England

England

England

Guðný Guðmundsdóttir myndlistarkona hélt nýverið einkasýninguna ´England´ í ofurfallegum sýningarskála hins rúmlega aldargamla Overbeck listafélags í Hansaborginni Lübeck í Þýskalandi. Stofnað var til Overbeck félagsins undir lok fyrstu heimstyrjaldar vegna frumkvæði menningarsinnaðra íbúa borgarinnar en þeir trúðu á mikilvægi lista sem tæki lærdóms og lýðræðisvakningar. Frá upphafi hefur félagið staðið fyrir sýningum á samtímalist lifandi listamanna. Listafélög eins og Overbeck standa á gömlum merg í Þýskalandi og eru einstakt fyrirbæri í Evrópu. Þau eru í raun 18. aldar svar þýska menningarheimsins við hinni frönsku salon hefð þar sem lokaðir hópar hittast og ræða listir. Þessir hópar listunnenda úr efri stéttum samfélagsins þróuðust svo í það sem í dag heitir kunstverein eða listafélag. Í Þýskalandi má finna 300 slík félög og eru þau oftar en ekki miðpunktur umræðu samfélags á hverjum stað um samtímalist og það er í þessum félögum sem um 150.000 íbúar Þýskalands taka beinan þátt í samtímalistinni með sýningarhaldi, listsköpun og umræðu. Það er ekki lítil hefð að stíga inn í.

Guðný er búin að vera að vinna að sýningunni í eitt og hálft ár með hléum. Hún átti að opna í júní 2021 en var frestað fram í apríl 2022 vegna covid. Loksins þegar hún gerðist þá kom í ljós ákaflega vel unnin sýning. Hún hefur enda fengið verðskuldaða athygli bæði á landsvísu í Þýskalandi með listgagnrýni í Die Dagezeitung (taz) dagblaðinu en einnig hefur sýningin vakið athygli fjölmiðla í Lübeck. ‘Þetta kom þannig til að Oliver Zybock hefur verið að fylgjast með mér í nokkur ár. Hann er forstöðumaður sýningarskálans og listrænn stjórnandi. Félagið er þekkt fyrir framsækna dagskrá og sérstaklega eftir að Oliver tók við,’ útskýrir Guðný.

‘Svokölluð Kunstverein eru til í mörgum borgum í Þýskalandi en þau eru misjöfn og Overbeck er álitið eitt af þeim þekktari. Það er gaman að vera boðið að sýna þarna því salurinn er svona draumasalur listamannsins. Það er gríðarlegt veggjapláss og hann er svona sérkennilega lagaður, svona U lagaður og maður finnur svo vel fyrir því að hann er sérstaklega byggður fyrir myndlist. Birtan kemur úr þakgluggum. Það var þegar Oliver kom á sýninguna sem ég hélt í Gallery Gudmundsdottir í Berlín árið 2020 sem hann tekur lokaákvörðun að bjóða mér sýningu. Hann vissi af mínum verkum eflaust vegna sýningarinnar í Poolhaus í Hamborg fyrir fimm árum. Það var sýning sem olli ákveðnum straumhvörfum í ferlinum. Þetta er svona bolti sem vindur upp á sig. Oliver gaf mér algert frelsi. Hann vinnur þannig að listamanninum er algerlega í sjálfsvald sett hvað hann sýnir og hvernig hann setur það upp. Honum er sýnt traust.’

Þegar Guðný er spurð um hvað sýningin fjallar um heldur hún áfram: ‘Þegar þarna var komið við sögu leituðu á hugann hugsanir um andagiftina og hvaðan hún kæmi. Hvort hægt væri að staðsetja kjarna andagiftarinnar á einhverjum stað. Og þá horfði ég yfir ferillinn sem spannar aldarfjórðung og tók eftir því að hvað eftir annað koma upp hugmyndir sem varða England. Það er einmitt titill sýningarinnar. Ég tók eftir því að síendurtekið er ég að fjalla í og með um einhvers konar ensk fyrirbæri hvort sem það er úr enskri menningu eða enskt landslag. Þó er varla hægt að segja að ég hafi nokkurn tíma komið til Englands fyrir utan tvær stuttar heimsóknir til London. London er nú varla England.

Ég veit ekki hvaðan þetta kemur. Ég hef eiginlega engan áhuga á Englandi. Þannig gerist það samt að ég fer að bregða upp mynd af þessum stað sem uppsprettu andagiftarinnar og ég bara ákveð að það væri gefið að England væri staðurinn þaðan sem andagiftin kæmi. Síðan fer sýningin að hverfast um að þetta svæði sé einhvers konar ríki og svo fer þetta að snúast um varnarstöðu ríkis og ásælni, átök um yfirráð og hættu sem gæti hugsanlega staðið að þessu svæði og það kemur til dæmis inn í myndbandið í sýningunni af flugunni – hún er tákn fyrir einhvers konar höfðingja og stærðarhlutföll um hver er óvinur hvers. Ég komst að því að stærstu óvinir flugna eru fuglarnir sem okkur finnst litlir og sætir.

Svona fer þetta svona koll af kolli. Við erum með litla flugu sem í sínum veruleika er ekkert lítil. Hún er bara eins og hún er. Svo erum við með fugla sem eru litlir líka en á hennar mælukvarða eru risastórir. Í raun og veru endar þetta í manngerðum orrustuflugvélum sem á ljósmynd líta út eins og leikföng. Verkið fjallar mikið um kristöllun. Byrjar í stóra og ferð í það minnsta og byrjar í því minnsta og ferð upp í það stóra. Þannig byggðist upp heimur bara eins og við upplifum heiminn í kringum okkur. Spurningar vakna eins og hver er vinur? Hver er óvinurinn? Af hverju stafar hætta? Hver er sterkari? Hver er veikari? Hvað er styrkur? Hvað er veikleiki? Þegar maður fer að tala um England sem þetta svæði þá er það auðvitað ekki til. Þetta er bara ímyndun.

England er í raun og veru staðgengill. Sýningin er í raun og veru uppkast að stað sem er ekki til.’

Hulda Rós Guðnadóttir


Ljósmyndir: Hulda Rós Guðnadóttir

Breaking Inconsistencies: An Interview With R.E.C. Arts Reykjavík

Breaking Inconsistencies: An Interview With R.E.C. Arts Reykjavík

Breaking Inconsistencies: An Interview With R.E.C. Arts Reykjavík

Everyone knows that Iceland is one of the best places in the world to be a woman, or to be queer, or even to be a creative. If you didn’t know, now you do: according to X, Y, and Z studies. So, goals accomplished, right? Well…no. When you begin to really look at, and challenge the acceptance of these rankings, cracks begin to form, and we are reminded once again that the romantic vision of a “utopia” remains in our imaginations.

For example, despite Reykjavík capturing the number 1 ranking for the most accepting city for LGBTQ+ identifying folks, laws and regulations protecting these very same people drops down to a ranking of number 11, a recent increase from its number 14 spot.

The harm in numbers like these first studies is that they create a false sense of competency, which prevents actionable steps toward continued progression. Social acceptance only goes so far, but its widespread presence is a testament that further legitimizes the need for legal backing.

The Nordic Gender-Equality Paradox introduces this idea within the realities of gender equality in the consistently top-ranking Nordic countries. Iceland included. It argues that even with immense welfare support, and progressive social attitudes, women continue to be left out of the highest positions of power. Gender norms likely play a role in this discrepancy, with studies showing men are socialized to be confident and ambitious, whereas women are socialized to be self-doubting and overly modest. And normative systems are so tied to the gender binary that anyone outside of these two gender identities is hardly ever considered, even in studies like these.

Applying the arguments of the Nordic Gender-Equality Paradox to the arts in Iceland reveals that the statistics are slowly improving, with more and more director positions in the arts being filled by women in Iceland. In 2010, three of the major public arts institutions in Iceland were directed by women. Those institutions were the National Theatre, the Reykjavík Arts Festival, and the Icelandic Dance Company. Today in 2022, only one institution, the National Theatre, is directed by a man. The Reykjavík
Art Museum, Reykjavík City Theatre, National Gallery, Reykjavík Arts Festival, Iceland Symphony Orchestra: (Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, and Managing Director), and the Iceland Dance Company are all led by a woman.

Despite this proportion having grown significantly during this time period, many of these women are the first female director appointed to lead their institutions. If not the first, they are only one out of a small handful. This is just the beginning of varied and accurate representation in the arts.

While the paradox is introduced through gender, this mentality is arguably continued amongst other dynamics here in Iceland, and issues of POC, individuals with disabilities, immigrants and refugees, and the aforementioned LGBTQ+ causes should be treated with a similar attitude that things could always be improved. As these shifts in art leadership have proven, structural change is attainable. The art scene can and should more accurately reflect Icelandic society by hiring more representative teams behind-the-scenes, realizing and funding projects by a diverse range of artists, holding these artworks in significant proportions within their collections, and ensuring that arts education is supportive and accessible for all.

