Lítil Útópía í Kling og Bang – viðtal við Helenu Aðalsteinsdóttur

Lítil Útópía í Kling og Bang – viðtal við Helenu Aðalsteinsdóttur

Lítil Útópía í Kling og Bang – viðtal við Helenu Aðalsteinsdóttur

Sýningin „Fallandi trjám liggur margt á hjarta” í Kling og Bang er fyrsta verkefni Helenu Aðalsteinsdóttur sem sýningarstjóri eftir MA nám í London. Listamenn sýningarinnar eru: Josephine van Schendel, Þórey Björk Halldórsdóttir, Bára Bjarnadóttir, Dýrfinna Benita Basalan, Tabita Rezaire, Brokat Films, Elín Margot og Tarek Lakhrissi. Björk Hrafnsdóttir hitti Helenu í Kling og Bang ræddi við hana um sýninguna.

Björk: Þú ert með BA gráðu í myndlist frá LHÍ, hvernig kviknaði áhuginn á sýningarstjórnun?

Helena: Áhugi minn kviknaði þegar ég bjó í Amsterdam þar sem ég fór í meistaranám í myndlist. Þar stofnaði ég ásamt 7 listamönnum sýningarými þar sem við settum upp samsýningar ólíkra listamanna. Það var hálfgert match-making, og ég naut þess mjög að kynna listamenn hvert fyrir öðru og búa til ný samtöl í uppsetningu út frá verkunum þeirra. Stuttu síðar flutti ég til London einmitt til að fara í nám í sýningastjórnun. Ég held að ég hafi áttað mig á að mér fyndist mest spennandi að taka þátt í að setja fram sögur annarra, þar sem mér fannst brýnni þörf á að koma þeim á framfæri þó að röddin mín hyrfi ekkert. Þessi hugsun var samt ekki ný, en ég hafði dvalið sem unglingur í Vestur- og Austur Afríku og Suðvestur-Asíu og kynnst sögum sem ég heyrði aldrei í vestrænu samfélagi. Mig langaði alltaf til að koma ólíkum sjónarhornum á framfæri en fann að það var ekki mitt hlutverk í listinni minni. Það er svo stórt og erfitt viðfangsefni og ég yfirgaf það á meðan ég var í LHÍ því ég vissi ekki hvernig ég gæti beytt rödd minni. En þetta eru viðfangsefni sem ég velti fyrir mér sem sýningarstjóri.

Helena Aðalsteinsdóttir

Sýning þín fjallar meðal annars um kynjamisrétti og rasisma, í verki Tabita Rezaire er hún í samtali við vestræna heiminn sem gerir tilraun til að biðjast fyrirgefningar á nýlenduveldi kapítalismans og hvítrar forréttindahyggju. Hvar staðsetur þú þig í þessu samtali?

Ég er að finna minn stað í þessu öllu. Eitt af hlutverkum mínum sem manneskja sem nýtur margra forréttinda er að nýta þá stöðu til þess að búa til stað fyrir samræður. Ég er ekki endilega eingöngu að reyna að búa til svið fyrir aðrar raddir heldur líka að búa til samtalið. Það er svo dýrmætt. Við getum ekki tekið okkur úr þessari samstæðu, en það er mikilvægt að staldra við og hleypa fleiri röddum inn í samtalið. Að taka inn aðrar upplifanir og fá að endurspegla hvernig við eigum að haga okkur áfram. Kannski gerist það bara náttúrlega í gegnum samtalið, eins og hvað annað, þá lærir maður og fer að lifa lífinu aðeins öðruvísi og byrjar að taka tillit til reynslu annarra. Það er kannski byrjunin.
Þetta er gott en erfitt samtal til að eiga og eflaust margir að spyrja sig eftir BLM mótmælin síðasta sumar. Það er virkilega þörf á að halda þessari umræðu áfram og við eigum langt í land með að koma á jafnrétti og koma í veg fyrir mismunun.

Tabita Rezaire, Sorry for Real_Sorrow For…, 2015.

Sýningin er byggð á útskriftarverkefninu þínu frá Central Saint Martins. Hvernig valdir þú verkin/listamennina inn á sýninguna

Ég hafði samband við listamenn sem nýta sagnagerð í verkunum sínum, og var að leitast eftir sögum um femínískar útópíur. Sýningin endurspeglar ólíkar framtíðarsýnir og þess vegna var mikilvægt að þar kæmu fram fjölbreytt sjónarhorn. Listamennirnir og hönnuðirnir sem eiga verk á sýningunni koma því frá mörgum áttum; þetta er frekar alþjóðlegur hópur en flestir eiga heima á Íslandi. Tvö af átta verkum sýningarinnar höfðu verið sýnd áður og sem ég vissi af og tók inn í sýninguna, en hin verkin voru öll sérstaklega gerð með þessa sýningu í huga. Sem sýningarstjóri var stór partur af mínu hlutverki að fara í stúdíóheimsóknir og eiga samtöl við listamennina um þróun hugmyndanna. Þar kom reynsla mín sem listamaður líka að gagni og við gátum talað um hvernig hægt væri að myndgera hugmyndirnar.

Sýningin er mikið byggð á feminískum vísindaskáldskap. Hvaðan kemur það?

Það varð eins konar vitundarvakning hjá mér þegar ég ákvað að ég vildi ekki fara út í verkefni nema að það væri skemmtilegt. Mér finnst vísindaskáldskapur rosalega skemmtilegur og fór að athuga hvernig ég gæti nýtt hann. Ég skoðaði m.a. kenningu sem heitir Space Travel (Lost in Space eftir Marleen S Barr) sem fjallar um hvernig við getum farið inn í annan heim þegar við lesum skáldsögur. Það er ótrúlegt hvernig textinn getur haft svo mikil áhrif á mann að maður hverfi inn í aðra veröld. Ég vildi athuga hvernig við gætum gert þetta í raunveruleikanum, hvernig hægt væri að skapa þessa tilfinningu svo að listamaðurinn gæti búið til einhvers konar heim eða snúið upp á einhverjar reglur…

Í London sá ég svo Tarek Lakhrissi vídeóverkið, Out of the blue, það var fyrsta sýningin sem ég sá eftir að ég flutti til London, þannig að það hefur örugglega haft áhrif og setið í mér.

Josephine van Schendel, Dendrianthropic Bodies, 2021

Hvaða vísindaskáldskaparhöfundar höfðu mest áhrif á þig?

Skáldsagan eftir Ursula Le Guin, Left Hand of Darkness, var stór partur af fræðinni sem ég notaði, mér finnst svo skemmtilegt að geta notað vísindaskáldskap og skáldskap yfirhöfuð sem fræði. Þar verð ég fyrir miklum innblæstri frá Donna Haraway, sem er prófessor emerita við deild Sögu mannsandans og deild feminískra fræða (History of Consciousness Department og Feminist Studies Department) í Háskóla Kaliforníu í Santa Cruz. Hún á það til að nýta skáldskap í akademískum rannsóknum sínum þar sem hún veltir vöngum yfir framtíðinni. Og svo auðvitað Octavia Butler, hún og Ursula hófu eiginlega þessa bylgju af feminískum vísindaskáldskap á áttunda áratugnum.

Hvernig finnst þér að vísindaskáldskapur geti haft áhrif á raunveruleikann?  

Þetta er tækifæri til að búa til útópíu. En það er erfitt að ímynda sér heim án þess að byggja hann á heiminum sem við búum í. Það er alltaf einhver kontrast, eða akkúrat öfugt við það sem við þekkjum. En í þessum útópísku heimum er frelsi til að sýna hvernig hlutirnir gætu verið öðruvísi. Eins og í Star Trek, þar sem t.d. fyrsti „interracial“ kossinn átti sér stað í sjónvarpi árið 1964. Nichelle Nichols sem lék í Star Trek starfaði síðar hjá NASA við að ráða konur og fólk úr minnihlutahópum til stofnunarinnar. Hún réði t.d. fyrstu konuna, fyrstu svörtu konuna og annan svarta karlmanninn til að verða geimfarar. Núna hljómar þetta kannski sjálfsagt, en það var það ekki á sínum tíma! Og mér finnst gaman að hugsa til þess að vísindaskáldskapur hafi haft áhrif.

