn’t immediately feel comfortable speaking in a museum, but after watching the movie together, she found many similarities to her experience and became more convinced and enthusiastic about the event. Not only because transgender is an issue in the Middle East, but the whole discussion is still taboo in Iceland as well. We decided not to talk only about her experience but about the film and the conflations with her experience.

Our talk was in Arabic, but I was simultaneously interpreting it into English for the audience since telling one’s story is always more comfortable and better in one’s native language. Moreover, there aren’t enough events around the arts in Iceland that present or discuss other cultures or are programmed in languages other than English or Icelandic. It’s not because there aren’t people from Asia or the Middle East here; there are other reasons. Sara and I were both pleased with the event, which went very well. I hope more experimental events like this will take place in the future because they give platforms to people like Sara who have meaningful experiences to share.

From Komd’inn event with Sara Mia, 2022

From Komd’inn event with Sara Mia, 2022

From Nermine El Ansari’s performance Fleeting Remembrance, Erroneous Image, 2020

From Nermine El Ansari’s performance Fleeting Remembrance, Erroneous Image, 2020

From Nermine El Ansari’s performance Fleeting Remembrance, Erroneous Image, 2020

From Nermine El Ansari’s performance Fleeting Remembrance, Erroneous Image, 2020

From Nermine El Ansari’s performance Fleeting Remembrance, Erroneous Image, 2020

From Nermine El Ansari’s performance Fleeting Remembrance, Erroneous Image, 2020

Eva Lín Vilhjálmsdóttir

Photos from Komd’inn by Vikram Pradhan.
Photos from Nermine El Ansari’s performance, courtesy of the artist.

Iceland’s New Neighbors

Iceland’s New Neighbors

Iceland’s New Neighbors

For the first time since Iceland’s involvement in La Biennale di Venezia (or the Venice Biennale), the Icelandic Pavillion is located in the Arsenale: one of the fair’s main exhibition spaces. This move is significant for the pavilion, which was first located in the Finnish pavilion from 1984-2005, and has since been independently placed around the city of Venice. Not only will this new location increase viewership by an estimated 20 times more than recent years, but it quite literally places the pavilion in dialogue with the main curated exhibition and its neighboring pavilions.

Now that Iceland finds its new home in the Arsenale, I (Amanda Poorvu) had a conversation with fellow Icelandic intern Hrafnkell Tumi Georgsson and the next-door Latvian and Maltese Pavillions to get to know our new surroundings and gain some insight into their exhibitions. I spoke to interns Agnese Trušele and Eva Hamudajeva from the Latvian Pavillion, and Lisa Hirth and Nicole Borg from the Maltese Pavillion.


Photographer: Aleksejs Beļeckis © Courtesy: Skuja Braden (Ingūna Skuja and Melissa D. Braden) ©

How long has your country held a pavilion in the Arsenale?
Agnese: Latvia has had its own national pavilion since 1999, but in 2013 it started exhibiting permanently in the Arsenale. It started in a smaller space and in 2015 moved to this space.

Who is exhibiting this year? And who curated it?
Eva: The artists of Selling Water By The River are a female couple/duo SkujaBraden, commissioned by Solvita Krese and curated by Solvita Krese and Andra Silapētere.

How did this exhibition come about?
Agnese: There is a competition where the ministry of culture chooses the winners, and then someone else organizes it. In this case, it is organized by the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, which also organized it in the 56th edition of the Biennale.
Eva: The exhibition is a multilayered installation that maps the mental, physical, and spiritual areas within the artists’ home. In the exhibition, home is echoed by images in porcelain, a material that Skuja Braden has mastered superbly. Their porcelain comes to life in everyday objects, fountains, bendy hoses, male and female physiques, and nature.