The first step to breaking these inconsistencies is to acknowledge the problem in the first place. Every individual identifies with many different identities, whether it’s race and ethnicity, sexuality, gender, class, or even profession and hobbies and it is through this acknowledgment of diversity and intersectionality that allows you to stop viewing others as one-dimensional. This is exactly what Rebecca Hidalgo, Eva Björk, and Chaiwe Sól did when conceiving R.E.C. Arts Reykjavík, a collective of workshops that seeks to promote diversity in the arts, especially in their own field of performing arts. Don’t be mistaken, R.E.C. Arts Reykjavík often acknowledges the privileges of living and working in Iceland and gives credit where it’s due. But they noticed that these advantages often left out experiences similar to their own, and of their wide-ranging community in Reykjavík. In this interview with Amanda Poorvu, R.E.C Arts Reykjavík gives insight into the origins of the project, their mission, and where they are headed next.

R.E.C Arts Reykjavík is a creative team & collective founded in late 2021 by Rebecca HidalgoEva Björk and Chaiwe Sól. Their mission is to bring diversity, visibility, and representation of marginalized groups living in Iceland to mainstream theatre, dance, music, and art scenes. They aim to build and provide a platform to uplift minority voices; host workshops for those 18+ who identify as being from a minority background; and encourage empathy and change through education, discussion, art, and storytelling. They are on facebook and instagram at @recartsrvk and you can email them at recartsrvk@gmail.com for consulting, collaborating and creating work, or sharing the work of artists from minority backgrounds living in Iceland.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Amanda Poorvu: Hi Chaiwe, Eva, and Rebecca, Congratulations on the launch and success of R.E.C (pronounced: REC) Arts Reykjavík! Let’s start from the beginning? How did this project come about?

Rebecca Hidalgo: Well, we started writing a super political musical. We applied to direct it and make it at a high school here, and we got turned down. We also realized it was probably for the best because our musical was very political: about minorities, about diversity…and the school was very not diverse–

Eva Björk: It was one of the most privileged schools.

RH: –and they happen to have a lot of funding for the arts program. But we saw the importance of still doing it. We said, “okay there are minority artists in Iceland to do this, but there are so many that are not being built up, that do not have a platform, so we need to start from scratch.” Rather than writing the musical and hiring professionals to be in it, we want to hire both professionals and amateurs. We need to train these people; we need to find these people. How do we find these people?

Chaiwe Sól: Also, just the lack the diverse representation is what got to us. We found a mutual ground within ourselves living here in Iceland, and our experiences. And we were just like, “People need to hear us, people need to hear what we’re experiencing.”

EB: I also think the arts are missing everything that is not–how do you say it?

RH: Mainstream

EB: Yeah, mainstream. In my family, there are people with disabilities and they are kind of tossed aside. There is so much that we could do.

RH: That’s one of our main goals and missions because like I said, all three of us come from very different backgrounds, we all live in Iceland, two of us have lived in Iceland for a majority of their lives, and–

CS: One of us is adopted black Icelandic, working in education and theater.

RH: Queer foreign Latina.

EB: [I’m working] in a man’s world.

RH: All of the above.

EB: (points to herself and Chaiwe) single moms.

RH: –we are all very different people living in Iceland. That’s still rarely seen, at least in mainstream media. There are a lot of great works happening but those works are not being built up or funded as they should be.

CS: We were like, “What are we going to do about it?” so we got together and conducted this group. Instead of telling our stories, we wanted to have people tell their stories themselves. That led us to R.E.C Arts and the workshops.

Your mission statement states that you aim to bring “diversity, visibility, access and representation” to marginalized groups. In the workshops, we often talk about the importance of these terms. What do these words mean to you? And how do they differ from each other?

EB: I would say that diversity doesn’t come in one form, so if you are going to [seek diversity], you have to look into all minorities. There is not one persona in each minority group.

CS: All the art stuff in Iceland that is available, theater, dance classes, etc. cost money. And certain minorities don’t have access to that kind of money, which means they don’t have access to that. We wanted to be able to find a way to open up that portal for people.

RH: In terms of access, there are a few different ways that comes across. You have access purely in the physical, in the world of disabilities, access in having a sign language interpreter, and having wheelchair access, having seating for wheelchairs that are not behind a column or something like that. I do think Icelanders do a good job in that sense. Obviously, it could always be better.

There is access in nepotism. As Chaiwe was saying, there are not a lot of people of minority backgrounds out there with representation. They don’t have a family member in the industry but have always wanted to be on stage. But then they see that there are a lot of walls put up, so they feel like they don’t have access to the scene, and they get discouraged and don’t go into it. Which then feeds into the lack of representation. in terms of visibility, it’s pretty simple. Being seen. Having a minority on stage or on tv.

AP: But not only in the background.

RH: Exactly, not as a way to tick a box. That also comes with proper representation.

CS: The right representation has to be presented. Like how single moms in theater or movies are always portrayed as smoking, drinking, and completely falling apart. Why can’t we just represent single moms as someone who’s hardworking? She’s running a law firm and she’s doing her thing. That does exist It’s really sad when we have to fictionalize the minority to make it work for society. We are helping feed this society. As artists, we have to take responsibility for the stories that we’re telling because by telling that story, whether it’s to a little kid or to a grown-up, that person walks away thinking that is the truth. This is the truth that they stand by and the truth that they start to live by. If we don’t change that truth to make it match the actual truth, we have a problem.

EB: If you are a minority, and you want to go to a class–a dance class or whatever is going on–it’s also hard [to show up] if you are different. People don’t always respect what is different, which is so sad because we can learn so much from each other. We don’t learn when we are always the same.

RH: There has to be a balance of stories. There are deep ones, but that can’t be all we tell [in order] to have diverse representation.

CS: …the hairdresser, ghetto, Black girl; the single moms; the cliché characters…

RH: The cis, white, gay, best friend who is only interested in fashion, and doesn’t actually have a storyline other than saying sassy lines, and being the sidekick. Queer characters are way more deep than that. Also, picking the correct people to play these characters. It’s simply having an actual trans person play a trans character. Beyond that, the people behind-the-scenes matter with representation. That is the difference between visibility and representation. You can have a person of color on stage, but if they are the only person of color, and the director, choreographer, makeup team, producer, and everybody else is white, then it is whitewashed. I know from my experience, being one of the only minorities in a production, I did feel at one point like the annoying person. [Either] always calling things out or being like, “Ugh this is not my place, I don’t have the energy for that today.”

CS: The minority is tired of always speaking up, and what is happening is that the majority is just not aware of what’s really happening, and how it affects the other person. For us, that is where we can see our niche. We want to bring awareness.

While your workshops have individual themes, R.E.C. Arts Reykjavík is open to all definitions of minorities, including POC, LGBTQIA+, Disabled, Refugee and Immigrant folks, etc. because all of these identities are interconnected on an intersectional level. How does this shape the kinds of discussions you are having?

RH: I think it comes with openness.

CS: It’s quite beautiful to see the stories actually evolving. We have a storytelling game where you have a ball, and then you say a word, and somebody else says another word or shares something that connects to it. It’s amazing to see that we have created a space where people allow themselves to be so vulnerable and genuine and dig so deep. If one person sees [another] person doing that, it’s almost like a snowball

RH: A lot of it comes from the three of us being very open from the beginning. I think at the beginning of our online workshops, we were being very open about who we are, and where we come from. Then that allows people to come in. I think one of the most beautiful things we’ve seen during our storytelling exercises is people finding common ground with each other.

CS: We always said that we wanted to create a family. When people walk in, we want them to feel like, “I’m going to see these people, and they are my family. They are going to accept me for who I am. For these three hours, we are going to be having a good time.” Somehow, we have managed to create that for people.

Iceland has a small, tight-knit population and is often considered a progressive “utopia” in regard to many social justice issues, especially when it comes to gender and sexuality. Yet this has created a contradiction, called the Nordic Gender-Equality Paradox, which can lead to a lack of policy or legislation when it seems like there is no problem to begin with. You don’t challenge things when you think they are successful. How has this shown up in the arts here? What structures would you like to see put in place to strive toward equality?

RH: Our mission when we call out institutions is to do it in an educational way. Not saying, “Here’s why you’re bad.” but adding, “…and here’s how you can do better.”

EB: The best way to get respect is to respect others, so we do respect everyone. It’s human nature. We’re not saying anybody is mean, but once we have educated you and you still don’t want to turn the page, that’s when we can say, “Oh, okay, so you just don’t want change.”

CS: Everybody deserves a chance.

RH: I’ve heard people say, “I don’t think I’m qualified to come to these workshops, but can I?” and they happen to be a cis, white, woman or a cis, straight, woman. I’m like, “We don’t advertise it, but by being a woman, you are still considered a minority.” So, come and learn from others, and know your privilege, but also know that you can still complain. You have every right to complain. I think in Iceland, they’ve been taught that “People have it worse in other places.”

EB: I even think white, cis men who are queer, or people who have minority family members [can come]. Everybody that has this mindset is welcome, as long as you’re not in that mood thinking you’re better than others.

RH: I think being a minority is also more of a political and systematic thing. Being a cis, white, straight male, in our eyes is the ultimate privilege. Of course, you can be a minority in a certain situation but in society, you are never one. You can walk on the streets safely by the way that you look. If you dress differently, that’s a whole other thing but if you dress how society says is okay for a straight white male, you’re safe. A lot of privilege is about safety. How you look is the first thing people see.