Þetta er fyrsta sýningin þín eftir útskrift. Var mikil pressa á sýningunni til að endurspegla þig sem sýningarstjóra?

Það var svo frábært tækifæri að geta verið með fyrsta verkefnið mitt eftir útskrift í Kling og Bang. Mig langaði að gera allt! En svo áttaði ég mig á að sýningin verður ekki betri eftir því sem meira er á henni, að það er betra að skammta hlutina niður og leyfa skilaboðunum sem ég að vil koma á framfæri að koma skýrt fram. Að því sögðu þá er alveg ótrúlega margt í gangi og margir listamenn sem koma að sýningunni!

Kom eitthvað á óvart í ferlinu?

Það var örugglega ferlið að verkinu hennar Þóreyjar sem kom skemmtilegast á óvart. Barinn hennar, Pitstop for a dream. Ég hafði nálgast Þóreyju með að fá bjór fyrir opnunina. Við fórum svo að tala um að hún myndi gera sérstakan bjór fyrir sýninguna og svo koll af kolli og hugmyndirnar stækkuðu og stækkuðu þar til að bjórinn var orðinn að listaverki á sýningunni.

Hafði heimsfaraldurinn áhrif á sýninguna?

Hann hafði mjög mikil áhrif, sýningin átti fyrst að vera í október og var seinkað um marga mánuði. Við það fengu sýningin og verkin að stækka, það vannst meiri tími til að vinna verkin og tala um verkin. Svo kom nýtt samkomubann nokkrum dögum fyrir opnun en þá var svo skemmtilegt hvernig verk Þóreyjar hafði þróast því það er alltaf bjór í boði á sýningunni eins og það sé eilíf opnun.

Elín Margot, the end of me, the beginning of you, 2021

Þetta verk er smá icebreaker, líka, því þú þarft að fá aðstoð frá einhverjum öðrum við að dæla bjórnum og þá ertu kannski búin að opna samtal sem getur átt sér stað í gegnum sýninguna. Svo er líka skemmtilegt að fólk geti upplifað sýninguna á hægara hraða, með færra fólk í kringum sig, verkin eru mjög stór og innihalda oft langar narratívur og þá er gott að hafa tíma til að skoða þau.

Mun verkefnið þróast áfram?

Já! Í útgáfu. Planið var að gefa út bók í síðustu viku sýningarinnar, það frestaðist aðeins en hún er nánast tilbúin. Bókin er unnin á svipaðan hátt og sýningin; í henni taka þátt listamennirnir sem eiga verk á sýningunni, og fleiri listamenn og rithöfundar sem eru að vinna á svipuðu bili, milli raunveruleika og fantasíu. Bókin er meira framhald af sýningunni þannig að samtalið heldur áfram. Hún er hönnuð af Grétu Þorkelsdóttir og ég og Ástríður Jónsdóttir erum ritstjórar. Hún mun koma út í í byrjun hausts.

Hvað er frammundan?

Um þessar mundir er ég að bjóða mig fram sem formann Nýlistasafnsins. Ég er ótrúlega spennt fyrir því hlutverki og langar m.a. að halda áfram að ýta undir fjölbreytileika í sýningahaldi. Það er svo margt áhugavert að gerast og mikil gróska í myndlist á Íslandi og ég hlakka til að taka þátt í að koma fleiri sögum og sjónarhornum á framfæri.

Björk Hrafnsdóttir

Sýningin opnaði 30. mars og stendur til 9. maí 2021.


Ljósmyndari: Blair Alexander Massie

The interview is part of a collaboration between Artzine and a new MA in Curatorial Practice at the Iceland University of the Arts.

Viðtalið er hluti af samstarfsverkefni Artzine og nýrrar meistaranámsleiðar í sýningagerð við myndlistardeild Listaháskóla Íslands á vorönn 2021.

Removing the Filter: An interview with Auður Lóa Guðnadóttir

Removing the Filter: An interview with Auður Lóa Guðnadóttir

Removing the Filter: An interview with Auður Lóa Guðnadóttir

Auður Lóa’s exhibition Yes/No at the Reykjavík Art Museum reflects the diversity, chaos, and connections between the many corners of the internet. She pulls imagery from pop culture, art history, politics, and personal photographs that she finds by letting herself fall through an online rabbit hole. Curious to see these images out of context, Auður Lóa removes her subjects from the screen into the 3-dimensional world of papier-mâché sculpture. Her exhibition aims to draw new relations, mixing the variety of images one can come across on the world wide web in a single day. In this interview, I caught up with Auður Lóa to discuss this latest exhibition.

Amanda: Starting from the beginning…how did you get your start in artmaking? Do you have any early memories that led you to where you are now?

Auður Lóa: I have been making art since I was really small. I know that it sounds super cheesy, but I think I always wanted to become an artist. I was an introverted kid that just liked drawing. And then I became an artist. It is not a particularly interesting story, but I think it was an obvious choice for me.

Your subjects range from pop culture imagery to references to fine art, is there a connecting theme behind your choices? Where do you find your inspiration?

The imagery is sourced from the internet and books, so all of the images have happened in real life. Many of them are from history, art history, and pop culture. Some of them are actual characters from paintings and some of them are the artworks themselves. Others are just things that exist in the world. For this exhibition, I decided to embrace the chaos and use whichever images sparked my interest. There is a little web of ideas within them. So many of them touch on social justice subjects like feminism and colonialism, but also internet culture, how information travels, and how we make and perceive art. I usually make exhibitions that are narrowed down to one subject. But this time I was interested in branching out and mixing everything together. I was interested to see what would come out of that process. I just wanted to make as many sculptures as humanly possible.

Let’s talk material choices. What drew you toward working with paper-mâché? At first glance, it is easy to assume these are clay figurines, is this your goal?

I initially started working with paper-mâché because it’s really cheap. A lot of the time I have a bad conscience towards working with materials I buy from the store like plaster or clay. I find it hard as an artist to produce new things into this world–especially when the things are just there to just hang around or be kept in storage. I started working with paper-mâché because it took the pressure away from every single item. I wasn’t spending a whole lot of money on each piece and if I was fed up with it, I could just throw it away without thinking about it too much. It is a better environment to create when you have low stakes, to begin with. Because if you buy a shitload of clay you have this pressure of like “yeah, I better do something really nice with this nice clay and special paint and stuff.”

Also, paper-mâché does not constrain me to a specific size and I can work however large or small I want. It is a very hardy material and is nice to work with. I like the feel of it and I like the effect. It is very lumpy and hard to control so the material starts to become present in the work. I get that it looks like clay, but I don’t mind that so much. I draw inspiration from ceramic figurines so the associations to glazed ceramic sculptures is welcome. I would like it to be paper-mâché though, that is my bottom line.

These days, it seems like the mainstream internet aims for flawless, photoshopped images. Your work begins to reject this aesthetic, but at the same time, the final layer of your sculpture is a smooth, shiny coat of glaze–which fits within the ideals of perfection. Is this something that you were thinking about?

No, I don’t think that is very present in my practice. What I like to do with these images from the internet is to take them out of the computer screen. My main focus is what happens when you take these images that are on your computer, or your phone, and make them physical. You experience all your day-to-day imagery on the same screen. So you have the same filter when you read the news, do your social media, watch funny cat videos or porn–if you like that. What I’m interested in is taking all of these images and putting them on the same, equal platform.

The D-hall exhibition series was established for up-and-coming Icelandic artists to hold their first solo exhibition in a public museum. How did you prepare for this exhibition? Did you approach this exhibition differently than your previous ones in artist-run spaces?

Well, for starters it is a great opportunity and a great platform so I was really excited about this big opportunity. This is the biggest exhibition space I’ve had to myself so far. I was really interested and also a bit frightened of that. It’s different working in an established museum because there is staff working at the museum and with you. I was working with a curator and technical assistants. So that is nice and you feel really taken care of. But I also have a real soft spot for the artist-run spaces in Reykjavík. They have a lot to offer in a different way.

Are there any specific pieces in this that have a particularly interesting story? If you can’t decide, tell me about your current favorite.

