Beyond Human Impulses goes to Greece

Beyond Human Impulses goes to Greece

Beyond Human Impulses goes to Greece

The performance arts festival, Beyond Human Impulses, began at Mengi in Reykjavik on February 2nd, 2016 as a monthly performance series occurring on the first Monday of the month. Between its inaugural performance and July 2017, 75 performances were realized. The festival was initiated by five female Icelandic artists: Bryndís Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir, Ingibjörg Magnadóttir, Eva Ísleifsdóttir, Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir, and Katrín Inga Hjördísar Jónsdóttir, who all share equally the role of curator while also performing in the festival themselves.

Before Beyond Human Impulses, a disparate group of artists established Leikhús Listamanna, a platform for performance artists in Reykjavik that began in 2003 and lasted on and off for the next decade. Other than that, there have been no other platforms of this kind devoted to performance.

When Eva Ísleifsdóttir opened A-DASH, an exhibition space and art residency in Athens, Greece in 2017, it became an obvious place for the next incarnation of the festival. On the weekend of April 12th-14th, Beyond Human Impulses held its first festival in an old paper warehouse in the commercial district of Athens along with the help of Athens Intersection, Athens Trigono, and CheapArt, an organization that secures short-term art venues in empty buildings in Athens.

The festival opened on a Friday night with the performance Apogee or Nobody by Bryndís Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir. A fitting inaugural piece, the robotic vacuum that roamed the floors of the old warehouse seemed to bring awareness to the little corners and crevices of the decaying building, showing the viewers a new point of reference for vision that would set the tone for the rest of the festival. The saucer-shaped vacuum with its internal whirring motor spun in circles and sensed the space´s corners, the columns that stood under the balcony, and the feet of viewers who followed its movements patiently as though being sniffed by a wild animal. As the robotic vacuum explored the space, it sang a melancholic song in acapella through a speaker placed on top of it, echoing throughout the building.

Humming of Venus by Berglind Águstsdóttir.

The Storm is Coming by Maria Nikiforaki.

Reflex by Yiannis Pappas.

Ego Friendly Love by Katrín Inga Hjördísar – Jonsdóttir.

Radar LXXVII by Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir.

B – Be – Bee – By – Bí – Bý – by Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir.

Braid Choir – Solidarity by Gunnhildur Hauksdóttir.

Apogee or Nobody by Bryndís Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir.

Exiting… by Eva Ísleifsdóttir.

Reality in other words by Rakel McMahon.

Homo Bulla Est by Erin Honeycutt.

With the space now mapped by these beyond human senses, the evening could begin in earnest. “Thank you for believing in the moment,” Eva Ísleifsdóttir announced on the opening night. Performance thrives in the moment, the fleeting image or sound or combined effect, the unique audience, the circumstantial arrangements of the space, the day, month, era – all a moment (that can’t be purchased, although for sale throughout the weekend were posters with quotes from each of the 18 participating artists.) The passing moment that is so circumstantial in performance art, although in some instances can be restructured in similar surroundings and set-ups, are inevitably tragic, in a way, as it can never be documented for posterity in its true form.

The decaying paper warehouse on the cobbled, winding street called Chrisospiliotissis set the stage perfectly for these fleeting moments to appear and then dissolve. The space was characterized by its high ceilings and ornate decoration encircling the lighting fixtures in a state of decay, the tall, obscured windows with iron bars crossing them, the dust that covered every surface, and the wooden staircase that was a little too noisy to imagine lasting many more events like this one. Even the part of the ceiling that came crashing down overnight in a crumble of pieces on Saturday was a performance on the part of the building, a reaction from the space itself.

What better location for three evenings of performances that all seemed to relay a comment on the tragedies taking place in the world outside and the inner catharsis that may seem personal, but speaks to those events as well. Since we are in the realm of performance art, however, we do not have to serve the proper function of tragedy, regardless of how eloquent our poetry or how fine our choreography because this was Beyond Human Impulses, which became a running question throughout the weekend. What exists beyond human impulses?

We decided it was, more or less, when we decided to go beyond the human impulses of anxiety and worry to embrace an impulse that is co-creative, empathetic to the world at large, and creating a container in which to perform and enact rituals that transform the performer and include the audience in the transformation. Consider Katrín Inga Hjördísar Jónsdóttir’s Sunday performance Ego Friendly Love: a ritual in the nude in which she placed flowerpots and triangular mirrors around the room with audience members involved in the reflections.