EB: It also does matter when people are in different work fields. I’m a carpenter, [working] in a male field for 12 years and I very much feel like I have to work much, much harder to be allowed to hold a machine or something. It’s like when you walk into a wall over and over again. And then you either stop trying, or you try to create a new way. I would say this is a new way we are trying to create.

RH: We always talk about the big theaters and the big media institutions. They are slowly changing, and things are being pushed, but it’s like they don’t see a need or reason to change things that have worked for 50-whatever years. They’re ignoring the things that do need to be changed.

CS: They don’t want to put in the effort. There is an effort that goes into change

EB: It’s like, what if airplane engineers were like “Let’s just do it the old way.”

RH: I think an actual, productive way to change the structure in the arts and theater, in my opinion–we’ve discussed this as a group -is to have a quota. To have some sort of quota like, “We have to specifically hire artists of color, queer artists, artists of minority backgrounds” to create work for these institutions. Not just a one-off, you have to have a certain amount every season. And not just one director, but a team of diverse people.

There’s a theater company up in Akureyri and it’s doing the show Hair, which takes place in the US in the 1960s, and a lot of the show has to deal with racial relations between African Americans and white Americans. [One of the] roles that they cast is meant for a woman of color and is being played by a white woman. You know, we want the Icelandic theater community to see this is not okay.

There are enough people of color here to be cast in these roles. We’ve also heard in our workshops that as an actor, sometimes you feel like you don’t have the authority to speak up because it’s a job. So even though there is one actor of color in the show, whether or not he agrees with a white girl playing a role written for a black woman, it’s still not his responsibility to speak up. Doing a show about a character of color and writing their roles out, that’s called erasure. That’s also not okay. Out of a thousand musical theater shows you could do… I would rather see a less trained person of color play the role than a trained white actor pretending to be that character.

CS: That just boils down to doing the right representation. If it’s a black woman’s story it has to be a black person playing it, a trans person’s story has to be played by a trans person. It can’t just be a random actor.

What would you say to someone who does not agree with quotas?

EB: Excuse me, but the same truths have been told for how many years? Isn’t it just time for a shift? Nobody is taking anything away from anybody. People want to go to the theater, but there are not that many plays out there that a lot of different people want to go to. One very big thing is that we pay taxes here for the theater. There is enough space for everyone. People need to stop thinking, “If you’re going to take this spot, where am I going to sit?”

CS: I mean, the quota aspect is a little tricky because what is the right quota? It gets super complicated. But the idea of being open to some sort of quota starts this ideology. It doesn’t have to be so written and so structured.

EB: If you think about it, if you go to a tryout for a play, they are always looking for something. It’s already there. If you’re blonde it’s going to work, or you have dark hair it’s gonna work. So, this quota is not overstepping what was already there before. It’s just giving more variety.

CS: Versatility. If you’re telling a story about a girl in Iceland, have everyone come and try out. And maybe you’ll see something in that not-blonde-and-blue-eyed girl that’s part Sri Lankan, part Icelandic, and speaks perfect Icelandic. I mean there also has to be an opportunity for these people We have to move with the times, and you can’t just choose to exclude a whole population from your own population. It just doesn’t make sense, it’s not right. Aside from that, minorities are also a huge part of the people who are running our systems. So, they also deserve to have a platform for themselves. Just recently, they finally made a Polish play to call out to the Polish community, with Polish actors. I thought that was amazing. It’s like, Polish people have been living here–

RH: For how long?

CS: Exactly. That’s amazing, but it shouldn’t have to take 40 years for you to be able to see yourself on stage.

RH: It isn’t a long-term thing. It’s just a short-term solution with long-term goals. Then it will naturally happen. That’s the goal.

CS: Also, the quota allows for different people to come together and learn about each other. That accessibility is so important. It’s something we discuss with education where I say: a headmaster who doesn’t have a foreign friend is less likely to think about the minority kids in our school and the issues that they could be experiencing. The ability to be able to know about minorities and their struggles opens up your mind. And that’s what the quota would technically do.

EB: It takes effort when you have always tried to fit into the box, to step out. It takes a lot of courage. And I think the theater and the arts are beginning to open up to change. As soon as it is normalized in the media, it’s conditioned in people.

RH: Last year, an actress of color called the national theater out publicly on social media because they released a poster of all their house actors, and every single person in that photo was white. And from my knowledge, the majority of the people are also cis and straight. She was like “I’m not saying anything bad about these people, they are all my friends, but intuitionally, this needs to change.” Granted, for this season they did hire a few more actors of color, but it still felt like tokenism.

CS: And “backgroundism”

RH: It was like “Throw them in the background here. Oh, and let’s make sure we get them for the poster this year!” That’s how it felt to me.

EB: Not everybody owns up to their mistakes right away, but I always want to also look at the positive, that this is maybe the start of something. That it will roll the ball because we are now here to poke and poke and poke and poke. We have to reinforce this and keep going.

Discrimination in Iceland does not only appear as blatant aggression and exclusion but also in more subtle inequities or in a lack of opportunities. What are some of the examples of microaggressions in the art scene here that people might not be aware of? Do you have any personal experience with this that you can share?

RH: From my experience working on a show at the theater, there was an incident of an actor wanting to do blackface in their role, and not understanding why that was not okay. [They then] directly asked only the people of color in the cast why it was not okay. There were some other things having to do with hair and makeup, with racial and cultural appropriation that I became the ambassador on, apparently. But again, they took it into account and did want to educate people after they had made the mistake. I’m happy it became a teaching moment but if you have had a more diverse creative team, it wouldn’t have had to be there.

Another thing is from a review that came out about a show. Out of the whole cast, there were three minorities, one of which is actually a pretty well-known actor in Iceland. The review mentioned every single other person’s name on the cast and the creative team somewhere in the review. Every single person’s name and the character they played, or the role that they played, except for the three (including myself) minorities. It was weird. Nobody from the creative team or the theater saw this and was like, “You forgot ____.” As creatives, it is important for your records –even if it’s bad press, at least it’s there.

CS: Because you’re constantly fighting your battles…

RH: I was exhausted. I was like, “There are so many other things that are more important.”

CS: When to speak up? When not to speak up? When will this get me in trouble with my job? The tight-knit-ness [appears] as soon as you speak up. There are plenty of people who are like, “I want to come to your workshops but I’m scared because Iceland is so small.” There is also that insecurity because it’s a small population. If I were to give an example, I would say being spoken to in English when you walk into a store.

RH: Even after you speak in Icelandic, that’s the big one.

CS: No, no, having a whole conversation in Icelandic and they still continue to talk in English…

RH: We’ve been collaborating with the girls from Antirasictanir, and they’re young and super brave and amazing. They have similar experiences to Chaiwe, and it’s so crazy to see these young, Black girls in Iceland, who have lived here their whole lives and still are treated a certain way as if they are not part of the community.

CS: I mean there are a lot of little microaggressions we experience every day. [In theater] There is a lot of exploitation and tokenism, and taking away from people. Like, you want the story to be told but you are not giving homage and rights to people that have the story. Why are people doing this without consulting? Why is there a disconnect between taking from minorities and not feeling the need to fully give back?

RH: Appropriation is when you take from a culture and use it for your own benefit and you don’t either give back to the culture or acknowledge the culture and where it came from. You use it for profit or social media attention without actually acknowledging it. There are so many layers.

What kind of solutions to these, no matter how big or small, have you come up with in your workshops?

RH: The internet is there, it’s free and there are so many resources. It is not always a Black person or a queer person or a minority’s responsibility to do that labor and give you the information. Literally, google it. And one of the things that we’re done is that we have created a resource document of different articles, and of people on social media who do this for a living. They put out education for free and for profit.

CS: We started as R.E.C. arts and we were like, “Hmm, should we become an agency?” We can connect people to artists and dancers etc. and also make sure that when they do go to gigs, they get paid correctly and are represented correctly. That’s what we mean by giving back to the community you are taking from. It’s not enough just to take. They need to feel like they are getting help when they are putting their stories out there.

EB: We were also talking about how we to be that medium for helping out and educating the theater, so we’re going to offer that, too. So, institutions can always talk to us and nothing is a bad question.

RH: I think people are afraid to ask questions.

CS: People don’t want to feel stupid.

AP: Now there is a fear not only of getting called out for bad actions, but also for performativity if you try to fix them.

RH: I think there is a way of fixing something that isn’t necessarily performative activism. I think when you are honest and transparent about the mistakes that you’ve made, it’s even better. Because it’s education. You could put out a statement that says “We made a messed up. Things should have been done ____ way. We are going to take the time to do properly do that. And we are going to be open about it because we want people to learn.”

CS: It’s being able to vocalize yourself. Making people feel seen and heard is what matters.

EB: If you don’t feel that you are part of the community, how are you supposed to
feel like you have a purpose?

RH: That goes back to why representation matters.

R.E.C. Arts Reykjavík started during the pandemic over a series of zoom workshops that have recently moved to in-person. What else are you hoping to pursue in the future? Where do you see this community growing?

EB: The reason why we started our workshops on zoom is because of COVID-19. We always were planning on being live.