I have so many favorites! The possum with the babies on her back is one of my favorites. And the big swan vase. And the portrait of Diana Spencer…

I did make some pieces that were from family photographs. My mom and dad are both in the show. And I made my little sister. I used a photograph from an old family photograph when she was just a baby. When we were little, we lived in a former British colony called Malawi in Central Africa. I made some sculptures that pertain to Malawi’s history, and I made a sculpture of my sister where she is being babysat by Janet, a woman who worked in our house. I felt that was an interesting sculpture to make and have this opportunity to have the global phenomenon of colonialism and racism and big subjects, but also staying within a light mood.

I secretly snuck in some sculptures that are really violent, and reference bad parts of history. I have not gotten a lot of comments on it, which is interesting because Icelandic people are not thinking about a lot of this stuff. You can easily go through this exhibition just looking at the cats, so I am guessing that is what most people do. Maybe the political sculptures are a little too hidden, but they are there if somebody wants to delve into them.

Personally, I believe it’s important that they are there. I think the way that you integrate these political sculptures into the show is reflective of how we encounter this kind of information in our lives. Maybe we’re not actively seeking out news about racism, or sexism, or feminism, but it’s there and it’s on the internet. I find it more relatable in that you advertise it as “this is a show about life” instead of “this is an important show about political issues”

Yeah and I also had to think long and hard about my place in talking about these subjects, as a participant in this society. It is important to take a stance or try to talk about this stuff without doing it in a way where people are not receptive to it. Or doing it in a “white savior” way. It is complicated, and I had to think long and hard about how these images should be portrayed and how they should be put in between.

I want to emphasize that I did not want to present the political sculptures in a way that seemed like I was making fun of them, even though they are mixed with humorous imagery. I wanted to do it in a respectful way.

In conclusion, what’s next for you? What are you thinking about these days?

Well, this exhibition was actually postponed twice. It was supposed to be last winter, now it opened in March. I just got all those sculptures out of the studio. The funny thing is I am opening a show at the Leysingar festival in Kompan Alþýðuhúsið at the end of May, so I just went straight into finishing up the works for that show. And then in the summer, I’ll be exhibiting with Staðir in the Westfjords. After that, think I will take a bit of a summer holiday…

Amanda Poorvu


Auður Lóa graduated from the fine arts department of The Iceland Academy of the Arts in 2015. Since then she has worked independently, and in the company of other artists; she has been involved in group exhibitions such as Á Ferð in Harbinger project space, Still life in The Reykjavík Art Museum, and 109 Cats in Sweaters in Ekkisens artspace. In November of 2017 she curated and presented her own work in the exhibition Diana Forever which was held in three locations in Reykjavík, and for which she received the motivational award of the Icelandic Visual Arts Council in 2018.

The show Yes/No takes place at the Reykjavík Art Museum as part of the D-hall exhibition series from 18.03.2021 to 09.05.2021.
Artist website: www.audurloa.com


Photo Credits: Portret of Auður Lóa: Ólöf Kristín Helgadóttir. Photos from exhibition: Artzine

The interview is part of a collaboration between Artzine and a new MA in Curatorial Practice at the Iceland University of the Arts.

Viðtalið er hluti af samstarfsverkefni Artzine og nýrrar meistaranámsleiðar í sýningagerð við myndlistardeild Listaháskóla Íslands á vorönn 2021.

Rótarskot í Berlín

Rótarskot í Berlín

Rótarskot í Berlín

Gunnhildur Hauksdóttir spjallar við Guðnýju Guðmundsdóttur um nýtt gallerí í Berlín

 

Gallerí Guðmundsdóttir er nýtt gallerí sem er að festa rætur í miðborg Berlínar, þar eru sýndir alþjóðlegir listamenn, en Íslendingar í meirihluta og þá sérstaklega konur. Guðný Guðmundsdóttir stendur galleríinu að baki og er að stíga sín fyrstu skref sem miðlari lista á þennan máta, þó hún sé síst nýgræðingur í því að veita myndlist brautargengi. Eftir töluverðar ráðagerðir um form og aðferðir opnaði Guðný dyr sínar í júlí á síðasta ári með einkasýningu alnöfnu sinnar og hefur haldið tvær sýningar hingað til. Yfirstandandi er sýning Katrínar Ingu Jónsdóttur sem opnaði í haust. Fleiri eru í vinnslu þó farsóttin hafi sett strik í reikninginn.

Guðný er klassískt menntaður fiðluleikari og tónlistarfræðingur en brennur fyrir því að veita myndlist vettvang og hefur gert í nokkur ár. Hún ólst upp í kringum myndlist og var teymd á sýningar alla sína æsku, sem hún elskaði að hata en var sátt (við að mæta á opnun) ef hún fékk gos. Hún er m.a. prímus mótór í Listahátíðinni Cycle sem var sett á laggirnar 2015 og þar á undan hafði hún verið með tónlistarhátíð unga fólskins í Kópavogi. Cycle var upphaflega tilraun til að gefa fólki rými til að prufa sig áfram með að blanda saman myndlist og tónlist, en fljótlega leitaði hugurinn meira að myndlistinni og leiðum hennar til að vekja samfélagsumræðu, sem auðveldara er að gera í krafti myndlistarinnar að hennar mati.

Guðný vann t.a.m. með Steinunni Gunnlaugsdóttur við að koma hinu alræmda verki Hafpulsan upp á tjörninni í Reykjavík og hefur unnið lengi með Líbíu Castro og Ólafi Ólafssyni, nú síðast í vetur við að gera risastóran og fjölþættan gjörning um Stjórnarskrártillögu Íslendinga frá 2012 í Listasafni Reykjavíkur. Þetta var sennilega verkið sem hún var að bíða eftir fyrir Cycle þar sem allt fléttaðist saman tónlistin, myndlistin og samfélagsumræðan. Nú hefur Guðný breytt nálgun sinni á því hvernig hún vill meðhöndla myndlist, það hefur hún gert með því að opna sölugallerí og mér lék hugur á að vita hvernig það kom til og spurði hana fyrst hvernig hugmyndin fæddist.

GG: Ég veit ekki hvort hugmyndin hafi beint fæðst, ætli hún hafi ekki frekar vaxið og þroskast úr þeim jarðvegi sem ég hef verið að vinna í undanfarin ár. Þetta er nokkurs konar línulegt ferli þar sem hvorki er hægt að finna einhvern ákveðinn upphafspunkt né endi. Maður viðar að sér þekkingu í gegnum árin og veit ekki endilega hvert ferðinni er heitið. Að minnsta kosti hefur það reynst mér vel hingað til að vera ekki að setja mér markmið sem eiga að nást á einhverjum sérstökum tímapunkti, frekar treysta á ferlið sjálft, eigið innsæi og vera reiðubúin að hlusta og hreyfast með umhverfinu.

Ég fór til Þýskalands í klassískt tónlistarnám fyrir tvítugt og hef búið þar síðan meira og minna. Undanfarin ár hef ég mest unnið með myndlistar- og tónlistarfólki í gegnum Listahátíðina Cycle á Íslandi og hef ferðast með hana til Berlínar, Hong Kong og Buenos Aires. Ég hef fengið tækifæri til að kynnast starfsumhverfi listafólks beggja vegna borðsins og get í raun flakkað á milli hlutverka allt frá listamanninum sjálfum til skipuleggjanda og umboðsaðila.

Þegar ég var svo heppin að fá afnot af gömlum kjallara, Bunker, á besta stað í Berlin langaði mig að söðla um úr hátíðabransanum yfir í það að reka verkefnarými þar sem hægt væri að vera með sýningar, lista- og fræðimannaspjöll, gjörninga og jafnvel tónleika. Ég sá það sem farsæl skipti úr því ofboðslega vinnuálagi sem fylgir hátíðaskipulagi. Hugmyndin um að geta dreift álaginu betur yfir árið og ekki ganga síendurtekið sér til húðar í vinnu var mjög lokkandi tilhugsun.

