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/

Handsaumaður fílabúningur fær uppreisn æru

Handsaumaður fílabúningur fær uppreisn æru

Handsaumaður fílabúningur fær uppreisn æru

Í Wind and Weather Window Gallery við Hverfisgötu í Reykjavík er þessa dagana sýning Unu Margrétar Árnadóttir sem nefnist Janúar/January. Undirritaður heyrði í Unu á dögunum og forvitnaðist um sýninguna og hana sjálfa sem listamann. Una segir að það hafi tekið hana svolítinn tíma að fatta að hún vildi verða myndlistarmaður. Hún segist ekki hafa verið dugleg að teikna þegar hún var yngri né hafi hún teiknað „fallega” eins og hún orðar það, en hins vegar hafi hún alltaf verið með mjög frjótt ímyndunarafl. „Einum of mikið eiginlega því að ég er t.d ógeðslega myrkfælin og sef ennþá með kveikt ljós ef ég er ein“ og bætir við að hún hafi þá næstum öll ljós í íbúðinni kveikt. „Mér hefur alltaf þótt gaman að skrifa og skrifaði mikið ljóð þegar ég var yngri. Ég og vinkonur mínar vorum líka svolítið að brasa við kvikmyndagerð. Það var boðið upp á námskeið í grunnskólanum mínum og í kjölfarið unnum við fjölmargar kvikmyndir um morðóðan glimmerhanska. Það kom meira að segja viðtal við okkur hjá Völu Matt í Á bakvið tjöldin“ segir Una og hlær.

Hún segist hafa ákveðið að halda beint út fyrir landsteinana eftir fornámið hér heima á Íslandi. Hún lærði í Svíþjóð og segir að fókusinn hennar á þeim tíma hafi verið á ljósmyndun sem miðil þannig að úr varð að hún tók Bachelor námið sitt í „Högskolan för fotografi“ í Gautaborg þar sem aðallega var einblínt á ljósmyndun í listrænu samhengi, en þess ber að geta að skóli þessi hefur nú sameinast Valand listaháskólanum. „Síðan tók ég meisaranámið mitt í Listaháskólanum í Malmö, en ég kunni mun betur við mig í Malmö og skólinn þar hentaði mér miklu betur. Ég upplifði miklu meira frelsi þar í eigin sköpun og þar var minni áhersla á einhverskonar tækni og hugmyndirnar einskorðuðust ekki við einhvern einn miðil.“ segir Una.

Að sögn Unu fær hún innblástur alls staðar að og í gegnum öll skilningarvitin allan liðlangan daginn. Hún segist fá innblástur úr öllu, sem geti verið ansi lýjandi og bætir hún við að það væri gott að geta stundum slökkt á innblæstrinum því hausinn fyllist reglulega og stíflist. „Það væri til dæmis gott að geta skellt sér í zumba tíma og upplifa zumba bara sem zumba tíma en ekki sem innblástur fyrir hin og þessi verk. Ætli ég fái ekki innblásturinn úr því að vera til og lifa, að vera lifandi fyrirbæri í þessum ótútskýranlega alheimi með allskonar lifandi og dautt í kringum mig.“ segir Una.

Sýning Unu í Wind and Weather Window Gallery ber titilinn Janúar og segir Una að fólk hafi eflaust lesið eitthvað í sýninguna út frá titlinum. Hún segir að nú sé kominn febrúar og sýningin sé enn föst í janúar sem sé hálf dapurlegt, en líka fyndið. Um er að ræða þrjá glugga sem mynda sýningarýmið, í minni gluggunum tveimur eru tvö stór prent eða límmiðar, annars vegar andlitið á Unu og hins vegar broskall. Una segist vera mjög hrifin af brosköllum, táknum og gif-um og segist nota það óspart í samskiptum við aðra og við að tjá sig á samfélagsmiðlum sem dæmi. „Margir eru viðkvæmir fyrir notkun á brosköllum og nota þá alls ekki eða ofhugsa það. Broskallinn sérstaklega er andlit sem flestir þekkja vel. Ef ég horfi lengi á hann og hugsa um hann í samhengi við alheiminn fer hann að verða svolítið yfirþyrmandi og óþægilegur.