RH: The next thing that we are doing is that we have a whole-day takeover at Iðnó during the Reykjavík Arts Festival. We’re going to be hosting different educational panels, some workshops, and classes, and we’re going to be showcasing performances that are being built within our workshops. Also, some curated performances by other local artists of minority backgrounds to give them a platform. We basically wanted to show the higher-ups in the Icelandic art scene what they’re missing, and that they are people here that are talented and have amazing ideas, and have a voice and a story. So that’s our short-term thing.

EB: We are letting it grow. It is exciting to see. It is hard sometimes when you are creating something to not have a complete plan, but we have a structure and we want to be open to letting something new grow. We realized when we started this that there are so many minority groups out there trying to do their own, similar thing so this is kind of a platform for everyone to have a space to do something on one big day.

RH: The panels are going to be themed and the biggest thing about it, in terms of education, is going to be “Hey, you think this isn’t a problem? Let’s show you why it is a problem AND how you can fix it.”

A lot of people aren’t interesting in solving it, or they don’t know how to solve an issue so they just say “let’s leave it for another time” because there is that fear of not knowing how to fix it and doing something wrong.

CS: We say education and awareness, but our plan is more about giving people tools, to be able to address situations seriously. Giving people the power and the courage to stand up for something they would have never stood up for, so when you see something wrong you can be an active ally.

EB: Especially getting white people amongst white people to say something. Because people always think it’s not their problem, that it’s not affecting them. You can always do it in a polite way, and not be aggressive and make the other person feel stupid. It is 2022, we should try to talk a little bit more respectfully about everyone.

RH: All of the things we are talking about are also relevant in the United States, and here or there, but I think because Iceland is such a small country, it’s so frustrating to see. Because it is such a small country, things can happen very fast. It is supposed to be one of the most “progressive,” “equal” countries. The fact is that we’re seeing it from the inside, and we’re saying “It’s actually not, and here’s how we can fix it” and people are still insisting they want to keep it the same. That’s why we see it as a bigger problem than in some other countries.

CS: We’re not coming together. We need to come together whether we’re Black-Icelandic, Green-Icelandic, or Russian-Icelandic. We’re still Icelandic. This concept is important to me because I have a mixed son, and he is Icelandic. I don’t want him to ever experience somebody asking him “Where are you from?” I was adopted and have an Icelandic mom, I am an Icelander and my whole family is Icelandic, his father is Icelandic, and his grandparents…this is all he knows. I don’t need someone to judge him by his color and take being Icelandic away from him.

RH: I think one of the big reasons why people think there is no racism in Iceland, is because in the United States for example, there is a very clear, systematic history of racism. Whereas here, sure there are histories of racism but there is nothing as specific as the North Atlantic Slave Trade. But the mindset still penetrates within. Especially if you follow Antirasistarnir, they have been so blunt about the racist experiences in Iceland that they’ve had.

EB: We’ve also talked about more development because a lot of the people who come to our workshops have kids. We would like maybe later on–to be able to host workshops for kids of minorities. Because then they meet each other and don’t have that feeling of being different. We’re always finding new and more ways to make this a better environment for the people that haven’t been supported in that way.

CS: Creating this community is very, very important for us. It’s something that we all share very deeply and we’re trying to help and protect other people that could possibly be going through this. We know what was not done for us and we’re like “These are the things we wish would have happened and now we want to do this for the people.”

Every workshop ends with the question: Why does representation matter to you? What have been some of the most interesting or inspiring answers that you’ve received so far?

RH: We posted some of the answers on our Instagram, which you can read here, and here.

And to close, I’ll turn the question back to you. Why does representation matter to you?

EB: Because everybody needs to be seen. It’s all in that. Everybody needs to be recognized and have value in their life. I mean why are we here? It’s not like it’s easy.

RH: Specifically for me, if I hadn’t had the opportunity of seeing someone like myself on stage having their story represented, as an aspiring performer as a kid, I don’t think I would have been as motivated or excited to go into this industry.

Amanda Poorvu


Amanda Poorvu graduated in 2019 from Oberlin College with a BA in Studio Art and is part of the first graduating class of the MA in Curatorial Practices at Iceland University of the Arts. Her graduation project is a virtual exhibition titled Funny People and can be accessed at funnypeopleexhibition.com.

Chaiwe Sól is an activist, artist, and educator; but most importantly a woman of color and a mother. She was born in Zambia and adopted by an Icelandic mother. As an Icelandic person of color, she has experienced and dealt with a fair amount of racism, discrimination, and the difficulties of understanding what it means to “be Icelandic”. She developed a thick skin; cultivating survival methods in order to find her footing and voice in the system. Her struggles within society led her to pursue a career in education. She is currently completing a Master’s in Theatre Education at HÍ, with a focus on using theatre as a platform to teach Icelandic as a second or third language. Chaiwe is currently working at Kársneskólí teaching Icelandic as a second language. As a mother to a mixed-raced child, Chaiwe strives to create a better environment for her child. She aims to create footprints in the Icelandic community to make it easier for her son to be Icelandic.

Eva Björk is a woman of many trades and many lives who resists throughout her existence. She is a queer single mother of two young adults. She is an activist and educator; with a Masters’ in house & furniture carpentry and a degree in teaching. As a woman in a “man’s” work field, she faced a sexist and chauvinist environment every day as she worked her way up the ranks. Her force has been recognized by many, and during her time teaching, she was invited to speak at a Women in STEM conference. Her experiences, childhood, and upbringing have made her a strong advocate for societal awareness of mental health and disability. She is now studying Psychology and pursuing a career as a practicing psychologist; her main goal is to teach people respect, communication, empathy, and understanding.

Rebecca Hidalgo is a multidisciplinary artist from Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Arts (Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama) and is a professional actor, dancer, choreographer, musician/songwriter, and artistic collaborator. As a child of Dominican immigrants, and as a queer woman, Rebecca has fought with culture clashes and expectations while finding beauty in both chosen and biological families. Many of her original artistic works address these conflicts; exposing the deep-rooted sexism, racism, and classism within the Latin community. This has fueled her artistic mission: to bring groups of diverse people and stories to the stage and screen. In 2018 Rebecca moved to Iceland and has since been working in the professional theatre scene and arts education. She very much sees the space, potential, and absolute necessity to bring the Icelandic theatre and dance scene to a new level regarding representation.


photo credit: Kaja Sigvalda.

An Invitation to Think Through Many Doorways: Interview with curator, Erin Honeycutt

An Invitation to Think Through Many Doorways: Interview with curator, Erin Honeycutt

An Invitation to Think Through Many Doorways: Interview with curator, Erin Honeycutt

4 Solo Exhibitions opened on February 5th at Listasafn Árnesinga Art Museum and are now on view until May 22nd

  • Þú ert Kveikjan / You are the Input by Ingunn Fjóla Ingþórsdóttir
  • Hringrás / Routine by Þórdís Erla Zöega 
  • Rólon / Roll On by Magnús Helgasson 
  • Buxnadragt / Powersuit by Lóa H. Hjálmtýsdóttir 

Artzine: What is the common thread running through these solo exhibitions?

Erin: The exhibitions are indeed separate but there is a common thread running through them and that thread is perception, the framing of perception, and the nature of the surface image. The exhibition also highlights art as a symbiotic system between the object and the observer, a kind of archaeology of the surface image where the surface has many layers. 

You can see with Ingunn Fjóla that the whole installation is a way of playing with the frame. It’s moveable and you set it into motion. There are also certain colors on the wall that are also framed while not necessarily being a traditional frame. It’s a very delicate look at the way we move through space, also. 

With þórdís Erla, the surface perception is about this material, this dichroic film that lets light in and deflects it. With her lightboxes, she takes the elements of what you know to be digital surfaces and she creates an imitation of a digital surface but it’s all analog which is fascinating. Also, there is a certain… routine, it’s about a routine that brings you into the nature of time as a framework and a surface image. 

With Magnús, it’s a constellation of materials. There’s a poem of objects in the room that don’t necessarily belong together but they all have an inner motor of movement that, once they are put together spark something. I always refer to him as a tinkerer- someone that doesn’t necessarily rest easily into the box of Fine Art, but instead rejects that box and looks for something else, or rebels against the idea of those rules and in that sense describes it very well in the rebellion against it. 

With Lóa´s work, there are so many ways to approach it and one that is particularly interesting to me is to relate to her paintings installed in the exhibition as one-panel comics, as akin to meme culture on the internet. There is a lore to them that is extremely public and private at the same time; an inside joke as well as the most publicly relatable incidents imaginable.

Artzine: What do the poems included in the exhibition publication bring to these threads?

Erin: Although not part of the exhibitions, but very important for me in thinking of them as a whole, is found in the publication printed on the occasion of the exhibition in which I chose poems both in English and Icelandic. I chose to do this because, for me as a person who writes about art, the perception of the image of the artwork is difficult to have a sense of without words so my writing about the artwork helps me to understand what I think and feel about the artwork. It’s almost like I am dyslexic to the image without writing. I found it to be a reflection of a way in which the works in the exhibition are about moving beyond ocular-centric perception, the perception that is just about the eyes and getting a sense of the artworks with an inner image as well. 

Artzine: What can poetry bring to more traditional art writing? 

Erin: The poetry interspersed throughout the catalog is next to more critical essays that are more strictly this category of ‘art writing’ as we know it. The poems provide a type of language for the reader that is more reflexive of an artwork rather than trying to describe or analyze an artwork. They’re more about a kind of language that is less about the critical mind and more about the sensing mind, about a language that has many doorways, inviting you to think through many doorways – it is not linear. 