En þegar ég var að skilgreina tilgang og gildi þess að reka verkefnarými komu upp áleitnar spurningar sem ekki var hægt að líta framhjá, eins og hver er raunverulegur ávinningur fyrir listafólkið. Að halda einkasýningu tekur langan tíma að undirbúa og þróa, það þarf að safna fyrir því með styrkjum og þetta er full vinna í marga mánuði. Styrkir eins og listamannalaun eða verkefnastyrkir brúa bilið á milli hugmyndavinnu og framkvæmdar en þegar verkin eru tilbúin ætti næsta batterí sem sér um miðlun, kynningu og sölu að taka við. Það er í verkahring gallerísins.

Íslenskt samfélag er lítið og getur ekki haldið uppi stóru myndlistarhagkerfi og það eru margir um hituna. Á einhverjum tímapunkti sá ég að betra væri fyrir alla aðila að stofna sölugallerí, það myndi betur nýtast því listafólki sem ég hef verið að vinna með. Í stað þess að koma hingað til Berlínar eftir margra mánaða vinnu og halda sýningu sem fer svo beint á lífshlaupsupptalningarlistann þá eigum við í langvarandi samstarfi og vinnum áfram og úr þeirri frumsköpun sem á sér stað í sýningunni sjálfri. Sýningin er fyrsta skrefið og með henni fer næsta tannhjól af stað. Ég, sem galleríisti, á í skapandi samtali við listafólkið mitt, ber þeirra hag fyrir brjósti, miðla verkum þeirra til safnara, sýningarstjóra og listasafna. Við berum því sameiginlega ábyrgð á þessu ferli og það er beggja hagur að vel gangi.

Ég man að þú varst mikið að velta fyrir þér nafninu á galleríinu þegar hugmyndin var að gerjast hjá þér, hvernig kom það til að Gallerí Guðmundsdóttir varð fyrir valinu?

Þegar fljótt er litið yfir alþjóðlega sviðið þá bera langflest gallerí nöfn eigenda sinna. Ég veit ekki af hverju það er ekki hefðin á Íslandi en efalaust er hægt að finna einhverjar hógværar ástæður fyrir því. Eftir að hafa mátað mörg nöfn á galleríið fannst mér það eiginlega passandi að nefna það eftir mér sjálfri en síðustu 20 árin hef ég staðið í ströngu við að stafa þetta langa eftirnafn hér í Þýskalandi, nafn sem mér samt þykir svo vænt um. Fólk man eftir löngum og skrýtnum nöfnum þótt það taki kannski aðeins lengri tíma fyrir það að læra að stafsetja þau.  Ég verð þó að viðurkenna að það tók tíma að standa algerlega með þessari ákvörðun. Því um leið og mér fannst þetta geggjuð hugmynd var ég hrædd um að þetta væri of frekt. Síðan leið sú tilfinning hjá og ég er hæst ánægð með þessa ákvörðun í dag.

Hverjir eru með þér í þessu?

Minn samstarfsmaður í lífi og leik heitir Jochen Steinbicker og án hans hefði ég nú sennilega strandað einhvers staðar í þýsku skriffinnskunni með þetta verkefni. Við erum í þessu saman þótt að ég fari fyrir skipi og beri ábyrgð á listrænum ákvörðunum. En síðan á ég auðvitað í miklu samtali við þá listamenn sem ég hef valið að vinna með nú í byrjun. Ég hef ekki verklega reynslu af því að reka gallerí þótt ég þekki listheiminn frá ýmsum sjónarhornum, þannig að að einhverju leyti erum við að læra saman hvernig við viljum haga þessu samstarfi, það hefur verið og mun halda áfram að vera mjög áhugavert ferli.

Cold Man’s Trophies | Pure Maid’s Garlands Mynd: Gallery Gudmundsdottir.

Frá gjörningi Katrínar Ingu á sýningunni Land Self Love.

Land Self Love Myndir: Gallery Gudmundsdottir

Listrænar áherslur í galleríinu? Hvernig velurðu samstarfsaðila hver er þín sýn?

Málefni kvenna eru mér mjög hugleikin, hvort sem það eru réttindamál eða almennt hið kvenlæga þegar kemur að smekk og fagurfræði. Öll réttindabarátta tekur tíma og á þeirri vegferð þarf að snúa við hverjum steini. Til þess að breyting geti átt sér stað þarf fólk að endurtengja hugsanaferla sína og vera í stöðugri sjálfskoðun, það er mjög krefjandi ferli. Stærsti þröskuldurinn er þó að mínu mati tungumálið, því við miklar breytingar þarf einnig ný orð og orðin þarf að prófa, æfa og skerpa.  Áhugi minn á þessum málum mun koma skýrt fram í galleríinu og ég vonast til að leggja mitt af mörkum við að æfa og skerpa orðfærið um kvenlegt fagurferði. Best væri að hafa jákvæð áhrif á það hvernig við hugsum um hið kvenlæga og kvenlíkamann þegar kemur að listum. Það er ein af ástæðunum fyrir því að ég hef valið að vinna nánast eingöngu með konum.

Já áhugavert þetta með tungumálið, og þú ert þá einsog þáttakandi í að búa til orðræðu um kvenlæga myndlist, því sú orðræða er kannski varla til eða er að minnsta kosti barnung, sérstaklega í ísenskri orðræðu um myndlist?

Já, og önnur ástæða er að ég hef fylgst með framgangi karlkyns vina minna hér í Berlín, hvernig þeir hafa verið teknir undir verndarvængi karlkyns galleríista beint eftir skóla, rétt einsog af færibandi, og vígðir inn í söluhagkerfi hins hyper-karllæga listheims á meðan ég sé skólasystur þeirra bíða, vinna og vona. Er það vegna þess að list strákanna er betri?  Eða höfðar karllægur reynsluheimur þeirra frekar til karlkyns sýningarstjóra og safnara sem enn eru í meirihluta alþjóðlega?

Ég hef leyft mér að draga mjög einfaldaða ályktun af þessum upplýsingum. Skilningur okkar á fegurð og fagurfræði mótast að miklu leyti af okkar kynbundna reynsluheimi.  Það er því deginum ljósara að list kvenna, kynsegin eða annarra jaðarsettra hópa sem eiga annan reynsluheim eigi erfiðara uppdráttar í listheimi sem er mótaður af karllægri fagurfræði. Kvenlæg og karllæg fagurfræði eru orð sem ekkert endilega eru bundin við kyn, en hvað þýða þau?  Ég hlakka til kryfja merkingu þeirra sérstaklega vegna þess að innan lærðra lista hefur umræðan um kynbundna fagurfræði verið tabú!

En þegar öllu er á botninn hvolft þá eru raddir listafólksins sem ég vinn með það sem skiptir mestu máli, en ekki mitt persónulega feminíska ferðalag. Þeirra sýn, meðhöndlun og túlkun á tíma, efni og rými og skynjun á samfélaginu er það sem stendur í forgrunni og mitt hlutverk er að styðja við, miðla og finna verkum þeirra farveg sem þau annars gætu ekki sjálf.

Það hljómar einsog tónlist í eyru mín, því tíma listafólks er best varið í sköpun og betra að láta aðra um miðlun. Hvernig sérðu svo framhaldið?

Stefnan er að halda áfram í hægfara hreyfingu. Mig langar til að vera vakandi í hverju skrefi, ekki hoppa yfir neitt, eiga í auðgandi samtali við listina, skapendur og unnendur hennar samtímis og miðla henni á nýja staði. Vonandi í ekki of fjarlægri framtíð vil ég fara með galleríið á sölumessur. Það mun koma að því og ég hlakka til en svo er líka með öllu óvíst hvernig sölusena myndlistar kemur undan þessum Covidvetri. Kannski eru sölurýmin hvort eð er að færast meira yfir á alnetið! Það væri líka skemmtileg áskorun að kljást við, en fyrst er það bara hversdagurinn í gallerírekstri sem ég er upptekin af.

Viltu tala aðeins um þær sýningar sem þegar hafa verið í galleríinu og hvað er næst á dagskrá, þ.e.a.s. þegar við komum undan þessu kóvi?