On Friday evening, Gunnhildur Hauksdóttir enacted Braid Choir – Solidarity, a piece that has been performed before in different compositions of choir members and lyrics. With a gathering of long-haired women standing outward in a circle, Gunnhildur stood in the middle braiding the hair in a single circular plait while the choir spoke and sang sometimes in unison and sometimes as lone voices. The piece was dedicated to the two young Greek soldiers who were taken into custody in March 2018 for allegedly entering a Turkish military zone on suspicion of attempted espionage and who still remain in custody.

However, in Dionysian fashion, tragedy is followed by dancing and rapture – this was brought in full aesthetic qualities of Beauty and Significant Form in a performance by Berglind Águstsdóttir titled Humming of Venus who opened with the recorded sounds of the planet Venus borrowed from NASA. In her flowering kimono, bubble-blower, tinseled rotating fan and bright red lips, she became a new kind of demigod, singing along to a track overlapping Indian ragas with the duet ‘Islands in the Sun.’

Imitation, Aristotle argued, is a natural human impulse that humans enjoy and is our greatest learning mechanism. In this way, he defended tragedies, stating that they could appeal to the mind, the emotions, and the senses, and if confronted in a healthy manner, bring about a cleansing emotional catharsis, which is definitely the experience of a performance by Berglind – propulsion by catharsis.

Saturday opened with Eva Ísleifsdóttir’s Exiting…, an embodiment of the human inability to escape from the signs and symbols that surround us. Eva lay beneath the humongous exit sign, surrendered to the external meaning it purported to portray. Following Eva’s contemplation under this very physical and heavy sign under which she literally lay crushed on the pavement was a performance by the author that also dealt with our connection to universal signs and the meaning we make from them. In a baroque hair-do of the same era in which the German Romantic poet Friedrich Hölderlin lived when he wrote in Athens in the early 18th century, whose writings were quoted throughout the performance, a series of planetary aspects of the day were read.

Mars trine Pluto, for example, was applied a meaning based on observations taken from walking around the city in the few days leading up to the festival. Does the brimming strawberry cart on the square imitate Venusian effects? Is that couple fighting by the fountain an imitation projected in our earthly reality of Uranus’ interaction with the moon today? While there are thousands of opinions by astrologers to be found especially on the internet, the real answer is not as important as the place the question takes us, which is back to the mythic imagination, a reminder that our 40,000-year-old brain has not changed since the time when we couldn’t tell the difference between mythic reality and reality – they were both an equal reality, just a moment in time.

Following are names of the artists that participated with links to artists websites:

Amalia Charikiopoulou, Aristeidis Lappas, Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir, Berglind Águstsdóttir, Bryndís Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir, David Kirshoff, Erin Honeycutt, Eva Giannakopoulou, Eva Ísleifsdóttir, Gunnhildur Hauksdóttir, Ingibjörg Magnadóttir, Katrín Inga Hjördísar Jónsdóttir, Maria Nikiforaki, Ragnheiður Sigurðardóttir Bjarnason, Rakel McMahon, Snorri Páll, Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir og Yiannis Pappas.

Erin Honeycutt

All photos courtesy of Georgios Papadopoulos.

Beyond human impulses

The Scale of It All

The Scale of It All

The Scale of It All

From screensaver screenshots taken in 2007 by Katrín Agnes Klar to pen plotter drawings on engravings from Baroque 1730 publications by Lukas Kindermann in 2018, Distant Matter, now on view at The Living Art Museum, takes that which is remote and brings it under close inspection.

The artists’ first exhibition together on this scale since meeting at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design/ZKM ten years ago is vast in its breadth of subject matter and material discourse. It is seemingly difficult to break into, as though your body were being asked to negotiate between the vast scales and ratios having a dialogue within the space. Am I infinitely small or infinitely large? Does that meteorite (1:1, 2016, Lukas Kindermann), 3D printed based on data gathered from NASA and lying on the floor, exist just as much in this exhibition as it does on Mars? Does a 3D print make the object a hyper-real version of itself, etched layer by layer out of silica sand and epoxy resin? Am I the distant matter at hand or does that moniker belong to these objects in quiet conversation?

The conversation seemingly concerns the history of tools used in measuring the great distances between things such as the entire sky as in Lukas’ Atlas, 2018, in which an original copy of a photographic atlas stellarium by Hans Vehenberg is placed on a wooden platform. The viewer looks down into an inverted sky graphed into measurable squares which are scattered with both the originals of fossils, meteorites and roman shards as well as 3D printed carbon-silica sand and PLA replications. The conversation also concerns the small distances between things, as in the domestic and the everyday, as in the wallpapering table on which Katrín’s gradients of color are UV printed that could just as well be in your living room.