Artzine: All of that being said, the exhibitions are still very light and fun, even playful – how does that tie in to the sense of surface perception that is being explored?

Erin: Yes, another thread that connects all of the exhibitions is playfulness and a sense of playfulness of surface perception and playing with the rules of surface perception. It’s very playful. I like the idea of difficulties and problems being welcome when you are playing. There’s no game without problems. You can’t play without them. So although the artworks don’t address problems in society directly, they highlight the necessity and inevitability of change in any environment, for sure. 

Flatleikhús fyrir ójafna byltingu – Ómar Stefánsson og Berlínarárin

Flatleikhús fyrir ójafna byltingu – Ómar Stefánsson og Berlínarárin

Flatleikhús fyrir ójafna byltingu – Ómar Stefánsson og Berlínarárin

“Galdramaðurinn eyðir blekkingu skaparans með því að skapa aðra blekkingu í staðinn. En um leið er mikilvægt að hann eyði jafnóðum þeim blekkingum sem hann skapar” 

Myndlistarmaðurinn Ómar Stefánsson er mörgum kunnugur fyrir óhefðbundnar leiðir sínar í lífi og list. Sextán ára gamall veitti hann helgarblaði Vísis viðtal sem ungur myndlistarnemi og galdramaður, en um sama leyti hóf hann nám Mynd- og Handíðaskólanum hvaðan hann útskrifaðist af Nýlistadeild árið 1981. Listferill hans spannar gríðarlegt magn af málverkum, skúlptúrum, ritverkum í útgefnum bókum sem og umdeildum gjörningaverkum sem framkvæmd voru í slagtogi með Art Brut hljómsveitunum Bruna BB og Inferno 5.

Á tæpum 50 ára  listferli hefur Ómar verið samkvæmur sjálfum sér, eins og greina má frá ofangreindri tilvitnun úr viðtali Helgarblaðsins Vísis frá árinu 1976. Í verkum sínum vinnur hann stöðugt með ádeilu á framsetningu mannkynssögunnar, vísinda og trúarbragða. Ekkert er eins og það sýnist.

Á sýningu sem bar titilinn Flatleikhús fyrir ójafna byltingu, sem ForA Contemporary Platform opnaði á verkum Ómars Stefánssonar í Berlín 12. mars til 10. apríl síðastliðinn, voru málverk, skúlptúrar og dagbækur sem unnin voru síðastliðin fimm ár á vinnustofu listamannsins þar í borg. Verkin af sýningunni segja meðal annars sögu um þá samfélagslegu umbreytingu sem átti sér stað á tímum heimsfaraldursins, í bland við annars konar hvimleiða ringulreið, til að mynda söguna um geimfarann sem drukknaði nærri í sínu eigin pissi.  Þannig leiðir sýningin okkur í gegnum ljóðræna og gróteska satýru þess að vera lifandi og deyjandi mannvera.  Skýjavél í innilokaðri hvelfingu stýrir flóði og fjöru en á meðan tilheyrir mannveran þyngdaraflinu með öðrum botnverum sem hún speglar sig í við daglegar athafnir.


Cloud makers and Tidal Technicians. Olía á striga, 140 x 140 cm. 2017-2022 


“Flatleikhús er einfaldlega skýring á því sem er í gangi hérna, að þýða hluti yfir á tvívíðan flöt, eins og þegar landakort eru gerð til dæmis, þá er verið að varpa þrívíddarlandslagi yfir á tvívíðan flöt og það eru margar aðferðir til þess, sem allar eru jafn réttar, eða jafn villandi, eftir því hvernig maður orðar það, glasið er hálffullt eða hálftómt” 

Námsár Ómars spanna gjörningaferðalög með Hermann Nitsch um Evrópu, starfsnám hjá Dieter Roth og störf hjá Illuminati söfnuðinum í Alpafjöllunum í Sviss. Allt sem greina má áhrif frá í verkum hans til þessa dags. Ómar gerði eins og margir listamenn eftir útskrift frá MHÍ, fór út til frekara náms til Berlínar og varð Meisterschuler í myndlist hjá prófessor Fussmann í Hochschule der Künste árið 1987. En örlögin leiddu Ómar aftur til Berlínar um 30 árum síðar og á sama tíma byrjaði hann að halda dagbók á þýsku þar sem hann greinir frá daglegum atburðum sínum með orðum, klippimyndum og teikningum. Þrjátíu dagbækur með hugleiðingum, hugmyndum og afdrifum hans, spanna hin stormasömu ár Ómars í Berlín 2017-2021 sem enda með nær-dauða-reynslu, líkamsdauða – “og endurfæðingu í stjörnumerki Sporðdrekans” bætir listamaðurinn við kíminn og er hæstánægður með nýja afmælisdaginn sinn.


Sýnishorn úr Berlínardagbókum, Vol. I – XXVI, 2021.

Byggingarlist orða og hugmynda talast á við áþreifanlegan strúktúr bygginga í málverkum Ómars, sem eru formalísk og súrrealísk í senn. Form taka á sig lifandi mynd, virðast geta fært sig um set og endurraðast á hverri stundu. Maðurinn vex inn í sjálfan sig, út úr sjálfum sér, verður hús, verður dýr og rólar sér í orðinu á leikvelli tilverunnar. Á sýningunni í ForA gallerí eru málverk sem fjalla meðal annars um heimsmyndunarfræði og alls konar óvissufræði, einnig það sem bar fyrir augu listamannsins á tímum heimsfaraldursins í Berlín og svo persónulegar kyrralífsmyndir..

Sérhver listamaður verður að gera eitt Tempus Fugit (Lat. Tíminn flýgur) listaverk… Og hugsa um dauðann. Það hlýtur hver listamaður að hugsa um dauðann. Og það kom nú til dæmis fyrir mig hérna í Berlín, að steindrepast bara, það var ekki planið. Svo er hérna myndlist sem hægt er að læra af. Hér er kassi sem á stendur hvað sé fram og hvað sé aftur. Við áttum samræður um þessar mynd, ég og einn heimspekimenntaður maður á opnun þessarar sýningar og við deildum. Ég var hæstánægður með árangurinn, að þessi mynd skyldi vekja upp slíkar deilur, þótt þetta sé bara mynd af kassa. Ég sagði að upp og niður væri klárt. En það eru skiptar skoðanir um það”

Við virðumst búa í tilbúnum heimi þar sem ekkert er tilviljunum háð.  Það sama er þó ekki hægt að segja um teikninguna í málverkunum Ómars, en þau birtast manni sem villt og ótamin fyrirbæri. Kröftugar og öruggar strokur draga upp heim sem sameinar allar listastefnur 20. aldarinnar og þótt lengra aftur væri litið. Ofsafengið og hömlulaust myndefnið hefur augljós tengsl inn í verk jafn ólíkra listamanna eins og Otto Dix, Hiernonymous Bosch og Hans Bellmer.

“Ég veit ekki hvað maður getur sagt..  ég hef verið kallaður klassískur módernisti. Sem er líka smá fyndið. Fyrst kom Art Nouveau, nýi stíllinn og svo kom módernisminn, svo nýi stíllinn og svo nýi nýi stíllinn. Svo er þetta allt orðið klassískur nýr stíll, þannig að ég er mjög klassískur, myndi ég segja, listamaður. Mjög hefðbundinn, miðað við marga” 

Nokkur málverk af sýningunni Flatleikhús fyrir ójafna byltingu. Frá vinstri til hægri: Infected, The Battle of Amari with the Cyclope Cannibals in Crete, Inflated man falling, KaliYuga, Farming for spare parts, Choronzon, Mooning on Mars, The crazy old town. 

Í afstraktmálverkum og skúlptúrverkum Ómars má sérstaklega greina þó áhrif sem hann er undir frá lærifeðrum sínum Dieter Roth, Hermann Nitsch og jafnframt Magnús Pálssyni. Hröð og ötul vinnubrögð fæða af sér gróteskar línur og form í aksjónverkum sem eru unnin bæði með málningu á striga, sem og fundnum og samanskeyttum efniviði. Við og við skjóta svo upp kollinum ansi kómískir titlar, sem gefa þessum ofsafengna myndheimi enn annan vinkil. Ómar er þó þekktari fyrir stórflata málverk sín, sem bera vitni um einstakt vald hans á miðlinum og mikla færni í teikningu. Þessi málverk skírskota til mynduppbyggingu fútúrista, kúbista, súrrealista og á sama tíma myndskreytingarhefða grafískra myndasagna.

Þau listaverk sem nú standa uppi á sýningunni í ForA eru einnig merkileg fyrir þær sakir að hafa komist klakklaust frá Berlínarárum listamannsins. Þónokkur verk sem Ómar hafði í geymsluhúsnæði í borginni urðu húsbruna að bráð. Vinnustofuhúsnæði sem hann deildi með hundruði annarra listamanna í Lichtenberg var gert upptækt með eins dags fyrirvara, sem olli því að hann og fleiri glötuðu aleigu sinni í málalyktum sem verða ekki útlistaðar hér.
Maður er víst ekki maður með mönnum fyrr en maður hefur misst aleiguna” segir Ómar og segist hafa það eftir fyrrum kennara sínum í Nýlistadeildinni, Magnúsi Pálssyni.