Við opnuðum galleríið í sumar með sýningunni Cold Man’s Trophies | Pure Maid’s Garlands eftir nöfnu mína Guðnýju Guðmundsdóttur. Guðný hefur einsog ég búið mjög lengi í Þýskalandi en hún nam myndlist í Hamborg og flutti svo til Berlínar upp úr 2000. Að mínu mati er Guðný meðal áhugaverðari konum, með hárbeittan húmor, einstakan smekk og innsæi. Verkin hennar eru líkt og frjáls spuni sem hún vinnur á ótrúlega agaðan og yfirvegaðan hátt, auk þess býr hún yfir stórkostlegri næmni fyrir formi, efni og lit. Efnistök og fagurfræði endurspegla samtímann frá mismunandi sjónarhornum, raunhyggju, skáldskapar eða jafnvel dulúðar en þó skín hennar verkfræðilega hugsun alltaf í gegn.

Sýningin sem nú stendur yfir heitir Land Self Love og er eftir Katrínu Ingu Jónsdóttur Hjördísardóttur. Katrín lauk framhaldsnámi í myndlist í New York og hefur verið með annan fótinn í Berlín undanfarin ár. Mér finnst Katrín búa yfir kjarnorku og sýningin ber þess svo sannarlega vott. Hennar útgangspunktur er gjörningurinn sjálfur og gjörningurinn er að einhverju leyti samtvinnaður hennar daglega lífi. Það væri jafnvel hægt að segja að allt sem Katrín snertir er list og loftið sem hún andar er líka list. Gjörningurinn er grunnurinn að sýningunni og átti hann sér stað inn í gallerí rýminu fyrir luktum dyrum. Segja má að verkin sem við sýnum séu afrakstur þess gjörnings en þau eru unnin í mismunandi miðla bæði stór málverk, steypuverk, vídeó, ljósaverk og prent. Efnistök Katrínar Ingu er sjálfið og sjálfsástin, hún vinnur á hispurslausan en magnaðan hátt með líkama sinn og áhorfandinn er liggur við knúinn til þess að mynda sér skoðun á því sem fyrir augu ber. Hún er gott dæmi um listakonu sem leikur sér samtímis að myndmáli hins kvenlæga og þess karllæga. Það sem kveikir hvað mest í mér í verkum Katrínar er að hún er að reyna að finna leið til að gjörningurinn hennar – lífsgjörningurinn sjálfur ef kalla mætti haldi áfram í verkunum eftir að hún skilur við þau. Oft skrifar hún nokkurs konar handrit fyrir kaupandann um hvað hann skuldbindi sig til að gera eftir að verkið er keypt. Kaupsamningurinn er samningur  en samtímis líka hluti listaverksins sjálfs. Hún er þar að sækja á mjög spennandi mið og ég hlakka til að fylgja henni inn í næstu lotu hennar ferils.

Guðný segir mér ekki hvaða sýning er næst á dagskrá hjá henni, en eftir að hafa spjallað við hana finn ég að hún sér þetta sem langhlaup, hún er ekkert að flýta sér, vandvirk og fer sér hægt, leyfir sýningum að lifa og vinnur úr þeim. Nógur tími til að leyfa einu stykki galleríi að dafna og vaxa.

Sýningu Katrínar lýkur í apríl.


www.gallerygudmundsdottir.com

Ljósmynd af Guðnýju Guðmundsdóttur: Cormac Walsh

Stars are the flowers of our skies: The Wildflower

Stars are the flowers of our skies: The Wildflower

Stars are the flowers of our skies: The Wildflower

 

in conversation with Becky Forsythe and Penelope Smart

 

In The Wildflower, we’re transported into a disorienting horizon full of flowers, non-flowers, stones, glass and jelly. Bringing together artists and writers from Canada and Iceland, the exhibition questions, uncovers, and challenges various problems and possibilities surrounding nature, land, landscape, and what it means to those who dwell on it. 

As I sink into thoughts about my personal relationship to both the Canadian and Icelandic landscapes, the initial parallels are clear. They both carry postcard-like perceptions of vibrancy. Large, open space, fresh air, and curiosity – from fjords and hot springs in Iceland, to great lakes and tall trees in Canada. They share northern geographies and similar flora. Contemplating the propositions that the show offered brought forward many questions. What is considered an Icelandic landscape, and what is considered a Canadian one? Whose perspectives are given space and whose voices are missing? Where do these stories intersect, and where do they part? 

This conversation with curators Becky Forsythe and Penelope Smart, much like The Wildflower itself, spanned countries, viewpoints, and time(zones). Generously offering a glimpse into their collective vision of the show and beyond, we spoke about traditional craft in contemporary spaces, what inclusion means, notions of past, present and future in landscape, as well as the added labour of distance.

Juliane Foronda: Your shared connection to nature is quite evident. What other interests or curiosities informed this show? 

Becky Forsythe: Themes circulating nature are so vast and varied — and saying The Wildflower is solely grounded in nature only scratches the surface. Our intention was a layered exhibition, and first and foremost one about artists whose works are exciting, re-envision natural material, personal history, or land in new ways. This was sparked by an interest in reimagined craft-based practices as a way to narrow in on familiar, foreign, future landscapes and unfold the layers in those concepts. It is also quite natural for us to work with female artists spanning generations and most definitely emerging into their practices.

Penelope Smart: I think craft based practices have a lot to say to traditional visual art practices in a gallery. They are often connected to domestic skills or “women’s work”, and are now seen as something extremely alive in a contemporary art space. 

BF: Arna weaves, but none are present in the show. She does however weave together preserved flowers in Untitled (2014). Her practice is very conceptual, and I am not sure that she would consider her practice craft-based. But her work stems from a long history of weaving and conceptual fiber sculpture in Iceland with people like Ásgerður Búadóttir (1920-2014), Hildur Hákonardóttir and G.Erla (Guðrún Erla Geirsdóttir), who have opened up the reading of “women’s work” in contemporary art since the fifties, sixties or seventies.

PS: As a curator who loves craft, there’s a powerful point in the idea of permission, responsibility and ownership. Craft can immediately connect you to a community that may or may not be your own, and you may or may not have permission into it. Where I am in northern Ontario, I think there are really generative experiences of how craft is connected to Indigenous communities, traditions, and other histories that you may not be trusted into just because you think it’s interesting. We were thinking about representations of nature in the future, and there is a paradox presenting works that connect to craft practices and traditions. That tension is consciously at play in this show.

BF: This tension in the exhibition plays with work elements that would be identified as craft-based, and how they appear in the artists’ work through other means. For example, Nína’s work, where she embroidered the tablecloth with local flora. This is a skill she acquired as a young woman, and she utilizes her skills, as any artist would, in conceptualizing an installation which is in some ways about the traditional practice of stitching, but reaches beyond that and into an atmosphere of cultural awareness. 

JF: What was your motivation behind fostering this conversation between the Canadian and Icelandic landscapes, and why was this important to you? 

PS: The idea of Iceland and Canada sharing latitudes and plant histories because of their geographies is something we were interested in. The work that was coming out of the studios in each of these places were often related to each other, especially between Newfoundland and Iceland. There’s so much more research that can be done, we’ve just skimmed the surface.

JF: Both Iceland and Canada have strong and specific overarching narratives around what it means to belong to, represent and live on these lands. Many of these narratives surround notions of home, heritage, legacy and access. Are varying perspectives and experiences, such those from the many refugees and immigrants who also inhabit these lands represented in The Wildflower?

PS: I don’t know if all those views are represented. The artists included in the show from Canada and the North are Indigenous, mixed ancestry, or white and/or of European descent, and are drawing from their own experience. I’m okay with someone pointing out that there are people and stories missing from the show, because that’s definitely true and for me, isn’t a reason to feel like the show fails in terms of a show that’s thinking about landscape. If The Wildflower does play a part in bringing up conversations about what’s lacking, where stories are missing about the experience of landscape, or what it means, if anything, to talk about flowers in a northern landscape, that’s great. These conversations are hard, but they’re important.

BF: The view we present is not a universal vision of land or landscape, but an act to deconstruct or counter or address imbalance in contemporary conversations on the topic. The exhibition itself wasn’t so much about transporting the experience of Canada here, or matching it to the experience of Iceland, but about creating a dialogue where questions would arise. Break up out-dated representations, I would say, and present a new potential for landscape. There are experiences that are missing, and that is okay, this is just one open possibility gathered from many voices.