The Biennale is one of the largest art exhibitions in the world, and there is so much to see. In three words, how would you describe the exhibition to entice a visitor to stop by?
Eva: Perspective, Humanity, Dream.
Agnese: Humorous, Human, Mainīgs (a Latvian word that means “everything changes,” you can use this word to talk about the weather, for example)

What are some of the themes in the exhibition that you feel are relevant to the world today?
Agnese: Feminism, Sexism, Patriarchy, and political issues in the world…in some ways, the spiritual and physical symbiosis of bodies, because of the altar and the vanity room. I feel like the main focus of the pavilion is the bed: people tend to want to know what goes on in the bedroom. The bedroom is also an important space because you are born in it, you rest in it, you are sick in it, you create life in it, and you even die in it. The title Selling Water By The River is a book by a Zen Buddhist about how we don’t need to sell or buy something that is already there.
Eva: “White man” power.

If you had to pick a (second) favorite pavilion in the Arsenale besides your own, which pavilion would you pick?
Eva: The main exhibition, specifically the Ruth Asawa, Jes Fan, Marguerite Humeau, Tetsumi Kudo artworks.
Agnese: I think Mexico is interesting, because of the background of how people donated money. The concept is interesting.


Photographer: Agostino Osio

How long has your country held a pavilion in the Arsenale?
Amanda: Through my research, I found that Malta has had a long absence from the Biennale, only participating in several group exhibitions in 1958 and 1999. Its pavilion wasn’t included until 2017, making this the third pavilion it’s held.

Who is exhibiting this year? And who curated it?
Lisa: Arcangelo Sassolino from Italy, and Brian Schembri and Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci from Malta are the artists of Diplomazija Astuta, and the two curators are Keith Sciberras from Malta and Jeffrey Uslip from the U.S.

How did this exhibition come about?
Lisa: The artwork started before the biennale, around 3 years ago. Arcangelo had the idea for a single drop of fire, and he brought the idea to the curators. Originally, they wanted to put this single drop of steel under the painting, The Beheading of Saint John by Caravaggio in Malta. Logistically it didn’t work out, but they realized that the room of the Arsenale was a similar size to the oratory so they decided to take the aura of the painting and transpose it from Malta to here, in a contemporary art space.

The Biennale is one of the largest art exhibitions in the world, and there is so much to see. In three words, how would you describe the exhibition to entice a visitor to stop by?
Nicole: Captivating, Unpredictable, Encourages cultural Relativism.
Lisa: Tenebrous, Show-stopping, Mysterious

What are some of the themes in the exhibition that you feel are relevant to the world today?
Lisa: It is based on recent political events in Malta because the title means “cunning diplomacy.” There was a case a few years ago where a well-known journalist got murdered, and a lot of corruption is coming to light. The main theme of the artwork is injustice and how if we don’t put an end to cunning diplomacy, the cycle of injustice will continue. This is what Malta is currently facing now.
Nicole: The repetition of injustice, particularly to Malta, and the theme of political injustice relative to Malta in recent years can be applied to a variety of cultural contexts. However, for Malta, it’s interesting to observe the theme of patriotism towards Caravaggio and Maltese art, as well as how patriotism is sometimes used as a rejection of the significance of Caravaggio’s role in Maltese art throughout history

If you had to pick a (second) favorite pavilion in the Arsenale besides your own, which pavilion would you pick?
Nicole: Mexico
Lisa: The Latvian one, because it’s very chaotic but controlled, and it is very pleasing to look at. I like that it makes people uncomfortable.


Sigurður Guðjónsson, Installation view: Perpetual Motion, Icelandic Pavilion, 59th International Art Exhibition -– La Biennale di Venezia, 2022, Courtesy of the artist and BERG Contemporary, Photo: Ugo Carmeni

How long has your country held a pavilion in the Arsenale?
Hrafnkell: This is the first year that Iceland has been in Arsenale.

Who is exhibiting this year? And who curated it?
Amanda: The Iceland Pavillion features the work Perpetual Motion by Sigurður Guðjónsson, curated by Mónica Bello, Curator & Head of Arts at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva)

How did this exhibition come about?
Hrafnkell: It was announced in 2019 that Sigurður would be this year’s artist for Iceland. He was chosen by a committee that picked him out of a group of artists that were nominated for the show.

The Biennale is one of the largest art exhibitions in the world, and there is so much to see. In three words, how would you describe the exhibition to entice a visitor to stop by?
Amanda: Expansive, Meditative, Anachronistic
Hrafnkell: Dark hypnotic rumble!

