IFF “Message to Man”. Exhibition of Icelandic Video Art
Sunday, 15 September 2019 at 15:00
Museum of the History of Photography: Professora Popova Street, 23
Opening hours: 3 p.m. – 8 p.m.
A tentative and ambiguous point of departure, this exhibition, which is presented alongside a five-part film programme representing film and video art from the Nordic countries, looks at landscapes, their topographical representation and personal interpretations, through the lens of four Icelandic artists with rather different artistic backgrounds: an experimental filmmaker, a fine artist, an international video art pioneer and a composer-turned-filmmaker. The exhibition sets out to create a densely textured and multilayered composition with mobile points of attraction and interconnections between separate works. Thorbjorg Jonsdottir’s video installation Þjórsá (2019), created in collaboration with Borghildur Oskarsdottir, captures Iceland’s longest glacial river in an aerial one-take shot. This large-scale installation is accompanied by two other recent works by Jonsdottir, both filmed in the Colombian jungle: I Feel Myself Turn into a Serpent (2019) and its companion piece A Tree is Like a Man (2019), the latter of which is here presented in the form of still frames from the film.
In Steina Vasulka’s 2000 video triptych Lava and Moss, we see images of lava fields near the harbour of Hafnarfjörður. Steina is one of video art’s pioneers and her work, often produced in collaboration with her husband Woody Vasulka, has been instrumental in exploring the possibilities of video since the late 1960s. On Lava and Moss, Steina says: “It’s a great challenge; to move the landscape that has been frozen and solid for many centuries; to get the landscape dancing. If there is God everywhere, his presence is definitely most obvious when you look at lava and moss.” Vasulka’s piece expresses a rapturous, touchingly myopic relation to its subject matter, built on microtonalities. Sigurður Guðjónsson’s Veil (2012), meanwhile, emerged from his interest in expanded duration: the way shifts and micro-movements acquire an almost hallucinatory quality over time. What happens to our apperception when we plunge ourselves into a close observation of the erosion of sand?
Finally, composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s debut film End of Summer was shot on 16mm film in Antarctica in 2013 and is set to music by Jóhannsson, Hildur Guðnadóttir and Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe. A melancholic piece, a choral hymn of sorts, that functions both as an actual and metaphorical depiction of migratory flows, End of Summer manages to create a sense of decelerated movement and otherworldliness, but also of the urgency, fleetingness and precariousness of a world existing between the habitable and the beyond.
Martin Grennberger, curator
“LAVA AND MOSS”
Director: Steina Vasulka
“Einar Mar invited me out to his house Light Crag on a beautiful day last autumn. The reason was to offer me a show in his own gallery, set on a breathtakingly beautiful lava field in Hafnarfjordur. “The theme is lava,” he told me. “Can you make your work fit into this?” I’ve had a love affair with lava since my early childhood, when elves and trolls were still a part of my reality. I remember that if I stared long enough at a lava field, it would start to move, even to emit sounds. Many years later I took some potent mescaline in Herdisarvik, and was able to summon up those childhood memories once again, along with all of the impressions that accompanied them. It’s a great challenge; to move the landscape that has been frozen and solid for many centuries; to get the landscape dancing. If there is God everywhere, his presence is definitely most obvious when you look at lava and moss.” Steina, May 2000
Director: Thorbjorg Jonsdottir, Borghildur Oskarsdottir
Þjórsá is a 60-minute single-channel video that consists of one continuous aerial shot taken from a Cessna airplane along the river Þjórsá. The camera follows the glacial river from its estuary at the Atlantic Ocean to its headwaters at the Hofsjokull glacier. The longest river in Iceland, the Þjórsá is 230 km long. Its channel runs through varied landscapes, from the glacier in the highlands, through lava fields and down to the meadowlands, where it eventually joins the ocean at its mouth. Over the past decades, five hydro-electric dams have been built on the Þjórsá, and at least two more are planned in the coming year, which has angered the locals who live in the area of the proposed dams and conservationists alike.
“I FEEL MYSELF TURN INTO A SERPENT”
Director: Thorbjorg Jonsdottir
Country: Iceland / Colombia
I feel my face change into a serpent. My jaws become unhinged and my mouth opens up wide, wider than I really can open it. I feel my nostrils and my whole face get flat. I hiss and vomit through this wide open snake mouth and then become myself again.
Director: Sigurður Guðjónsson
Veil is a film shot in one single take on the windy, black sands of Skeiðarársandur in Iceland. The invisible wind creates a veil of sand grains covering the earth. The soothing movement and sound create a meditative experience, creating mental space for the audience to alternately focus on and zone out of their own consciousness.