Breiðmynd af vinnustofuhúsnæði Ómars í Lichtenberg, Berlín og skúlptúrverkum sem fóru forgörðum. 2019-2021.
Klikkið á myndina til að stækka hana.

Síður dagbókanna sem Ómar hélt í Berlín eru fylltar með teikningum og klippimyndum sem lýsa, líkt og Flatleikhúsið, fimmvíðum veruleika listamannsins á tvívíðu formi. Af magni bókanna og útfylltra blaðsíðna er auðséð að listamaðurinn lætur ekki dag líða án þess að hafast handa við klippimyndir, teikningar eða skrif.

Meira að segja meðan listamaðurinn liggur inni á gjörgæslu hefur tíminn verið nýttur til listsköpunar og skráningar, þar sem myndir eru settar saman úr matarmiðum spítalans og nær-dauða-reynslunni lýst, sem var á svipuðum meiði og aðrar skrásettar frásagnir af sýnum á dánarbeði. Samkvæmt Ómari var hann skyndilega dreginn á löppunum í gegnum göng, sem þó að lokum leiddu hann aftur inn í heiminn, en ekki burtu í ljósið.

Og hvernig var að deyja? “Það var alveg hræðilegt… Haltu lífi eins lengi og þú mögulega getur(!)”

Í raun má segja að allur listferill Ómars Stefánsson bjóði áhorfendum upp á hádramatíska Flatleikhússýningu. Listasýningar hans og undirbúningur þeirra,  gjörningaframkomur og afleiðingar þeirra, úrklippur frá yfirlýsingaglöðum greinaviðtölum við hann, sem og frásagnir áhorfenda af afdrifum hans í gegnum tíðina. Allt dregur þetta upp allsvakalega mynd af ævispori listamanns sem fer ótroðnar slóðir og hefur ekki valið sér auðveldustu leiðina í gegnum lífið. Sigrar mæta ósigrum á úfnum hafsjó þess sem þó myndar þokkalega ferilskrá í dag, ójöfn lífsbylting og ekkert er eins og það sýnist. Baráttan á milli hins góða og illa eins háalvarleg og kómísk og hún getur verið í senn. Jafnvel þegar listamanninum sjálfum er ekki spaug ofarlega í huga, notar hann kímnigáfuna sem verkfæri í frásögn sinni. Hans eigin nær-dauða-reynsla verður að uppsprettu endalausra brandara. Og hvað er rétt og hvað er rangt, hvað er sannleikur,  hvað er blekking.. “heimurinn  inniheldur bara endalausar spurningar og loðin svör”  

Og er allt svona ruglingslegt að þínu mati? Heyrðist sýningargestur á opnuninni spyrja listamanninn. – Já og jafnvel enn ruglingslegra en ég næ að túlka á þessari sýningu.

Flatleikhús, eins konar
á bílastæði tilverunnar

Þar ferningar færast
og á þeim þríhyrningar nærast.

Allt fer þetta í hringi,
gula, bláa, rauða.

Flatleikhús, eins konar.
á bílastæði tilverunnar.

Endir alvörunnar,
eins konar. 

Sýningin Flatleikhús fyrir ójafna byltingu stóð uppi 12. mars til 10. apríl í ForA Contemporary Platform á Marburger Strasse 3 í Berlín. Á henni var til sýnis eitt frumeintak af Berlínardagbókunum (Bindi XXIV, 2021), fimmtíu og þrjú málverk sem unnin voru að mestu leyti á árunum 2017-2022 í Berlínarborg og sex skúlptúrar. Þá var fyrsta bindi Berlínardagbókanna (Vol. I, 2017) einnig útgefið á prenti á opnun sýningarinnar.

Flatleikhús fyrir ójafna byltingu, sýning Ómars Stefánssonar í ForA Contemporary Platform, Marburger Strasse 3, Berlín,
12. mars – 10. apríl 2022.

Ómar Stefánsson er fæddur árið 1960 á Íslandi og verk hans hafa verið sýnd á Listasafni Reykjavíkur, Listasafni Íslands og á fjölmörgum einkasýningum á Íslandi. Þá voru verk eftir hann einnig verið sýnd á Heine Onstadt í Osló, Noregi og á sýningu með Cy Twombly, Joseph Beuys í Gallery Händschin í Basel, Sviss. Listasafn Íslands og Listasafn Reykjavíkur eiga málverk eftir Ómar sem og Tækniskóli Íslands, Eimskip sem og Illuminati söfnuðurinn í Sviss. Ómar vann einnig verk sérstaklega fyrir lestarstöðina í Basel, Sviss, ásamt listamönnunum Dieter Roth, Dominik Steiger og André Thomkins.

Nánari upplýsingar um Ómar, verk hans og sýninguna má skoða á hér: omarstefansson.com 

Freyja Eilíf


Aðalmynd með grein: Freyja Eilíf. Myndbönd, upptaka og vinnsla: Freyja Eilíf. Myndir af verkum birtar með leyfi listamannsins.

Marga Hildi háð – Stefnumót við sjálfsmynd samtímans.

Marga Hildi háð – Stefnumót við sjálfsmynd samtímans.

Marga Hildi háð – Stefnumót við sjálfsmynd samtímans.

Sýningin Marga Hildi háð opnaði nýlega í Gallerý Port en sýning þessi er eins konar stefnumót við sjálfsmynd samtímans, þar sem myndlistarkonan fæst við það að brjóta niður viðteknar hugmyndir á normatífum sjónarhornum kvenleikans. Svipt er hulunni af huldum heimum kvenpersónurnar, hún er óræð en í senn valdamikil, birtingarmynd þess sem mætti kalla hina femínisku grótesku. Lýst er ljósi á afkima hins innra lífs og sjónarhorn sem eru ekki gerð til nautnar feðraveldisins, heldur fremur til þess að birta og magna nýja vídd hinnar óbeisluðu konu.

Hildur Ása er fædd í Reykjavík og uppalin á Þórshöfn á Langanesi, hún fer svo til Akureyrar þar sem hún gengur í skóla. Þar klárar hún háskólagráðu í Nútímafræði (BA). Eftir það fer hún til Reykjavíkur og útskrifast frá Listaháskólanum 2016. Hildur hefur starfað sem myndlistarkona síðan. Hún hefur sýnt fjölmargar einkasýningar á þessu tímabili og starfar nú í Berlín þar sem hún hefur verið sl. 2 ár. Þar sinnir hún listinni í dag á vinnustofu sinni í Bethanien Kunstraum. Andrea Ágústa Aðalsteinsdóttir blaðamaður Artzine hitti Hildi og ræddi við hana um sýninguna.

Andrea: Hvernig myndiru lýsa hinum rauða þræði sem birtist í verkunum þínum?

Hildur: Ég er aðallega að fjalla um sjálfa mig. Þegar ég byrjaði að vinna með sjálfa mig fór ég strax að sýna einhverskonar gróteskar hliðar af mér, sem mér þóttu eftirsóknarverðar. Semsagt óvanaleg portrett eða sjónarhorn, augnablik í lífinu sem hafa vanalega ekki verið tekin fyrir í listasögunni. Þetta var til þess að fjalla um mitt eigið líf í fyrstu, en svo er ég fór að máta mig við stærri samhengi fór ég meðvitað að sjá hvernig þetta var einnig hluti af því að brjóta niður viðteknar hugmyndir innan listasögunnar. 

Listin fór að snúast um að brjóta niður hinn fullkomna Venus sem var skapaður af mönnum fyrir menn. Ég vildi brjóta niður hið karlæga sjónarhorn, birta hið óæskilega sem er í senn hið sammannlega sem gerist á bakvið tjöldin.

 

A: Hvernig finnst þér það birtast núna í Gallerí port? Þú byrjaðir að vinna þessa sýningu fyrir um tveimur árum, hvernig hefur ferlið verið?

H: Ég byrjaði að vinna þessa sýningu fyrir tveim árum, þá fyrir gamla rýmið þar sem þeir fengu nýtt húsnæði fyrir jól. Ég er alltaf að vinna með svona sjálfsævisögulega hluti, þess vegna er þetta mikið af því efni sem ég var að ganga í gegnum þá, svo frestaðist sýningin út af covid og ýmsu öðrum þáttum. Þannig þurfti ég að fara aftur inn í efnið sem er til staðar þarna. Á þessum tíma var ég að vinna mikið með vatnslitamyndir, ein af ástæðum þess var vegna þess að ég var á farandsfæti og ekki með vinnustofu, ég hafði verið að eiga við eitthvað óöryggi og minnimáttarkennd í olíumálverkinu. Svo í aðdraganda þessar sýningar fóru þessar vatnslitamyndir að færast inn í olíuna, þannig urðu til nokkur ný verk. 

A: Hvernig telurðu að hin líkamlega gróteska konunar birtist í þessari sýningu? Og hvaða sögulega samhengi sérðu hana í?