What are some of the themes in the exhibition that you feel are relevant to the world today?
Hrafnkell: I think at first glance I thought it was very different from the works you see in Arsenale before you come to the Icelandic Pavilion. You arrive here shortly after going through the Milk of Dreams exhibition, that is full of surreal and personal works. This work feels more distant, you are looking at metallic dust moving. For me, it felt very scientific and straightforward but then it pulls you in and a lot of questions arise about what you are actually seeing. It feels at the same time very simple but also like there is a lot of manipulation going on, but I can never really put my finger on exactly what, maybe there is none. It made me appreciate this detailed way of observing and think about how we observe – which patterns we see and which patterns we project onto what we see.
Amanda: Although it is not required for the national pavilions at the Venice Biennale to relate thematically to the main exhibition, Sigurður Guðjónsson’s work, Perpetual Motion, in the Icelandic pavilion does share a common theme with The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani. In her own words, Alemani describes the focus of the exhibition and its relevance as, “the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses; the relationship between individuals and technologies; and the connection between bodies and the Earth.” It is this relationship that we have with technology that not only grounds Perpetual Motion but remains a driving force in Sigurður’s practice as a whole.

If you had to pick a (second) favorite pavilion in the Arsenale besides your own, which pavilion would you pick?
Hrafnkell: I really like the Malta one, they are also next door so I go there a lot. Italia is also one of my favourites.
Amanda: The Dutch pavilion.

Overall, it was an exciting first year at the Arsenale and we are delighted to be placed next to such interesting and inspiring neighbors in the space. Thank you to all the participating interns who spoke with me. On to the next Biennale!

Amanda Poorvu

Til viðtals: Brynjar Helgason um Hallstein Sigurðsson

Til viðtals: Brynjar Helgason um Hallstein Sigurðsson

Til viðtals: Brynjar Helgason um Hallstein Sigurðsson

Eiríkur Þorvaldson tók Brynjar Helgason tali um sýningu sem opnaði á dögunum á verkum Hallsteins Sigurðssonar og stendur yfir fram í desember. Brynjar er sýningarstjóri sýningarinnar og rekur ásamt Edytu Gabryszewska kaffihús og myndlistarými Café Pysju í Grafarvogi, við Fjallkonuveg í verslunarkjarna sem heitir Foldatorg. Hallsteinn á að baki áhugaverðan feril sem að fæstir kunna ítarleg skil á – þó að flestir kannist nú eflaust við verkin hans í Gufunesinu. Svæðið hafði hann sem sína vinnustofu, utandyra, um rúmlega tveggja áratuga skeið. Á sama tíma vann hann að gerð eilítið smærri verka sem að fara vel innandyra eins og þau sem gefur að líta í galleríinu að þessu sinni. Þá kom út blað; ‘Í Hallsteins Nafni’ og allt er þetta víst – blaðið og sýningin – hlutar af margþættu verkefni sem er mótun.

EÞ: ‘Vísir að yfirliti á (6-7 áratuga) ferli listamannsins’… Auk þess að endurspegla nákvæmlega formlegt inntak sýningarinnar (eitt verk frá hverjum áratug) og ýja að næsta skrefi, þ.e. yfirgripsmeiri yfirlitssýningu? – sem þess til gerð stofnun gæti tekið að sér. Þá hefur þessi titill ópersónulegann blæ eins og t.a.m. bókin hans Joyce ‘Portrait of an artist as a young man’