When placed side by side, these two vast scales at work allow the exhibition space to breathe – both in long inhalations and in short gasps – the body’s sense of scale likewise tries to keep up while the distant and the conjunct play in reciprocal motions, back and forth (like the movement of pen plotters, 3D printer arms, and the light beam from an image scanner creating a digital version of what once was held in your hands.)

The quote about quantum physics that is all too easily misunderstood in layman’s terms comes to mind while walking around the space. It goes something like this: you are an observer located at a single point in space-time, an event. The singularity principle also comes to mind, something about how equations that diverge towards infinity are afterward completely unknown to us.

The exhibition can take you through a crash course in these ideas but leave you feeling very human in the end, returned to the land, so to speak, like the meteorite itself brought you back, even if as a 3D print – which will have to do, since that appears to be the direction of things as 3D printing technology infiltrates our biology, building prosthetics and completely collapsing the staggering Old World equation of measuring costs in material, time, and energy on a human scale. The exhibition can take you to these places, yet leave you, rather singularly, with a body of resources and tools to extend the senses into vast distances to be mapped, like tossing a rock into a well and listening to the echo to get an idea of the depth and fullness.

In conversation with Katrín, I am told that she and Lukas have always had a conceptual approach:

“The art movements of the 1960s and early ‘70s like Land Art and Minimal Art have been an influence on both of our work, just as much as a Pop point of view. Perhaps symptomatic of the times we are in, I would say young artists have a wide-ranging frame of reference. Essential for both of us, though, is the fundamental concern in creating good images. Creating an image has such a universal meaning and is so deep in global history, but everyone connects to it at the same time.”

While seemingly a simple and straightforward concern, in the making of good images one can look at many overlapping cultural and scientific histories to see the depth at which one can travel in search for how to go about this activity. What makes it so difficult? Are there too many demands on the image in the 21st century or not enough? Consider: Is it aesthetically pleasing, in good resolution, conducive to the surroundings, making the best use of the technology that made it? “I grew up with an Icelandic art history background so the strong tradition of the influence of the landscape on the viewer has always been present. In all of my works,” Katrín says, “ I am imitating nature.” Perhaps that is the only real standard by which to judge a good image.

Katrín has worked before with the poster medium, one of many everyday objects she often includes in her work. On one whole wall of the exhibition space, a grid of posters called Blue Gradient (taken from airplane), 2018, is wallpapered to site-specific dimensions. The photo, indeed taken from the window of an airplane, shows a gradient stretching from dark blue sky to white horizon line. “Vice versa to the imitation of nature with computer-based tools,” Katrín says, “I simulate digital effects with material captured in nature, with photographs of the sky.” The photo is turned sideways so that the white horizon lines now touch other white horizon lines and are transformed into a wall of roving light photo scanners, giving the sensation that the whole room is in the process of being copied, digitized, turned into pixels, tossed into outer space and returned to something we can understand here in this room, like an everyday affair (like the cloud our phones and computers send data to, an everyday reality, so abstract yet mundane at this point.)

Works with UV printing, very common in advertising, are together with other techniques adapted from that field, definitely part of her ‘everyday’ oeuvre. However, unlike in advertisement, her images are based on a conceptual use of color. Boundary Colors (2015) is based on the color theories of Goethe who observed colors on the borders of darkness, which Katrín tells me, is, of course, sunrise and sunset. The piece in question is a lenticular image, meaning it changes depending on the angle from which it is viewed, displaying an almost time-lapse painting display of colors corresponding to those edges of darkness.

“A lot of these works are process-based, and because of the nature of the long-distance atmosphere, many of the final curatorial decisions were made on site,” added curator, Becky Forsythe. “There was this flexibility, from beginning to end, which is the way I like to approach exhibition making.” This open flexibility practically bleeds into the horizon, making distant matter an object on the table, observable from an airplane window or through your mobile phone, stretching across vast distances that could also be seen as quite minuscule. Formal elements connect the space through color gradients, scales, and patterns, like the structural layers creating a 3D print which build upon the other, making the intangible tangible. The space breathes, despite the large number of works in the room; perhaps it is the abundance of gradients of colors, allowing everything to exist on its own scale.

Erin Honeycutt

Distant Matter at The Living Art Museum by Katrín Agnes Klar and Lukas Kindermann. Curated by Becky Forsythe

Exhibition duration: 19.01.18 – 11.03.18

Photos: Vigfús Birgisson

The Alchemy of Color- Jeanine Cohen at Hverfisgallerí

The Alchemy of Color- Jeanine Cohen at Hverfisgallerí

The Alchemy of Color- Jeanine Cohen at Hverfisgallerí

The Space Between by the Belgian artist Jeanine Cohen is now on view at Hverfisgallerí from March 17th to April 29th.

