Interview: Icelandic Love Corporation

by Kristína Aðalsteinsdóttir

Celebrating their 20 years of collaboration this year, the Icelandic Love Corporation consists of Sigrún Hrólfsdóttir (b. 1973), Jóní Jónsdóttir (b. 1972) and Eirún Sigurðardóttir (b. 1971), that have been working together since 1996. They recently opened an extensive new exhibition titled Love conquers all at the Aros Aarhus Art Museum in Denmark, where they display their playful approach towards art in various media and we wanted to learn more about it.

Congratulations on your show at ARoS Aarhus Art Museum. With your new exhibition, I read that you’re looking to eliminate the clichés we surround the concept of love with and therefore that is the title of the exhibition, in addition to being your slogan as a group? Can you tell me more about this theme and the new show? 

Yes, thank you. We are very proud of this exhibition and the collaboration with the ARoS Art Museum. For our exhibition Love Conquers All we made four new works: DESIRE, WEB, ONOPHONE and TREASURE, three of them are participatory. We are also showing two works from last year, CRYSTAL CARPET and BLACK BRAIN from our exhibition Embody at the Pinksummer gallery in Italy. We also did a performance for the opening called Human Ceremony and a book was published along with the exhibition.

We have been interested in love from day one as can be seen in the English version of our collective name. We look at love as the most powerful element in the world and the most important force of all and it should be worshiped and accepted in all it’s complicity. Love is for humans like gravity is for the universe, very important but invisible even though we all see the consequences around us. We stick to mother earth through gravity and the mothers of the earth give birth to creatures made by love. If we want to change the world into a better place, love should not be reduced to clichés. In fact, we need to speak up about love as a useful medicine against a lot of problems, both socially and politically. It is like a boomerang. Love comes back to you if you give it away!

As a visitor of the exhibition you are faced with works that put you in a situation where you need to trust you instincts. Some works welcome you to take part, to take action, while others don’t. There is a fine line that needs to be respected both between humans all over the world as in museums, between artworks and visitors.

Erlend G. Høyersten, director of the ARoS museum has stated that he was excited to see what form the interaction between guests and your work would take within the show. I’ve noticed that all the original artwork for this exhibition requires the interaction of the audience, for example in ONOPHONE, where visitors are invited to answer a red telephone and they can have a chat with you from Iceland on the other line. What issues have you been chatting with people about and what’s the experience been like so far?

The exhibition has been very well visited and the guests have been active answering the Onophone, but sometimes we call and no-one answers, then of course nothing happens, no conversation is started at all, but when they take the step and pick up we can’t know where it takes us. It’s an improvisation that starts with a simple ‘hello’. The chemistry is different in every call. One call ended up very nicely the other day. An Australian couple living in Berlin where traveling through Arhus and ended up picking up the phone in the exhibition, we had a nice conversation about the exhibition and how they where receiving the artworks. At the end of the call we found out that we know the same person in Berlin, which is to say that the world is a small place after all and everything is possible.

Can you describe your work process? Do you all share a studio space where you have specific meeting times throughout the week where the work gets done, or do you mostly work individually and then come together with your ideas?

It is very different, sometimes one of us has an idea that we all connect to. If we share an idea at Love Corporation meetings then it becomes a part of the collective and we can work on it from there. A lot of our ideas develops through sharing time together in our studio or somewhere else, sometimes the idea and execution of the work develops in a smooth way, sometimes it’s more bumpy and we try to force things, then we need to take breaks and try again later. Solution making can be very creative and we end up with something that none of us would have come up with alone, that is the magic of a good collaboration.

Your works, even though they mostly consist of performances, very often contain sculptural elements. Do you view the sculptures as props in some ways, as a means to get the performances across or should they be viewed as independent artwork, separate from other messages and mediums?

Sometimes we make independent artworks that are not a part of a performance, like a permanent outdoor sculpture piece in front of a college called Borgarholtsskóli in Reykjavík and sometimes we make things that we consider more as props for our performances, but they might later turn into something else, because we also recycle some of our artworks.This summer for instance, we made a whole theater/site specific performance with recycled materials and works that we put together from our storage, things that we have collected for the past 20 years of working together. It was amazing to see new ideas develop with all this material and kind of remix with older ideas and to see something totally different come out of it. Even though a lot of our works have performative elements in them like some of the works at ARoS, we don’t look at them as props but as participatory artworks/sculptures, but in the end all our works connects and are a part of one big family.

It’s safe to say that your work is very colorful and particular in terms of material, how do you choose your materials, is there an ideology behind them? And where does the love of color come from?

During our 20 years of collaboration we have gone through different color palettes, from gray scale to neon. We are open to all colors, combinations and materials as long as it fits the concept we are working with. The material we have been using a lot lately are the tights, we really love that material, it’s full of flexibility, it’s fragile and strong at the same time and has a very clear connection to femininity and gender roles. At the beginning of our collaboration we just used them as people normally do, we just wore them, but very soon we started investigating them and made wings, sculptures and paintings out of them. Today we see them as our multifunctional material full of connections and meanings that we associate with. And funny enough, they are so strong and effective it’s almost possible to fix everything with this fantastic material.

Would you ever consider working on art with anyone outside your group? Are there any artists you admire or gain inspiration from?

We have worked with other artists through the years, we have for example worked with Björk when we did new works for her Volta album and have also worked with groups like the fire department, a rescue squad, with elderly people in old folks homes and with other performance artists to name a few examples. In our recent work Psychography we collaborated closely with visual artists, actors and dancers for example. That is something we want to do more of, it was very fruitful and fun. Being with creative people is the best inspiration possible, but being alone can also be very effective, it’s just different.

You recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of your collaboration, what would you say has surprised you the most when looking back at all those years and would you state that your work has changed in some aspects through time?  

ILC is like a independent creature that we conceived and have been bringing up together so when looking back we feel like very proud parents. We have worked very hard and made our best to let it grow and prosper. We have made a lot of works, traveled to exhibit and met a lot of interesting people. We have few, but good rules in the ILC regarding not telling who made what or who got what idea, but our collaboration has been going through some changes this year since Sigrún has taking on a new job that takes up her time, which means that for the time being Eirún and Jóní are doing the ILC. Looking back, probably the most surprising thing is that we are still working together and just going stronger and feeling that we don’t want to stop taking care of this creature that we have created.

Do you have any unrealized dream projects? What do you envision for the future of the Icelandic Love Corporation? 

Yes! We are always horny for new projects. Now we are working on a film and a book based on Psychography. We will be making a new performance with Lilith Performance Studio in Malmö and working with great musicians, Ensemple Adapter, in Berlin next year, plus some other projects. We will keep on engaging in all our projects with open and creative minds, believing in the power of art and nurturing our creature. We will keep on trying to live as much as possible in the here and now, crossing our fingers that we, the humans, will stop poisoning our planet, our future, love each other and be peaceful, then the future will be bright for all of us. That’s our hope. Love conquers all!

And with those strong final words I would like to thank the Icelandic Love Corporation for a lovely chat on their inspiring art. Their show at the Aros Aarhus Art Museum is on through January 22nd, 2017.

All photos courtesy of The Icelandic Love Corporation, 2016, photographer Anders Sune Berg.