BH: Jú það er náttúrlega höfuðeinkenni svona andans manna að geta fjarlægst sig sjálfa og titillinn er í samræmi við það. Á bíltúrum okkar um svæði sem geyma verk þessa listamanns hefur hann bent mér á og spurt; ,,og hver skildi nú hafa gert þetta?’’,,…er það sami höfundurinn?’’ – það leynir sér ekki undrunin á honum. Og það er vert að spyrja í fúlustu alvöru: Er þetta allt eftir þann sama? Eða ef við orðum þetta öðruvísi; hvað sjálf eða hugvera framkvæmir svona frábrugðna hluti? Það var þá sem fæddist þessi hugmynd um Hallstein sem virtúós. Ég var lengst af ekki meðvitaður um þetta nafn, en við ákváðum að yfirheiti verkefnisins yrði; ‘Í Hallsteins nafni’ sem Café Pysja hefur haft frumkvæði að, með sýningunni (‘Vísir að yfirliti…’) í galleríinu, blaðaútgáfunni og öðru í framhaldinu. Ég upplifði það sem visst afrek og ég hef spurt aðra mér vitrari sem að hafa staðfest þetta að Hallsteinn sé ekki ‘nafn’ í ‘íslensku listasenunni’. Hann á talsvert tímaritasafn, sem kemur frá föður hans, og það varð okkur innblástur að hönnun og innihaldi blaðsins. Þannig að þetta er ‘retrospektíft’ en líka svona vangavelta um hvað geti falist í því. Og ég held að þetta sé líka í grunninn póst-módernískt móment – þessi sýning á svo sannarlega há-módernískum ‘myndhöggvara’. Þ.e. þegar listamaður af þeim gamla skóla er markvisst plöggaður inn í margslunginn vef tilvísana og ólíkra merkingarheima. Ég held að við þurfum á svona tímaskekkjum, eða tímaleysum réttara sagt, að halda og Hallsteinn hefur sjálfur leynt og ljóst verið meðvitaður um þetta.

EÞ: Afrek? – nafnleysi.

BH: Já ef þú tekur t.a.m. frægastann listamann sinnar kynslóðar eins og Sigurð Guðmundsson, þá kemur hann fram í viðtölum og skrifar bækur um sig og sínar ’tilfinningar’ – þetta er náttúrulega voða mikil hughyggja, sem að fjölmiðlarnir eru sólgnir í (þ.e. ‘hugarfar’ sbr. skoðanir einstaklinga). Hjá Hallsteini (sem er ekki ‘nafn’ vel á minnst) þá snýst þetta ekkert um hann – það eru verkin hans sem hafa verið þarna frá því ég man eftir mér og það án þess að þeim fylgdi einhver sérstakur merkimiði. Þetta eru listaverk – allt og sumt.

EÞ: Ástríðuþungi (la forza) svo ég vitni nú í texta úr ‘dagblaðinu’ sem Ólafur Gísla hefur þýtt eftir ítalskan sálgreinanda; Massimo Recalcati – hefur það ekki allt með hughyggjandi hugveru að gera?

BH: Nei, það er nafnið á hugveru í sambandi við atburð sem að viðkomandi kemst í snertingu við þannig að um sé að ræða hugveru þaðan af – verkfæri einhvers sannleika. Hallstein getum við nefnt móderníska hugveru eða ‘járnsmiðstetur’, ástríðuþrungnar athafnir hvers eru grundvallaðir í einhverju handan hans persónu eða sjálfi.

EÞ: En eins og sönnum listamanni sæmir næmur fyrir því táknræna og það þá sér í lagi á við um hans eigið nafn. Það er og annar álitinn risi á tuttugustu öldinni í íslensku listalífi með keimlíkt nafn sem Hallsteinn hefur fengið að láni titilinn frá: ‘Steinbarn’.

BH: Jú Steinbarnið virðist geta hafa komið frá Laxnesi en hjá honum var það í afar neikvæðri merkingu og tengdist hans tilvistarkreppu gagnvart pólitískri sannfæringu. Þetta verk Hallsteins aftur á móti skopskynið uppmálað og Hallsteinn hefur hugsað með sér: JÁ! – Við höfum aftur hugsað fyrir því á þessari sýningu að tefla fram tveimur steinbörnum; einu svörtu og hinu hvítu. Kannski til að sýna fram á margföldunaráhrif hinnar listrænu athafnar.

EÞ: Hvaða önnur verk eru á sýningunni?