H: Ég er að vinna með hina kvenlægu grótesku á þessari sýningu, ýmsar táknmyndir fyrir hið innra líf. Mér finnst þetta líka oft vera um innri átök, sem birtast stundum í líkamlegum einkennum, eins og kvíða, þunglyndi og streitu. Svona neikvæðir þættir sem margir eru að eiga við, hvernig þeir hafa áhrif á okkur líkamlega sem og okkar innri sjálfsmynd.

Ég er að birta þessar tilfinningar með uppsprengdum myndunum af mér, þar sem ég er í teygðum skölum, ýmist liggjandi eða í eins konar pödduformi. Ég er að tjá hvernig mér leið, eða hvernig manni getur liðið þegar maður er búinn að upplifa ítrekað höfnun eftir að hafa leitast eftir viðurkenningu á röngum stöðum, á röngum forsendum, hjá röngu fólki.

Það verður algjör brotlending sjálfsins þegar maður í raun þyrfti fremur að finna viðurkenningu á sjálfum sér innra með sér, maður getur ekki varpað þeirri ábyrgð yfir á aðra. Þannig eru þessir líkamar á sýningunni týndir, agressífir, grátandi og tómir – til þess að tákna þá hina innri líðan. Þess vegnar eru þeir svona furðulegir, ég er að draga fram það sem er ekki æskilegt að sýna, ég er að birta angistina, áfallastreituna og tómið. Allt það sem er að gerast á bak við þessa grímu sem við berum í gegnum vikuna.

A: Myndir þú tala um þetta sem eina birtingu á sjálfsmyndum samtímans?

H: Þetta er þessi innri sjálfsmynd, hvernig okkur liður persónulega með okkur sjálf. Svo er hin sjálfsmyndin, sem við sviðsetjum fyrir aðra, hlutverkin sem við setjum okkur í. Mér finnst spennandi að taka þennan viðtekna prófíl í burtu og velta því fyrir mér hvað er handan hans. Hvernig líður okkur á bak við þennan prófíl? Hvernig lítur óveðrið út sem handan grímunnar sem við berum? Það er þetta að birta hið ósækilega. Ég er að fjalla um það sem er á bakvið tjöldin og á ekki að birtast. Það á að hemja það eða beisla.

Mér finnst gaman að nálgast myndlistina eins og aðrir semja tónlist. Það eru til ótrúlega hreinskilnir sorglegir ástar textar, eða um þunglyndi – ég hef svolítið öfundað tónlistarfólk að geta notað miðilinn þannig. Þess vegna leifi ég mér að vera svolítið dramatísk og fara beint í hlutina, það getur kannski verið svolítið banalt, en mér er alveg sama.

 

A: Hvernig sérðu það út frá hinu líkamlega?

H: Ég er að pota í þessar hugmyndir um það sem er eftirsóknarvert, líkamar eru allskonar og við erum öll í ólíkum líkömum sem eru allir þess virði að vera til. Ég hef farið meira undanfarið í að vinna með það að birta innra líf mannsins og gera það physískt. Áður fyrr var ég meira í líkamlegum fyrirmyndum þar sem ég var að eiga við brotna líkamsímynd.

Í fyrstu var ég í raun að gera grín að sjálfri mér en svo snéri ég því yfir í eitthvað sem varð valdeflandi. Með því að sýna líkaman á annan hátt, mér fannst ég ekki vera nógu ásættanleg kannski af því ég var aldrei sjálf búin að sjá þessar hliðar á mér þar sem þessar birtingarmyndir höfðu verið manni huldar af ytri áhrifum.

Svo fór ég svolítið að ofsýna, stækka upp og málaði með olíu – sem er stórt sögulegt samhengi. Ég tróð mér inn á þann vettvang með myndunum mínum. Með þessu sjónarhorni og myndum var ég svolítið að fokka upp í feðraveldinu á einhvern hátt. Í þessu ferli öðlaðist ég skilning á því hvernig heimurinn sem birtist okkur heldur frá okkur ákveðnum sjónarhornum og birtingarmyndum af fólki sem passa ekki inn í þennan litla ramma. Þá fer mér að líða eins og ég geti ekki tilheyrt. Ég vildi pota í þennan litla ramma og teygja hann til. Ég nota sjálfa mig sem fyrirmynd og finn mikið frelsi í því, þá get ég gengið eins langt yfir mín eigin mörk og ég vil. Af því ég er minn eigin efniviður og hugmyndasmiður.

A: Hvernig sérðu feðraveldið í listasögulegu samhengi og hvenrig finnst þér verkin þín þenja út mörkin á birtingarmyndum konunnar?

H: Persónulega skynja ég það fyrst sem ung kona, þar sem sjálfsmynd hennar mótaðist svo mikið af myndum í tímaritum og myndböndum. Ég hélt að ég þyrfti að vera með eins maga og Britney Spears, jafn grönn og Christina Aguilera. Ef ég væri það ekki þá væri ég bara að tapa í lífinu, þetta veganesti hefur stundum komið aftan að mér, jafnvel enn í dag er ég að minna mig á það að þetta er ekki rétt. Þó ég hafi gert myndlist gegn þessu í tíu ár.

Ég hef verið með líkamsímyndar hugsana röskun. Þá veltir maður fyrir sér hvaða strúktúrar stjórna þessum hugsunum. Svo þegar ég verð eldri fer ég að læra um femínisma og kapítalisma, sem og feðraveldið. Þá hugsaði ég að maður myndi náttúrulega vilja rústa þessu kerfi. Eftirá skilur maður hvaða þættir eru að verki. Þetta er svörun og í senn vilji til þess að búa til rými fyrir sjálfa sig. Eins og það að womanspreada*. Þar sem valdið er tekið til konunnar í stað þess að hún sé uppstillt til þess að fullnægja karlmanni.

Þetta mótíf er tabú enn þann dag í dag. Margir eiga erfitt með þessa birtingarmynd í konunni því við kunnum ekki ennþá að staðsetja það. Það er svo viðtekið að konan birtist okkur til þess að gleðja augað og vera tiltæk. En ekki einhvað sem er gagnstætt því. Það koma margir inn á sýninguna hjá mér og verða vandræðalegir í kringum verkin, þeir vita ekki hvað þeim á að finnast um það sem birtist þeim. 

*Gagnstætt því að manspreada, vitnun í verk Hildar á sýningu hennar “Sjálfsmynd.” Origin of the World (L’Origine du monde), eftir Gustave Courbet, var af ein af fyrirmyndum verksins.

Konan er ekki til þess að fullnægja neinum, heldur er hún þarna á sínum eigin forsendum. Um leið og konan verður óræð hefur hún orðið hættuleg í gegnum söguna, eins og með nornabrennurnar. Þetta er ennþá svo djúpstætt í sögunni, við þurfum að halda áfram að vera herská til þess að breyta þessum úreltu hugmyndum um kvennbirtingu í okkar samfélagi.

 

A: Hvernig vinnurðu vatnslitamyndirnar á sýningunni þinni?

H: Þær voru unnar í algjöru flæði, þar er meira unnið með þessa óræðni. Þessar vatnslitamyndir eru hálfgert lotterí, ég teikna með vatni á pappírinn fyrst og svo set ég pigmentið á þegar útlínurnar eru enn þá blautar. Svo þornar þetta bara einhvern veginn og oft verða til skrítnar verur í þessu ferli, stundum vel ég vissar fígúrur og geri þær aftur. Samt eru þær allar með ólík skilaboð út frá því hvernig pigmentið brotnar eða leggst á blaðið. Þetta getur verið sama viðfangsefnið, en samt er önnur þeirra kannski týnd og brothætt á meðan hin er alveg brjáluð.

Stundum fæ ég aldrei aftur það sem ég myndi vilja að kæmi, sumir af líkömunum lifa algjörlega sínu eigin lífi. Ég fékk smá svona málarakrísu á tímabili því mér fannst ég vera að stjórna of mikið því sem ég var að gera. Mig vantaði smá svona kreisí factor til þess að brjóta ferlið upp. Þannig fór ég í þennan miðil sem varð svo aftur eins konar brú fyrir mig inn í olíumálverkið.

Ég tók þessi mótíf inn í olíuna, það er allt öðruvísi stjórn í þessum tveim miðlum. Vatnsliturinn hjálpaði mér að komast út úr fullkomnunaráráttunni og stjórnseminni sem ég var eiga við á þeim tíma í listinni. Sem dæmi má nefna Miss Womanspread, hún er fígúra sem ég var farin að gera nokkrum sinnum með vatnslitunum sem er einhver týnd týpa með langan háls sem horfir á heiminn á hvolfi. Svo varð hún bara eitthvað allt annað þegar hún fór inn í olíuna.

A: Hvað er framundan?

H: Ég verð með aðra einkasýningu í Berlín í lok apríl þar sem ég er að gera allt öðruvísi verk, í Hošek Contemporary. Þar verður sami sýningarstjóri og vann með mér núna í Gallerí Port, Linda Toivio. Það er hálfgert framhald af þessari sýningu. Stelpan á þessari sýningu er ótrúlega týnd og er að leita viðurkenningar á öllum röngu stöðunum. Á næstu sýningu er ég að fjalla meira um það hvernig er að vaxa. Ég er að birta þetta ferli þar sem hún kemur sér undan þeim hlekkjum sem hún var bundin í. Það er unnið í vídjóverki og skúlptúrum. Svo er önnur lítil einkasýning í Berlín í sumar. Vonandi tekur við að því loknu bara afslöppun og ferð suður á bóginn. 