Svo er það fíllinn, elsku kallinn, sem er í stærri glugganum. Hann á sér merkilega sögu, en hann lá úti heilan vetur í Höggmyndagarðinum í Myndhöggvarafélagi Reykjavíkur sem hluti af sýningunni „Ég hef fengið nóg”. Nú fær hann smá uppreisn æru í glugganum hjá Kathy. Hann er dálítið reffilegur með sig en sultuslakur þarna í stólnum. Útlegan hefur greinilega ekki gengið alveg fram af honum. En já fíllinn er í grunninn fílabúningur sem að ég handsaumaði, því ég hvorki á né kann á saumavél. Sem að var eftir á að hyggja miklu betra því það gefur honum meiri karakter. Ég tek það fram að ég hef enga reynslu af af saumamennsku. Ég saumaði hann eftir tilfinningu og notaði ekki snið. Og það er ómögulegt fyrir nokkurn mann að klæðast honum. En það er eitthvað einkennilegt við tóman fílabúninginn. Hann er bæði fíll og manneskja þrátt fyrir að vera hvorugt. Hugmyndin um fílabúning og að fílabúningar séu til yfir höfuð gefur okkur ýmsar hugmyndir um manninn og eðli hans. Og manninn í samhengi við náttúruna og tilveruna. Ætli maðurinn sé ekki frekar ringlaður? Eða kannski er ég bara ringluð.“ segir Una.

Að sögn Unu er það mjög gefandi að vera sífellt að ögra sjálfum sér og huganum. Það gefi manni líka ástæðu eða tilgang almennt samkvæmt henni. Það sem er mest gefandi að mati Unu er þegar hún finnur að fólk tengir við verkin sín, og að verkin opni fyrir eitthvað hjá fólki eða kveiki í einhverju, alveg sama hvað það er. „Kannski bara að þau kitli fólk á einhvern hátt. Ekki að þau skilji nákvæmlega hvaðan kitlið komi, bara að þau hreyfi við þeim á einhvern hátt, vekji eitthvað nýtt í þeim, það dugir mér. Ég þekki tilfinninguna sjálf, þegar ég sé verk sem ég fell fyrir. Það er svo góð tilfinning og gefur manni svo mikið. Það getur stundum liðið langur tími á milli þess sem maður sér verk sem maður fílar virkilega vel. Svo fílar maður nokkur verk mátulega vel inn á milli og enn fleiri alls ekki. En þetta er mjög skrýtinn heimur til að vinna í, ég upplifi þetta oft eins og að ég sé svífandi í þyngdarleysi í geimnum með ekkert haldreipi. Sem er mjög áhugaverð og spennandi tilfinning. En líka mjög hrikaleg.“ bætir Una við.

Una segir að hausinn á sér sé dálítið eins og þvottavél þegar sýning nálgast. Hún segir að öllu úir og grúir saman og svo fari smám saman að síast úr og verkin að taka á sig mynd. „Eins og ég talaði um hérna áðan að þá er ég stanslaust að og alltaf með fjölmargar hugmyndir að veltast um í mér. Allt í einu detta mér sáðfrumur í hug í þessu samhengi, svo sameinast þær hugmynd í formi eggs og úr verður eitthvað.“ Una verður vandræðaleg eftir þessa myndlíkingu og hlær, segir hana hræðilega og hryllir við tilhugsunina um hversu slæm hún sé. „En já fyrir sýningar tek ég svo gjarnan margar andvökunætur, en mér þykir langbest að vinna á nóttunni, það er einhver önnur orka í því.“ segir Una.

Samkvæmt Unu bauð Kathy Clark henni að sýna hjá sér, en Kathy stendur á bakvið rýmið Wind and Weather Window Gallery. Una segist vera henni þakklát fyrir það og segir það vera mjög ánægjulegt að hafa fengið tækifæri til að sýna í glugganum hjá henni. „Þetta er ótrúlega flott framtak og mig minnir að Kathy hafi sagt að hún hafi verið með sýningarýmið í heil sex ár núna. Það er heilmikil vinna að standa á bakvið svona rými og aðdáunarvert. Hún er sjálf myndlistarmaður og þetta er auðvitað bara í sjálfboðavinnu, ekki borguð vinna. Fólk áttar sig oft ekki á því, það þarf mikinn metnað og ástríðu fyrir myndlist til þess að nenna að standa í þessu. Og að sjálfsögðu þolinmæði.“ segir Una.