BH: Ef að Steinbarnið hefur þótt þunglamalegt (sem er algjör vitleysa þar sem að það er mjög flottur hrynjandi í þessu verki – í sem kalla mætti; nýkubbastíl) þá eru þarna svifverk – tvö. Eitt leikandi létt, gult á lit frá um miðbiki ferilsins og annað frá seinasta áratug sem er hádramatískt verk af eins og splúndrandi hnetti með sínum mælieiningum, lengdar- og breiddarbaugum. Svo er þarna sívalningslaga verk fyrir miðju rýmisins – það gæti sómað sér vel meðal Brancusi og Duchamp, en líka í öðrum vísindaskáldskap. Þá er eiginlegt altaristöfluverk fyrir veraldlega kirkjur okkar tíma, þ.e. lífvísindastofnanir. Eða eru það ekki líka fagurfræðileg sjónarmið sem að koma til með að ráða því hvaða genum er splæst saman á næstu árum og áratugum? Að lokum skal upphafið skoða: ‘Maður og kona’ frá 68’ – hvaða túlkun sem maður vill leggja í þá góðu mynd.

EÞ: Þá eru upptaldir 6 áratugir. Hvað með þann 7unda?

BH: Sá 7undi er rétt að byrja og hann snýr að ekki ýkja gömlu verki reyndar; ‘Traktornum’ – sem er einn af nokkrum slíkum, og svo eru líka ‘Plógar’. Þetta verk hefur sjálfsævisögulega vídd (Hallsteinn var í sveit á þessum tækjum í Borgarfirðinum) en snýr líka að sögu Íslands og þeirri iðnbyltingu sem að varð í búskap landsmanna, en felur ennfremur í sér ákveðna abstraksjón eða ‘renderingu’. Þetta hugtak er þekkt úr hinum stafræna geira – þeirra sem teikna þrívíddarmódel eða vinna með hljóð og myndvinnslu. Með þessu móti, þ.e. að gera stafræna útgáfu af verkinu, sem getur ferðast í gegnum hin ólíklegustu umhverfi og um leið að ‘auð-kenna’ (tokenize) það, þá hrindum við af stað nýrri ‘byltingu’ með efni á vefnum sem er hægt að nálgast hvar sem er.

EÞ: Þú ert að tala um NFT, eiga verkin hans Hallsteins heima þar?

BH: Já, verkin hans eru ekki endilega bundin við ákveðinn stað, þó þeim hafi vissulega verið fundin ágætis staðsetning mörgum hverjum. Það er þessi staðleysa og sömuleiðis efnisleysa sem að hinn stafræni miðill bíður uppá. NFT snýst um að geta verðlaunað höfundinn fyrir sitt ‘efni’ en er ekki án ókosta eins og varðandi þann ‘námugröft’ sem býr að baki þessu kerfi. Að geta safnað í sína ‘portfolio’ listaverkum sem eru óhlutbundin rétt eins og fyrir þann sem á hlutabréf – sem að baki búa mis áþreyfanleg verðmæti.

EÞ: Talandi um steypu… Hallsteinn hefur unnið í steypu og ýmis önnur efni?

BH: Já það koma inn í hans praktík mjög skýr hagkvæmnissjónarmið – hann hefur t.a.m. ekki unnið í brons, marmara eða svoleiðis. Állinn hefur reynst honum góður og með þeim efnivið hefur hann náð að skala upp verkin sín til mikilla muna. Það hefur þýðingu að lesa í hans orð úr blaðaviðtali frá því snemma á ferlinum þegar hann segist ekki vera merkilegur suðumaður. Þ.e.a.s. hann er ekki fagmaður heldur ‘ævintýra’maður… Hann er að prufa sig áfram með tæknina og þann ‘orðaforða’ sem að þetta veitir honum. Þessar fáeinu aðferðir, steypan eða mótun og mótagerð, og svo suðan, stál og ál – hefur reynst honum drjúg uppspretta allan hans feril.

EÞ: En nú á að varpa honum inn í nýja tíma?