Andrea Ágústa Aðalsteinsdóttir


Mynd af Hildi: Helga Laufey Ásgeirsdóttir, ljósmyndir af sýningu: Antje Taiga Jandrig.

 

D44 Claire Paugam: Attempting the Embrace n°31 – processing the unknown

D44 Claire Paugam: Attempting the Embrace n°31 – processing the unknown

D44 Claire Paugam: Attempting the Embrace n°31 – processing the unknown

Claire Paugam is the 44’th artist to exhibit in Reykjavík Art Museum’s series, happening in the D-gallery. An ongoing program that has been going on since 2007, it holds the focus of inviting emerging artists, who are considered to be an important impact on the Icelandic art scene, to develop a project within the walls of room D.

Claire Paugam is a multidisciplinary French artist (b. 1991) based in Reykjavík. After graduating from the Iceland University of the Arts’ MFA program in 2016, Claire has exhibited in various art institutions in Iceland and abroad such as the 5th Biennale for Young Art (Moscow, 2016) and the Icelandic Photography Festival at Gerðarsafn Art Museum (2018). While primarily focusing on her own art practice, she forms an artist duo with new media artist Raphaël Alexandre, together they create installations and stage designs. The artist is also involved in curatorial projects such as Vestur í bláinn (2020) with Julius Pollux Rothlaender. She is the recipient of the Motivational Art Prize 2020 delivered by the Icelandic Art Prize and board member of The Living Art Museum.

Photo: Claire Paugam

The following interview is taken in Claire’s studio on Seljavegur, by her working desk, facing the ocean.

A: Where does the sound come from, that plays in the background of the installation?

C:The sound is not fixed with the light, it is independent. A natural sound that is recorded and then distorted. I do not wish to reveal what it is, rather I choose to play with the idea that the sound is unidentified. So I keep it a secret, even the curator doesn’t know where the recording comes from. This is one of the elements I work with, to let the viewer free to interpret many things. I let specific elements be hidden to hold on to this possibility of having everything open for the viewer to interpret. There’s a tendency now in the art world that the viewer is provided with so much information, scientific backup and various texts by philosophers that are interwoven within the exhibitions. In this installation, I choose to play with the unknown within it instead of letting the exhibition be loaded with too much content. The senses are what is utilized at its utmost rather than to have the purpose of an intellectual approach.

A: What was the build up towards this piece and how has it developed?

C: I applied to the open call with sketches, the core idea in Attempting the Embrace n°31 remained throughout the process. The application was about being in tune with the world and what that means, are
we as humans meant to dominate the landscape? Or are we meant to just be a part of it, to be absorbed by it almost? The thing is that our world is constantly changing, activated by scattered forces all around. Life is based on uncertainty and entropy. With this installation, I wanted to question our position within the landscape as humans, but also express that everything is ever-changing in many unpredictable ways.

The title is similar to many art pieces of mine, it is kind of a series of works and they are all called Attempting the embrace, with a number following. This is the 31st, in the latest outcome of the series. First, it was a lot about connecting the outside and the inside of the body. Then about visual analogy, to think of minerals and organics being alike. Visual analogy is connecting images with meaning. Asking questions like, what is alive and what is not alive? Are stones dead? What about minerals? Are they alive? In this project, I am researching the landscape as a whole and our relationship with it.

In this context, it’s interesting to think about a specific painting by Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818. It’s so majestic and beautiful. There are different interpretations of this painting. To me it’s a man who went very far to see this beautiful landscape which is yet dangerous, he’s on a rock and he could fall. He’s high up, it’s windy and the sea is violent and sublime, but yet this feeling is portrayed within the work that the man is dominating the landscape and that he is above it. This is quite a common point of view in our western culture. That we dominate our environment and that it has to be tamed and utilized almost to please us. In Iceland and some other volcanic territories, we know very well that the landscape is stronger than us. The earth is living and expanding in various ways, some that we don’t have any control over.

The viewer is positioned in front of a great landscape, which could be anywhere. The viewer is then free to project themselves into the landscape. The bench is an invitation to sit and contemplate. I chose this specific photograph because it could be anywhere in the world, apart from Iceland. Within the installation you are faced with the grand landscape, the image leaning on the wall, so it is obvious it’s not real. Rather it is an object. Then the substance surrounds it, an undefined substance, which expresses this feeling that we don’t know how the landscape will evolve. This slimy looking texture is on the floor. It looks very much like the inside of a body. 

Photo: Claire Paugam

The unknown substance surrounding the image is crawling towards the viewer, when you bend over it, it becomes a little landscape. Here, body and landscape become very close beings to me. The sculpture is coming from behind the photograph, it is in my opinion the force that pushes the photograph off the wall and tilts it. When I look at the sculpture, I don’t see a specific object. I wanted it to be completely shapeless, to escape any direct reference. It had to look slimy, as if touching it you would change its shape. It is the disruptive element of the installation.

The light is constantly changing in the room. When the light changes, it indicates that time passes by; you could also imagine that a cloud is hiding the sun. The colours change and this movement gives life to the piece.

The cloud passes and you get the sun again, I wanted to create all these little changes to create this organic feeling within the installation. Sometimes the lights start to flicker fast which is not something that happens with the sun. It is to let the viewer know that it’s an artificial surrounding. To create this question within the experience if it’s a malfunction or not, to play with the natural and the odd. The lights and the sculpture are some kind of a disturbance, something that maybe wasn’t supposed to be there.

Perhaps that’s why in the miniature, the sculpture takes over most of the space, to the point of overflowing. Because it has this strong urge to exist. Maybe to show how the landscape does take over and that it actually is the one that is dominating us.

Photo: Vigfús Birgisson

A: What were you hoping for the viewers to experience within the installation?

C: The bench is there to invite the viewers to sit on it, to resemble the experience of going to a park or a specific viewpoint. To create this impression of being at a scenery. It’s an invitation to stop and enjoy what’s in front of you in a contemplative state. Also, to hopefully help the viewers to be visually immersed in the image. When you sit you don’t have the same relationship with what you are looking at, it’s a different experience from standing in a museum – of course, you can still stay and contemplate but you somehow are reminded that you are a visitor.

When you are sitting in front of this massive image, I am hoping you forget that you are in a museum. My wish is that you can feel fully immersed in the art piece. In this state, as the viewer, you are probably more open to noticing how the light changes, to experience the various effects within the installation as you slow down. Maybe the lights will change, and the sound will come on – in that position you are most likely in a better state to experience what was meant to be experienced. I think a lot about how the viewer approaches
the installation. In this installation, the viewer is free to sit on the floor, stand still, walk around and/or sit on the bench.

To enter the space, you have to go through white curtains, they lead you to a white space, a breathing point. This in-between space is also the way out. It is to enhance the feeling of how this installation is a world of its own, with its own rules and laws, unlike the rest of the museum. That’s why you must go through the in-between space to shift to another reality. It can create the effect of being in a strange dreamlike place.

Photo: Claire Paugam

A: Can you explain the strange and unknown within your practice, to elaborate further on how it is connected to your new installation and threads of thinking?

C: It comes from a fascination for the insides of our bodies, as they are out of reach. Entering our bodies to see how we are inside goes against our primary instinct of self-preservation. A landscape that lives in darkness and lives by its own rules. We don’t decide at what rate our heart is beating, we are living in symbiosis but yet it’s an unattainable force living by its own rules. I love to think about the textures of our bodies as they currently are, trapped in darkness, to wonder how it would be to become a small explorer to go within and enter these worlds. Also I wonder how this resembles the insides of the earth or some other specific kinds of landscapes, which we can relate this to.
For me, this is a part of the unknown, to think and dream about these different realms. Thinking about the inside and the outside of something, how one inside can be the outside of something else. Just depends on how you position yourself within these ideas. It is also interesting to connect these ideas with the possibilities of extraterrestrial life and such potentials. That is often the narration within sci-fi as well, to ponder this question of what is outside of us. There’s a play of proportions as there is always something that is beyond us, no matter how much we study our environment.

This is very much related to my fascination with the landscape of my own body, the landscape of my environment that is so big and huge, and then all this potential landscape that is outside of earth. Again, always thinking about the inside and outside of something. Nothing of what we know is set in stone, it’s all bound to have its own rhythm and change. Also as our definitions are constantly being reformed, like what we define life as. The way we define our environment is a fluctuating concept. There’s a lot of unknown still within what we know.
I also work a lot with the idea of shapelessness, so a shape that has no shape. That’s a very paradoxical word since everything has a shape. But yet there are some concepts and forms that we consider as a society to be shapeless, like a spit, or a cloud, or our intestines. This concept for me is a door to open, to get into the unknown. Some objects are hard for our brains to fully grasp. Like the concept of a balloon is really easy to understand, but others require something a lot different. Because it’s mysterious and unclear the structures of these things. They are certain attempts to express the unknown. I have been so deeply obsessed with these ideas, like how to create certain textures and such. It is quite hard to put these things and feelings into words since it’s so much about visual and sensory experiencing.

Andrea Ágústa Aðalsteinsdóttir


Featured image, photo by: Hildur Inga Björnsdóttir

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