Una segir að íslenska myndlistarsenan sé frekar lifandi og að margir séu að gera góða hluti. Alltaf séu nokkur listamannarekin rými í gangi, hvert með sína sérstöðu sem er gott upp á fjölbreytileikann að hennar mati. Að sögn Unu hefur Gerðarsafn hefur verið að gera góða hluti undanfarin ár en almennt finnst henni að söfnin mættu vera örlítið djarfari í sýningarvali. „Þetta á til að detta svolítið mikið í sama fólkið aftur og aftur, veit ekki alveg af hverju það er. Auðvitað ekki mikill peningur í boði svo að það er ef til vill hræðsla við að taka áhættur og kannski skiljanlega. Sequences líka mikilvæg hátíð upp fjölbreytileikann, því mjög margir sjá sýningarnar á þeirri hátíð og margir erlendir listamenn koma og taka þátt. Íslenska senan á það til að festast svolítið í sinni eigin búbblu.“ segir Una.

Í kjölfarið ræðum við um húmor og mikilvægi hans í list. Una segir að það sé alltaf einhverskonar húmor viðloðandi verkin sín. Persónulega þykir henni húmor mjög mikilvægt og merkilegt verkfæri í samhengi við myndlist sem gefi verkum oft hjartslátt og virkar sem einhverskonar tól til að tengja við áhorfendur. Hún segir að húmor geti verið margslunginn og birst á mismunandi hátt og geti t.d verið mjög tragískur. „En hann getur verið vandmeðfarinn, sem gerir hann áhugaverðan. Ég fjallaði akkurat svolítið um þetta í lokaritgerðinni minni í skólanum. Margir eru hræddir við húmor, þora ekki að taka eitthvað alvarlega ef að það er fyndið. Sem betur fer er það almennt ekki viðhorfið hér heima. Best er þegar hann dansar á línunni og þú getur ekki alveg sett fingur á hann.“ segir Una.

Talið berst að uppáhaldsverki sem hún hafi skapað og segir Una ansi erfitt að gera upp á milli. Hún segir þó að það séu nokkur sem standi upp úr, eins og rabarbara ljósmynda sería hennar „Endurtekin tilraun til þess að nálgast rabarbara” og einnig „I Hate Goodbyes” eða „Mér leiðast kveðjur” sem var tekið upp í yfirgefnum skemmtigarði í Berlín. „Þar sést ég syrgja fallna plast risaeðlu. Við þurftum að brjótast inn til að taka upp verkið eldsnemma um morgun, því það var bannað. Í miðjum klíðum mætti síðan brjálaður þýskur maður, einhverskonar vörður, í skítugum wifebeater bol með brjálaðan geltandi hund. Hann skipaði okkur að eyðileggja upptökuna en sem betur fer voru tvö minni á myndavélinni og manninum mínum tókst að fela það fyrir honum. Vá ég var að kúka á mig úr hræðslu við þennan hund. Eitthvað svona vesen fylgir gjarnan verkunum mínum, því ég á það til að flækja málin fyrir sjálfri mér.“ segir Una að lokum.

Aron Ingi Guðmundsson

Pavilion Nordico: a bridge between the Nordic countries and Argentina

Pavilion Nordico: a bridge between the Nordic countries and Argentina

Pavilion Nordico: a bridge between the Nordic countries and Argentina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graphics for the International Women’s Day by Kiosk Studio.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Cover picture: From left to right: Sarah Rosengarten, Annie Åkerman, Hrefna Leif Hörnsdóttir, Keti Ortoidze, Javier Augustin Rojas, Jali Wahlsten,  Emil Willumsen, Sara Løve Daðadóttir and Josefin Askfelt. Photo Magdalenda Diehl.

Pavilion Nordico: https://pavilionnordico.org

Kiosk Studio: https://www.kioskstudio.nu

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