 

Installation view with Jón Gunnar Árnason, Blómið, 1967, The Wildflower, Hafnarborg 2020. Photo: Kristín Pétursdóttir

Asinnajaq, Where you go, I follow, 2020, digital photograph on polysheer. Photo: Kristín Pétursdóttir

Katrina Jane, Tools of Being, 2020, Portuguese marble. Photo Kristín Pétursdóttir

Leisure, Narrative no. 9 (cotton grass, berry hand, summer 1943 on Bonavista Bay and women picking berries on the barrens 1912-15/2016), Narrative no.13, 2017, photo montage and Invisibility Cloaks, 2020, haskap, blueberries and cranberries on canvas. Photo: Vigfús Birgisson

JF: Is nature and/or land(scape) inclusive? 

BF: The way that nature’s been handled is not inclusive. I guess it depends on who is telling the story? Whose nature is it? And who has access? But if you think about this in the environmental or cultural context, then nature has been misused in a way that’s not inclusive at all and has kept certain cultures, genders and races repressed. 

PS: This is such a good question. I do think this comes up in the sense of nature as a resource. And who has access to it. In the exhibit, there’s the idea of nature as a resource related to different histories and in terms of the materials themselves, the view of nature as something that gives or has given, and gives innately, and how we take.

JF: While this collaboration was always planned to have an element of long distance to some capacity, you came across many unexpected challenges due to COVID-19. Can you talk a bit about the obstacles, joys, added labour and findings that came from this?

BF: The long distance nature of our collaboration meant the transition into the reality of COVID-19 just happened. We had worked in a lot of research and preparation that would take place onsite in Iceland, that was affected quite early on and became impossible. We pivoted in this new vulnerability, like colleagues, exhibitions, museums and galleries everywhere are currently doing, and found new approaches. This transformed our selection of work, but also pushed us, in a good way, to reconsider the place of our work in the field.

PS: It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t able to go to Iceland. At times it felt like constantly asking do we cancel this? became the work. But this was happening for everyone. I often felt like I couldn’t do my fair share because I wasn’t physically there. It didn’t change how the show went for me in the end, as it looked exactly how it would have if I had been able to be there. It makes me excited for the next thing we get to do together.

BF: We were lucky that we walked into this with a consistent working practice, weekly meetings and reliable communication. Onsite/online, we weren’t only doing this long distance, but between time zones too. I really see the labour that went into this exhibition as balanced— whether conceptual, physical or intellectual. It was heartbreaking that Penelope couldn’t be here, because we had organized to a certain extent, but also left room to respond together in the space once we were in it, and we really didn’t get to experience that. That’s an exciting part for me to really feel works in the space, get in there and respond. 

JF: (How) will this collaboration exist after this exhibition is over?

BF:  I think we did walk into it with the idea that this project, and at least the beginnings of this research extend into something beyond. Our list of artists, contributors and writers was so huge. We definitely couldn’t include everyone that we wanted to in The Wildflower, and that leaves us with exciting research to continue. The fact that we’ve survived this massive exhibition at this time, long distance – across countries and with COVID, it’s left me really excited to attempt something new. Whether that’s realised as an exhibition or another format, it’s still up in the air. There’s still a lot that we haven’t unpacked and it’s about finding the right time for those things to happen.

PS: The ways that we experience and engage with art are shifting. It’s no longer about getting on a plane to do research and studio visits, and a lot more art is now happening outside of traditional gallery settings. This means that we have to think about how our work as curators can continue to be of value to audiences moving forward. I’m interested and learning how to talk about land, how to belong to it and where I belong, what does belonging actually translate to, how does history play out in a landscape, how do you claim it or not, and how do you revisit yourself in land. I want to be able to work with artists who are looking at these questions.

——————

Following my question about if nature and landscape was inclusive, Penelope posed a series of questions back at me. She asked how inclusivity feels, where it lives in the body, and what emotions are present when we talk about if nature is inclusive. These questions in relation to my personal relationship with land and nature have been circulating in my headspace since being asked, and I will likely continue to sit in the reality of these thoughts for some time.

I immediately thought of my family’s first winter in Canada, and the small toboggan (sled) my parents got us so we could all play in the snow. I thought of the first time I realised I didn’t know how to ice skate or ski like most of the kids at my primary school could, who were predominantly of white settler-colonial descent. I also remembered my first trip to a friend’s cottage in my teens, and how they taught me how to canoe at sunset. My thoughts also fall back to listening to my father tell me stories throughout my childhood about his rural village in the northern region of the Philippines – stories of mango trees, being showered by the warm tropical rain, playing with spiders, stones and banana leaves, and about how bright the stars were at night. This landscape is completely opposite to the one I grew up in and is one that I barely know myself, but I feel inherently connected to it from these stories that have been told and retold to me over the years. I also thought about when I moved to Iceland, and how my body surrendered to the slow pace of the dark winter. I remembered the first time I saw the northern lights, and I can still hear the sound of the strong winter wind whistling through my window. I also often think of that soft pink light that peeks out around February, which breaks the darkness and makes the whole landscape seem to glow in silence for a few moments.

These thoughts and memories led me to realise that experiences with/in nature and landscape often carry multiple markers or milestones that reveal how much you conventionally belong or fit in. This is particularly true for lands where nature and landscape are deeply interwoven into culture and cultural norms, such as in Iceland and Canada. It’s a curious place, where nature mixes with culture and its conventions, making clear that nature often exists as a refuge or pleasure for the systemically privileged, while it is a border or boundary for many others. The very specific narratives placed around land and landscape affects people’s psyche and their sense of belonging. It also brings up the notion of nature as legacy – what you pass down and leave behind. I often wondered why my father’s village feels so emotionally familiar to me, and I’ve come to realise that knowledge and histories can transcend time and physical space through the radical care of sharing one’s skills, experience and stories with others.

In an attempt to answer Penelope’s questions, inclusion and exclusion, for me, lives in the space(s) between my tear ducts and my chest. My lived experiences and the feelings they come with trigger a quickened pulse from my heavy heart, a tickle in my throat, a runny nose, and misty eyes. Nature exists in multitudes, and for me, can bring up feelings of wonder while often being laced with a mix of gratitude, guilt, clarity and confusion. I like to think of my relationship with nature as a private one in a public space; it’s complex, changing and challenging, and it’s the only one of its kind that I’ll ever know. 

This conversation exists in two parts, with the other being on Femme Art Review.

 

The WildflowerVilliblómið, was exhibited at Hafnarborg – Centre of Culture and Fine Art (Hafnarfjörður, IS) between August 29 – November 8 2020.

Artists included: Arna Óttarsdóttir, Asinnajaq, Eggert Pétursson, Emily Critch, Jón Gunnar Árnason, Justine McGrath, Katrina Jane, Nína Óskarsdóttir, Leisure, Thomas Pausz, Rúna Thorkelsdóttir

Curated by Becky Forsythe and Penelope Smart

Becky Forsythe and Penelope Smart met at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity in 2017. Their shared work is based in new and meaningful conversations about nature, materials and the feminine. The Wildflower is their first collaborative project.

Becky Forsythe is a curator, writer, and organizer in Reykjavík, Iceland. Penelope Smart is curator at Thunder Bay Art Gallery and writer based in Ontario, Canada. 

Writer’s note of Land Acknowledgement: 

For thousands of years, Tkaronto (Toronto) has been the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat, and it is still home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis from across Turtle Island (North America). Tkaronto is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit. I have lived on this land for the majority of my life, and it continues to significantly shape and impact my trajectory. I acknowledge and recognize the many privileges that I have because of immigrating to and having grown up on stolen land. I conducted this interview from Glasgow, Scotland, where I am currently based. 

Penelope spoke to me from Thunder Bay, Ontario, located on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg, which is covered by the Robinson-Superior Treaty. She is grateful to live and work on the traditional territory of Fort William First Nation. Becky spoke to me from Reykjavík, Iceland. She acknowledges traditional territories of the Huron-Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabeg, specifically Ojibway/Chippewa, the Odawa and Wahta Mohawk peoples whose presence on the land continues to this day, and where her time and experiences lived on this land continue to influence her person and practice. 