BH: Já það sér fyrir endan á hans jarðvist en gjafir hans halda áfram að gefa (af) sér. Eins og þessir einföldu ‘Traktorar’ að ekki sé nú minnst á hin ólíku farartæki (kosmísku – mundi kannski einhver kalla þau) sem að Hallsteinn hefur mótað. Þetta er mögulega það sem ég átti við með að kalla Hallstein ‘súrrealista’ – ekki síður en t.a.m. vin hans Jón Gunnar – hann er fær um að virkja ímyndunaraflið, svo sannarlega.

Já og við erum líka með afsteypurnar hans, þannig að fyrir áhugasama t.d. í jólapakkann – endilega kíkið á okkur!

Sýningin opnaði 17. september og stendur til 4. desember.

Café Pysja er í Grafarvogi, við Fjallkonuveg í verslunarkjarnanum Foldatorg og er opin fimntudag til sunnudags frá 14-18

Ljósmyndir birtar með leyfi sýningarstjóra.
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Hittumst á Kili – Jóna Hlíf sýnir í Flóru menningarhúsi

Hittumst á Kili – Jóna Hlíf sýnir í Flóru menningarhúsi


Hittumst á Kili – Jóna Hlíf sýnir í Flóru menningarhúsi

Jóna Hlíf Halldórsdóttir sýnir um þessar mundir nokkur verk í Flóru menningarhúsi á Sigurhæðum. Húsið létu Guðrún Runólfsdóttur og Matthías Jochumsson reisa fyrir sig og fjölskyldu sína árið 1903 og stendur reisulegt í hvammi í brekkunni milli Akureyrarkirkju og Hafnarstrætis. Í Flóru hanga verk Jónu Hlífar innan um ýmsa muni frá fyrri ábúendum hússins og innsetningar tengdum þeim. Þar eru líka ilmandi prjónavörur, þýskt hunang, sápur að austan, jarðaber innan úr firði og ansi myndarlegt magn af inniplöntum. Heimilislegt mjög.

Jóna Hlíf vann sín verk sérstaklega fyrir sýninguna og öll vísa þau með einhverjum hætti í verk Matthíasar. Standa líkt og uppvaxnir afleggjarar úr garði Matthíasar, spræk í eigin potti.
 Í sumar gaf Jóna Hlíf út bókverkið ÞAK/TRÚ sem geymir textann Hús og dagar, hugleiðingu um hús, tíma og minningar. Verkið kallast sterkt á við sýninguna á Sigurhæðum og er tileinkað minningu Jóns Laxdals – sem einnig sýnir verk í Sigurhæðum þetta árið. Skástrikið í titlinum ÞAK/TRÚ er allrar athygli vert og myndar ansi merkilegt tugabrot sem við skulum taka með okkur inn á sýninguna.


Bókverkið ÞAK/TRÚ sem geymir textann Hús og dagar, hugleiðingu um hús, tíma og minningar.

Það brestur hlýlega í gólfinu þegar við göngum í bæinn og gegnum stofu(r)na(r). Inni í ljósbláa eldhúsinu á Sigurhæðum, fyrir ofan eldhúsvaskinn, hangir verkið Hærra. Yfir ljós- og dökkbleikum fjallsbrúnum slúta fram útskornir stafir úr grænum pappírshimni. Saman mynda þeir orðin ÞÍN HEILAGA HEIMVON. Líkt og til uppljómunar þeim sem líta upp úr uppvaskinu. Við erum minnt á að helgasta rými hvers heimilis er og verður eldhúskrókurinn. Í svipuðum stíl og Hærra er verkið Hinstu orð Skugga-Sveins, sem tekur á móti gestum inni í stofunni, og kveður þá á leiðinni út. Þar eru fjöllin og himininn næturblá, og á himninum má lesa HITTUMST Á KILI.