Jeanine Cohen (1951- ) is foremost a painter. In her work, she carries the painting tradition into an architectural frontier in which the exhibition space takes part in the referencing of a frame. At Hverfisgallerí, Cohen presents two new series, Diagonal and Angles, in which she continues exploring the ways in which a frame can be referenced without a canvas, revolving around the parameters of paint application, color and light interaction, and the expansion of the pictorial surface. Like miniature architectural models, the works contain a world of atmospheric possibilities in themselves. Cohen has found a way to animate these worlds using the movement of the viewer to bring about a shifting of interplays between light and color within the space.

Diagonal and Angles speaks of accounts of subjectivity in architecture that tell the simple story about interiors and exteriors. In the form of a painting, the folded multidimensional framework tells us that what is interior is nothing more than a fold of the exterior. As in Deleuze’s ‘fold’ which he uses to expound on his concepts of the possibilities of producing subjectivity, the interplay of light and color guided by the referential frame can be seen as a topology of these meeting places called ‘folds.’

Jeanine Cohen, Diagonal N°3, 2017.

In the Diagonal series, Cohen pairs the dense colors of the outer edges, an olive green and a wine red, with fluorescent hues of the same tones, which are painted on the underside of wooden panels. These fluorescent hues reflect on another layer of white panels as well as on the gallery wall. A shadow play emerges, although the shadow is made of light.

There is a prescience to the electronic image in the works, related in the alchemy of colors that hang in a balance of appearing and disappearing, in the red and green hues that were also the two-color system used in early Technicolor processes, and in the way the panels criss-cross as in the intersecting lines which make up an electronic image plane. The hues reverberate from the frame, making the image expand and contract. In the Angles series, the fluorescence shifts against the vacuum created by the black and white.

Jeanine Cohen, Angle N°5, 2017.

If perspective is the guiding force of painting, then the narrative focus provided by perspective can be seen in Cohen’s work to be telling a story about the history of the pictorial surface of the painting and where it collides with architecture. The story seems to tell us that we are now beyond the vanishing point; it sits somewhere behind us as we experience the shadow of fluorescent light on a canvas that doesn’t exist. Cohen collapses the narrative of perspective while giving the works their own glow from within, similar to the confrontation between temporal and spiritual authority in a Renaissance painting.

Winter Series N°1, 2013

A previous piece from 2013 also exhibited at Hverfisgallerí shows another organization of structural planes in which to consider the frame. In Winter Series No. 1, a cross-shaped structure emanates a backlit glow of pink neon amongst a further interplay of shadow and angle and denser color hues.

Donald Judd, Untitled (Bernstein 89-1), 1989, installation view. Photo: David Zwirner Gallery.

Dan Flavin (1933-1996), the American minimalist sculptor and installation artist used industrial neon lighting tubes to bring together color and light, while Cohen organically goes about electrifying her work. Using neon light tubes and metal fixtures, Flavin brings an extra dimension to the conversation between light and color in the exhibition space. His neon installations initiated focus on the orientation of the viewer’s experience of the work.

Cohen’s elucidation on the conversational nature of color brings to mind other artists whose work with color and light take part in a similar discussion. Donald Judd (1928-1994) American sculptor also worked towards an absolving of interactions between space, light and color. In his wall stacks using colored Plexiglas and steel from the late 1980s, light is filtered in an alteration of presentations as the viewer interacts with the exhibition. The simple relation of objects reminds the viewer of the natural properties of light and color.

Dan Flavin, untitled (to the “innovator” of Wheeling Peachblow), 1966-1968. Photo: MOMA.

These earlier contemporaries of Cohen’s explored the parameters of their shared artistic elements in innovative ways which are relevant here only to highlight the contribution Cohen has made to existing fields. The structures holding these works look like canvas stretchers without canvas, or architectural drawing boards, but not a work pictorially displayed in any traditional sense. Cohen bridges the gap between painting and architecture, creating a fluid vanishing point where light and color are hung impossibly on shadow and form. Like a prescience to time-based arts, the works’ infrastructure moves between an image of construction and destruction, in a disappearing act with the wall, the atmospheric colors hyperreal in the way that they are already closer to a memory.

Höfundur: Erin Honeycutt




Deleuze, Gilles. The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. Translated by Tom Conley, The Athlone Press, 1993.


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