Femme Art Review is based out of the traditional territory of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Lūnaapéewak, and Attawandaron peoples (London, Ontario). Artzine is based out of Reykjavík, Iceland.

 

 

Cover picture: Nína Óskarsdóttir, The Feast (Veislan), 2020, mixed media, table cloth embroidered with Icelandic wildflowers and assorted beer jellies. Photo: Kristín Pétursdóttir

The Drumming Beat: Daníel Magnússon at Hverfisgallerí

The Drumming Beat: Daníel Magnússon at Hverfisgallerí

The Drumming Beat: Daníel Magnússon at Hverfisgallerí

Daníel Magnússons´s exhibition TRANSIT at Hverfisgallerí explores a rhythm of detail, depicting images of close up angles and geometrical forms created out of seemingly everyday moments and objects. In this way Magnússon´s photographs examine how construction and composition can inform the unfolding narrative an image creates, focusing in on the minutiae of a meaningful moment.  The relevance of the frame, the subtlety of a directed narrative, and the power of an image seemingly “empty” of meaning: I interviewed Daníel to delve deeper into these thematics of his Hverfisgallerí exhibition. 

I was curious how photography informs his practice, an artist that works in many mediums and is trained as a sculptor. What does the medium of photography allow him? 

DM: I am not sure that I can answer this question, actually it is not a possibility so to speak. I have worked with photographs for a long time and I have spent a long time as well discussing this media with other artists and professional photographers. Much of the work I did before educating as a sculptor in the eighties was in portrait and landscape. I tried out different media and built a small darkroom everywhere I lived. I did a lot of darkroom work in those years and extensive work in experiments with different media and different equipment. But none of this made it convenient to choose this line of work. When I look at some of the photographs I shot in the eighties I am actually surprised. I did work in sculpture for over a decade or so and it was fascinating, it had all the convenience that I needed. But still it was not enough. The voice today is different from what it sounded three decades ago. This voice knows a lot and it has tried different things. It has lost various battles and won some others. I think that what everybody has to focus on is waiting. 

If I would have an answer for you regarding this question it would be the art of waiting. I guess I was lucky that I never intentionally decided to work in this field, it kind of happened after a period of a long waiting.

Daníel tells me that the works in this exhibition are contextualized by a main idea he calls: 

“… the closure of the frame and the field it spans. It is what I have described as a sufficiently meaningful or true frame. That is all the entities that are necessary for the frame to be true …”

Cleverly angled shadows on concrete, the appealing corner of a teal swimming pool, a humble wooden piano,  a vibrantly curved kiddy slide, a satisfying ceiling curve and suggestive red curtain. These tightly composed shapes have a satisfying body and movement, curvature and liveliness to them. They are pleasing in their invocations, containing elements of playfulness in color, connotations of the domestic, everydayness, childhood, and a simplicity of experience. 

Sadsong, 2015, inkjet print on 320 gr Sihl Masterclass cotton paper, 92 x 92 cm.

In terms of his artistic influence, Daníel explains that in his practice he doesn’t necessarily draw inspiration from specific favorites or names, searching rather from what he calls his “silent drumbeat”: 

“… I do work in separate fields. Street and elsewhere, which would be street-life. It is a fraction of my collection and portraits as well. I have a different approach to those brands. I tend to search for what I call the ‘silent drumbeat´ in forms and patterns. Maybe it sounds awkward to describe it this way but it really is the fact.

I have never been able to create or bring forward anything of artistic value by deciding to do so. It usually takes a good walking distance. For me it is partly being superstitious and eccentric.

What seems to be a normal day is usually not, when you take into consideration all the arbitrary variables that can change. I do a lot of walking and not necessarily to ‘find´ something. If I have a camera with me, much of the time and effort is carrying it.

I admit that some of the walks do not bring any fruit so to speak. My interest, for the last few years is mostly under two feet from the ground and patterns in the human-nature ambiance. My work is in following and searching. What I am interested in must be equivalent to what you see in the most precious tapestry. It has to be valued and treated as a cherished truth. There is a quotation from a well known scientist who said that you will only understand nature through admiration. Maybe the thing is that I was brought up on farms, and I used to work on farms as a young boy and through my teenage years. I had the whole picture and it was narrated with smell from soil, grass, blood and rotting flesh. The colors and smell of the tundra, it’s a whole unified kingdom with a low pitch voice, a drumbeat…”

His images appear seemingly “neutral”,  in their lack of specific reference, and yet this absence does inform a specific direction or motive in the work. These small moments all contain some sort of connection, emotional response, ingrained in us and our unique experiences. Like Daníel describes there is this certain tempo to his photographs, this drumbeat as he terms it, that informs our continued interest and curiosity. 

DA: Why this focus on the aesthetic of seemingly background, irrelevant, uncertain landscapes?

DM: Aesthetic is an ambitious word. I try to avoid circumstances where I can be tempted by the atmosphere of aesthetics. Probably one can not escape the weight or gravity of that term – yesterday’s aesthetics are today’s cosmetics, a postmodern cliche. I probably do tend to build my work from an apocalyptic approach to classical aesthetics, my education was. We made statues and pictures and we travelled in Vineland. This attention to photographing something in which there is no event, no momentum, no specific purpose.

DA: What did you want people to experience in this exhibition, the lasting emotion or thought?

DM: There is a purpose and there is an underlying narrative. The silent drumbeat is the decoy, and when you understand that it is not separable from the narrative you surrender to the grace of that particular frame. That’s my personal belief. It is not like it happens all the time, but when it happens, it is perfect and you don’t know why. I do want viewers of my work to experience my beliefs. That they can see or submit to my vision, which is quite arrogant.

 

Daria Sól Andrews

Daníel Magnússon´s exhibition “TRANSIT” is on view at Hverfisgallerí until May 16th, 2020.

https://hverfisgalleri.is/exhibition/transit/ 

Photos courtesy of Hverfisgallerí and the artist.

What rainbows we choose to see, a show and tell with Florence Lam

What rainbows we choose to see, a show and tell with Florence Lam

What rainbows we choose to see, a show and tell with Florence Lam

In what continues to be my favourite work of Hong Kong-based artist Florence Lam, a mirror, a stool and a spray bottle are arranged by a window in a carefully considered way. The Particularities of a Place (2015)  humbly supplies us the tools to make a rainbow (should the sun be strong enough), asking us to have faith and wonder in this proposition. From the first time I’d heard of this work, I believed in its abilities prior to ever seeing it in person. This collection of objects constantly reminds me that sometimes, just knowing of the potential is enough. Often after speaking with Florence, I’m filled with an overwhelming feeling of capability. Her work, much like her person, refuses to believe in the impossible as she is willing to try again and again, adapting as needed, and distancing herself from the notion that there always needs to be a formalised final outcome.

The Particularities of a Place (2015) was the very first piece of artwork Florence made when she arrived in Iceland and has been exhibited at Hafnarborg Art Museum in 2016 and RÝMD in 2017.

Originally from Hong Kong, Florence moved back at the end of 2019 after living nearly 10 years abroad having studied in London and Reykjavík, and was most recently living and working in Germany. For over half of the time that I have been fortunate to know her, we have lived in different countries. Perhaps one of the most nomadic souls I know, time or distance has never seemed to hinder her ability to foster genuine and lasting connections. Spending over two hours together while sitting alone in our respective rooms, over 9000 kilometers and 8 hours apart, we spoke about nature, food, boredom, (be)longing, displacement, the value of community, and many other things.    

Florence continuously described this time in Hong Kong as a special one, and said she is thankful to be back. Apart from having been battling the Coronavirus from the near beginning, Hong Kong residents have been resisting an extremely violent and corrupt government for much longer, prompting protests throughout the nation. Despite the current global health crisis, residents are still resisting the many injustices that are occurring, and these political protests continue to materialise, while taking on new forms with consideration to health and safety. Florence assured me that you could still feel the political energy and tension across Hong Kong, and that it likely only feels quieter and more peaceful to those who are not personally involving themselves in the situation. I asked her if she was scared, and she said no, and that she was rather grateful, explaining that over time she’s learned to cope with fear, and to accept it as reality. Being scared isn’t anything special, she told me, and especially being someone from Hong Kong, it does not make you different. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that such opposing feelings and emotions are able to coexist, but amid the uncertainty and chaos, our conversation also brought forward curiosity, joy and the most refreshing breath of dry humour.