Bakvið stafina sem spretta út úr himninum glittir í eitthvað gult – sem gleður – og minnir á sumartungl eða leslampaskin.
Verkin Land I og Land II hanga í sömu stofu, hlið við hlið fyrir ofan rauðan sófa. Þar vinnur Jóna Hlíf með Níðkvæði um Ísland, stundum nefnt Volaða land. Kvæði sem Matthías orti einn hafísaveturinn, harmi sleginn og sármóðgaður út í land sitt, eftir að hafa þurft að jarða ekkil, sem svalt í hel ásamt fjórum börnum sínum; „Volaða land,/ horsælu hérvistar slóðir“ orti Matthías þá, og hélt áfram þangað til erindin voru orðin ellefu. Jóna Hlíf hefur dregið út úr kvæðinu nokkur af þeim orðum sem Matthías valdi Íslandi og saumað þau í djúpblátt flauel með gylltum þræði. Í Land II standa lýsingarnar í hvorugkyni, líkt og í kvæði Matthíasar – HRAUNELDA HAFÍSA STÓRSLYSA BLÓÐRISA – en í Land I hefur hún lýsingarnar í kvenkyni: VOLUÐ TRÖLLRIÐIN VESÆL HRAFNFUNDIN. Þetta skapar spennu milli verkanna og skorar á áhorfandann að geta í eyðurnar. Því okkur finnst við þekkja þetta skapstóra land bakvið glerið.

Landið sem skelfir og skelfur og á það til að springa. Það er aftur á móti óljóst hver hún er, sem hangir á veggnum við hlið þess – en það er óneitanlega svipur með þeim tveim.

Kannski við kíkjum í gestabókina.

Sölvi Halldórsson

Heimasíða Jónu Hlífar:
Ljósmyndir: Jóna Hlíf.
Sýningin stendur til 6. nóvember.

Cloud, mineral, satellite, story: Afield at Skaftfell Center for Visual Art

Cloud, mineral, satellite, story: Afield at Skaftfell Center for Visual Art


Cloud, mineral, satellite, story: Afield at Skaftfell Center for Visual Art

Skaftfell’s 2022 summer exhibition Afield (Fjær) is connected to curator Becky Forsythe’s ongoing research-based project that considers land-based practices, materials and themes. The exhibition brings together works by Icelandic and Canadian and American artists, as well as found objects collected in archeological and geological excavations on loan from The National Museum of Iceland and The Icelandic Institute of Natural History. The multidisciplinary curatorial approach tells new stories through art and scientific research. Alongside works by Canadian and American artists Diane Borsato (1973) and Geoffrey Hendricks (1931 – 2018) and Icelandic artist Þorgerður Ólafsdóttir (1985), the exhibition includes minerals collected by the Icelandic photographer Nicoline Weywadt (1848 – 1921) at her family farm in Teigarhorn, in the East Fjords of Iceland, as well as objects excavated from the archaeological dig at Fjörð in Seyðisfjörður, during summer 2020 and 2021. The exhibition is an example of Skaftfell’s importance as a venue for lively artist-led activity and curatorial experimentation. 

The artworks on view by Borsato, Hendricks and Ólafsdóttir, are shown alongside minerals and plastic artifacts found in history and natural history museum collections today. Together they constellate references to the sky, geology, land, and push further into themes of archeological exploration, mineral extraction, taxonomy and classification, and human-led environmental impact. In the exhibition human and environmental ecologies are unearthed in fieldwork, research and performance that in various ways speak to our current position in the Anthropocene.

Installation view. Courtesy of Skaftfell.

Installation view. Courtesy of SkaftfellInstallation view. Courtesy of Skaftfell.

Installation viewInstallation view. Courtesy of Skaftfell.

In A Large Sky for Iceland Geoffrey Hendricks preserves the clouds in the sky. Fleeting and phenomenal, the reference to that which is impermanent invites viewers to look up high and take note of the changes that are happening as quick as clouds, and in doing so, make further connections between the sky and the earth. In his back-to-the-land way and his many interpretations of clouds, Geoffrey’s performances, which often resulted in works like this, incorporated natural materials that, in unison with his body, were a point of reference and closeness to what surrounds us.

Geoffrey Hendricks - A large sky for Iceland

Geoffrey Hendricks - A large sky for IcelandGeoffrey Hendricks, A Large Sky for Iceland, 1984, acrylic and graphite drawing on paper, collection of The Living Art Museum.

