Scandinavia loves Scandinavians
A lot of exhibitions of Nordic art opened in Malmö last week. I guess that is not unusual for the city, but this time the city has chosen to focus on it particularly. There is always the issue of whether it is appropriate, or even exciting to put up exhibitions based on nationality and one can certainly question how relevant it is for a Nordic city to do a big project focusing on her own particular cultural region, but I won’t really go into that here, but instead leave it hanging as food for thought. This being a blog intended to provide insight into the Icelandic art scene it is only appropriate to focus on the fact that among the hundreds of artists opening in tens of exhibitions in museums, institutions and galleries around town Icelandic artists have some presence, most significantly in Moderna Museet and Malmö Konsthall. (Yes, I realize how contradictory this may seem).
But on we go anyway. In the Moderna Ragnar Kjartansson’s pink neon, Scandinavian Pain, reflecting on a uniquely Scandinavian sense of constant underlying pain defined in the works of Edvard Munch, August Strindberg, Ingmar Bergman, Henrik Ibsen, Abba and in black metal, lends the name to the exhibition. Inside Moderna’s exhibtion hall the piece rests on top of a reconstruction of a barn where the neon was originally shown in Moss, Norway. Inside the barn Kjartansson has now arranged an exhibition of works from the Elvis of Scandinavian Pain, Edvard Munch. The Munch works chosen for the exhibition ooze loneliness, sexuality, death, alienation and above all, tension. Alongside well known Munch works, such as Madonna, Death Scene and Puberty and a portrait of author August Strindberg, there are lesser known drawings of animals and fantastical creatures and their interactions with human beings. The works show characters with longings, desires, flaws, passion, trying to communicate and position themselves with others. The ever-complicated uncomfortable issue of being human with other complicated humans and all that comes with it.
Just a few streets away Malmö Konsthall opens its ambitious exhibition 24 SPACES – A Cacophony, where they have divided their exhibition halls into 24 spaces of 80 square meters each, literally creating space for non-commercial activities. For the exhibition, the last one curated for the Konsthall by its former director Jacob Fabricius, they invited 24 non-commercial artist- or curator-driven activities, as well as a few post-secondary art education institutions to showcase pretty much what they please. Some use it as an exhibition venue for a solo or group show for the entire duration of Malmö Nordic, while others have temporary exhibitions or event based activities.
Icelandic artist run gallery Kling & Bang and The Living Art Museum were both invited to take up one space each. So was PARENT, a new artist-run organization, still in development, that had their first gig at 24 SPACES. In their own words, PARENT is an initiator for a temporary symbiotic format between curators and institutions and positions itself between the curator and the institution. It is run by two Malmö-based artists, Patrik Aarnivaara and Icelandic Örn Alexander Ámundason, who invited curator Fatima Hellberg to curate the exhibition “Otherwise Unexplained Fires” for the occasion.
Kling & Bang presents the works of Sirra Sigrún Sigurðardóttir and Hekla Dögg Jónsdóttir, both founding members of the ten year old gallery and Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir, affiliated with the gallery from the beginning. The exhibition, curated by Daníel Björnsson, is called “de femme”, a play on the words “de fem” (e. the five) that was the companionship of five Swedish female spirituals, one of which was artist Hilma af Klint, whose works inspired this exhibition. All the works exhibited here share an element of light, be it actual visible light or of the more subtle invisible kind.
The Living Art Museum presents an exhibition that centers on ideas of language and have chosen three artists that use it in differnt political ways in their works – Charles Gaines, Deirdre M. Donoghue and Hans Rosenström. Alongside the artworks, a now half empty table is intended to present book works by members of the museum that the organizers, artists Bjarki Bragason and Gunndís Ýr Finnbogadóttir, hope will accumulate over the course of the summer, following an open call. Bragason and Finnbogadóttir also placed their own work under the table and on top of it, as a visible part of their relationship to the exhibition.
Worthy of a mention is the solo exhibition of Una Margrét Árnadóttir in the space of Malmö Art Academy where she shows her video I Hate Goodbyes. Other students will follow her footsteps with solo exhibitions throughout the summer.
Since it was very difficult to find information on exhibiting artists in the Malmö Nordic I am pretty sure I missed some Icelandic participants, but still, this is quite a lot.