Playground facilities fences off due to Coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong.

The subject of closeness and community was at the forefront of our talk. Currently feeling most connected to Hong Kong geographically and through her values, she’s gaining a new perspective of what it means to be part of a community since moving back. With full faith in the people of Hong Kong, she said that she trusts that they know what to believe in and how to act (as they have been living through various crises over the last 10+ years), and that people need to learn from their own experiences. For instance, she explained that people in Hong Kong are selective on who they’re willing to meet, as going out in public not only puts themselves at risk, but places those they meet in danger as well. There’s a romance, she said, smirking, in deciding who you are willing to die with or die for. 

Acknowledging the difference between the practicalities of where you are currently based versus what it means to contribute to and be a part of a community, Lam is well aware of the labour and sacrifices necessary in order to shape and preserve the culture in Hong Kong, recognising the reality that labour does not necessarily ensure the desired outcome. Her practice has been greatly influenced by each time she has moved or been (dis)placed, with these experiences permeating through her work and headspace over the years. Florence explained that she would be honoured to be considered as a Hong Kong artist one day, as she’s witnessed first-hand the time, work, responsibility and politics associated with being considered an artist there as she slowly navigates through and immerses herself into the society once again. Performance art, she said translates to “action art” in Cantonese, carrying a more negative connotation of “silly” or symbolic actions that could bring forward some socio-political issues, but the gestures inevitably fail to change the reality. Performance art is also often placed under the same umbrella as theatre and dance in Hong Kong which can become complicated, but this has fostered a more underground community of contemporary performance artists that is slowly gaining momentum.

                       

Lift, Stairs and Ribbon (2017), performed at Gerðarsafn Kópavogur Art Museum, Iceland.

Often working site-specifically, Lam has an ongoing interest in how architecture and space influence her actions. The current health and safety practices of self-quarantining and social distancing have prompted her to consider how time veritably shapes more than space does. In considering this notion, I come to think about Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ beloved Untitled (Perfect Lovers) (1991), wherein two identical and synced clocks are hung side-by-side, ticking in unison. In the accompanying drawing and text, he boldly writes that time has been so generous to us, and that we are a product of time, therefore we give back credit where it is due [1]. These words ring particularly resonant these days, as time is currently at an abundance for many while at a deficit for some, thus carrying a much different weight than it used to.

We spoke about the limits of care within the arts, and how the landscape of this notion is steadily changing. The need to feel we have helped often gets in the way [2], but perhaps physical presence and action is no longer at the forefront of necessity. It’s imperative to bring awareness to, and make space for (re)considering what forms of support that are actually needed as a means of care. It’s interesting to witness Florence reevaluate what it means to be a performance artist, as this then became a question of if art transcends proximity (and if so, how?). Working collaboratively has also proven to be an interesting and welcomed challenge for her practice as she reconsiders how to confront questions of technology, accessibility, and documentation. It’s curious to think about how to be careful and considerate within an arts context especially when the resilience of a community is often driven by culture itself. 

In All About Love, author bell hooks shares her thoughts on community so poignantly, stating that our willingness to make sacrifices reflects our awareness for interdependency [3]. This encapsulates what I believe it means to be part of a community in its entirety – to live with, think about and to consider those around us, understanding that our actions have consequences. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that while a community can be fostered by mere proximity, to truly be part of a community is to be connected by our morals, ethos, and the choices we make. We also spoke about how the performance art community at a large has been a major influence in her practice. Having participated in various international performance art festivals and workshops over the years, as well as working as a performer for Marina Abramović during her retrospective in Bonn in 2018, Florence is tangled into the fabric of this small yet tight-knit global community. Connected more through a synergy in headspace rather than geography, she explained that these short, intense meetings offer her a fluidity in discourse, which has proved imperative to shaping her practice. These workshops which often included improvisation exercises have taught her to observe, be instinctual, and to be more cautious of her impact. As her background and education have shaped her practice much differently than the majority of young artists in Hong Kong, it’s curious to think of how her work will translate in this new environment, and how it will shift and be shaped as she combines her past with her present.

Florence’s colleagues taking a break outside of Alte Oper Frankfurt when she worked as a facilitator for “A Different Way of Hearing: The Abramović Method for Music”, March 2019.

Since moving back to Hong Kong, she’s been finding refuge in nature and the unique landscapes much like she used to in Iceland. She continues to be drawn to nature for its ability to offer her a sense of freedom and independence. Lam explained that independence is a big conversation in Hong Kong, as locals aspire to create and foster a richer agricultural autonomy to be less dependent on China or the rest of the world in order to support their own people. This has led to a growth in the farming and agriculture industry from many out of work arts and culture workers as a means of highlighting and appreciating their own resources and locality. The traditional Canton-style food from her childhood that she is now revisiting is often tailored to accommodate the season, the weather and your health. With more time to prepare and savour home cooked meals, food is offering her an emotional connection to other locals. She’s also been practicing and learning about Chinese medicine, and taking them between her meals. More preventative than traditionally medicinal, this new ritual enables her to sit deeper into her current cultural environment. As we moved through this tangent about what she’s currently growing, cooking and eating, Florence unknowingly redefined what it means to be together. 

Florence’s hand with gloves at the farm that she’s helping out at right now.

We can easily lose sight of the act of looking, as the average experience of being in the world is not one of mindful awareness. Florence’s work challenges this notion in a weird, bold and genuine way by sharing what and how she sees, while leaving enough space for us to choose to navigate through, and decipher her headspace ourselves. I think it takes a lot of courage to know how and when to let go, and Florence is generous in her willingness to share in order for us to experience the wonders that she imagines and conceives in her practice. This prompts me to look more at the ways in which we can collectively choose to see our world. Nearly magical in her ability to ignite wonder out of the everyday, she’s also critical and carefully considers the act of looking in and of itself, reminding me that rainbows will always be there for as long as we’re looking to see them.

Juliane Foronda

 

[1] ‘Felix Gonzalez-Torres. “Untitled” (Perfect Lovers). 1991 | MoMA’, The Museum of Modern Art, https://www.moma.org/collection/works/81074?artist_id=2233&locale=en&page=1&sov_referrer=artist.

[2] Siân Robinson Davies, The Massage Teacher in Naked and Practical (tenletters, 2018). p.55.

[3] bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions, First Perennial edition (New York: Harper Perennial, 2001). p. 143.

 

Cover picture:  Concept photo for “Étude” shot in Cattle Depot Artist Village, Hong Kong.

Florence Lam (b.1992, Vancouver, CA) grew up in Hong Kong and is currently based between Hong Kong and Düsseldorf, DE. Lam works with wonder and magical thinking to fuse together current moral issues with child-like world views through performance art, poetry, video and sound. Florence obtained her MA Fine Art from Iceland Academy of the Arts in 2017 and her BA Fine Art from Central Saint Martins in 2014.

Lam has performed around Europe and Asia, including 1a space (Hong Kong 2020); Nanhai Gallery (Taipei, Taiwan 2019); Chiba Prefectural Museum of Art (Japan 2019), MACRO Testattio Mattatoio Art Museum (Rome, Italy 2018), Kling & Bang (Reykjavík, Iceland 2018) and Manifesta 11 (Zürich, Switzerland 2016). She has also participated in various art festivals including A! Performance Festival (Akureyri, Iceland 2019), YUP Festival (Osnabrück, Germany 2019), ZABIH Performance Festival (Lviv, Ukraine 2019), Reykjavík Arts Festival (Reykjavík, Iceland 2019), Performance Platform Lublin (Lublin, Poland 2017), Sequences Art Festival (Reykjavík, Iceland 2017) and Performance Art Bergen Open (Bergen, Norway, 2017), among others.

http://www.florencelamsoyue.com/

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