In the photograph The Sky Below Seyðisförður, Ólafsdóttir has assembled vibrant blue pottery fragments found at the archaeology dig in Fjörður, in a nod to Hendricks’ paintings of clouds and skies. The pottery fragments were recently unearthed in Seyðisfjörður in an archeological excavation being led by Ragnheiður Traustadóttir’s Antikva project; they are now preserved at the National Museum of Iceland along with other pot shards featured in another photograph, Flowers for Seyðisfjörður. In the assemblage composed of plastic finds entitled Atlas of the Heavens, the found objects are shown against found prints of the heavens as if to evoke a distant place, with the plastic performing as potential satellites in a near-future sky. Not all of the synthetic objects found at Fjörður, arriving from our everyday lives, have been turned precious. Rather, as documented in photographs reproduced as risographs entitled Almost Artifacts, some objects have been discarded again, placed back into the ground. Time Capsules, a work based on photographs of core samples serves as an cyclical archive of time as it disappears.

Þorgerður Ólafsdóttir, Himinkort / Atlas of the Heavens Þorgerður Ólafsdóttir, Himinkort / Atlas of the Heavens, 1950 / 2022, offset print, excavated plastic artifacts (detail). Courtesy of the artist.

Plastic RemainsÞorgerður Ólafsdóttir, Riso print, excavated plastic artifacts (detail). Courtesy of the artist. Documentation by Rannveig Þórhallsdóttir. Discarded plastic remains found in the excavation dig in Fjörður.

Þorgerður ÓlafsdóttirBlóm handa Seyðisfirði / Flowers for Seyðisfjörður and Himinninn undir Seyðisfirði / The Sky below Seyðisfjörður, 2022, photographic work. Courtesy of Skaftfell.

Borsato’s video Gems and Minerals speaks to some of the world’s oldest geological resources: the rocks and minerals found in the Teck Suite: Earth’s Treasures galleries at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. In the video, museum guides use American Sign Language (ASL) and site-responsive dance to illuminate and focus a critical lens on stories that are not usually told about the social impact of mining and extraction, and of the seductive beauty of the materials we mine. The work asks us to pay close attention to the curiosities found in natural history collections, and to push further to consider their less-impermanent objects to the stories that are told through them — by whom and at what cost? Sometimes with humor, but more often disturbing and complex, the performed stories shed light on questions of personal attachment and reliance, of land theft leading to loss of Indigenous spiritual traditions, and the environmental and economical impacts of mining and resource extraction.

Diane Borsato - Gems and Minerals

Diane Borsato, Gems and Minerals, 2018, video, 25 mín. (video stills). Courtesy of the artist.

Gathered, organized and assembled in response to works by Borsato and Þorgerður, minerals collected by Nicoline Weywadt (1848-1921) demonstrate the human desire to collection and classify. Weywadt, who studied mineralogy in Copenhagen in the 1870s (and, significantly, was Iceland’s first professionally-trained photographers) collected minerals at Teigarhorn, in Dúpavogshreppur, in east Iceland, a mineral-rich area where Schoolite, stilbite, epistilbite, mordenite, laumontite and heulandite, seladonite, opal, chalcedony, rock crystal, calcite and Iceland spar are found. Although the region was declared a natural monument in 1976, for over 200 years the zeolites here were used in various geological studies and, in the 18th century, specimens were sold to museums around the world. 

Taken together, the objects in the exhibition ask the view to consider the many ways we attend to land and its beauty, but also the equally many ways we extract what is precious from it. In Afield, ethereal hand-painted and found skies, collected gems and minerals, performed stories and archeological finds counter notions of decay to become catalysts for memory and the experience of the the passage and suspension in geologic time. By considering human desire and its impact on change in the natural, non-human world, the exhibition asks: how can the ritual of heading out into the environment, newly navigating our relationship to it, move us closer to knowing this changing world?

Becky Forsythe

Afield / Fjær opened on June 4th and is currently on view at Skaftfell Center for Visual Art until September 4th 2022.

The exhibition is curated by Becky Forsythe, with the support of staff at Skaftfell.

For more on the artists and their work:

Skaftfell — myndlistarmiðstöð Austurlands / Center for Visual Art
Austurvegur 42, Seyðisfjörður –


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