Icelandic artists took part in the Venice Biennale on and off between 1960-1984. From 1984 and onwards, Iceland has presented its own national pavilion at The Biennale. From 1984 until 2005 the Icelandic Pavilion was housed at Alvar Aalto´s Finnish Pavilion. From 2007 the pavilion has been housed in different venues around Venice.
Artist Sigurður Guðjónsson will represent Iceland at the Venice Biennale in 2021. Sigurður is known for his powerful video works where visual, audio and space create an organic whole. He started his exhibition career at the turn of the century on the vibrant artist-run experimental scene in Reykjavík that has fostered new art in temporary venues all over the old city. His dark and hypnotically moody videos immediately set him apart and attracted attention.
With more than twenty solo exhibitions and dozens of group shows and festival screenings, his works have found appreciative audiences around the world. Sigurður Guðjónsson was awarded the 2018 Icelandic Art Prize as Visual Artist of the Year for his 2017 exhibition Inlight in the chapel and morgue of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hafnarfjörður and commissioned by Listasafn ASÍ. His newest work Enigma is currently scheduled for exhibitions at Kennedy Center, DC, Adler Planetarium and Carnegie Hall, among other exhibition places in 2019.
Sigurður Guðjónsson exploits the potential of time-based media to produce pieces that rhythmically engage the viewer in a synaesthetic experience, linking vision and hearing in ways that seem to extend one’s perceptual field and produce sensations never felt before.
Sigurður Guðjónsson was born in Reykjavík in 1975. He studied at Billedskolen in Copenhagen 1998-1999, Iceland University of the Arts in 2000-2003 and Akademie Der Bildenden Kunste in Vienna in 2004.
Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir / Shoplifter
Curator: Birta Guðjónsdóttir
Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir / Shoplifter’s practice overlaps many different creative fields. From fashion to fiction to furry action to tactile friction, her oeuvre encompasses ways of making that belong to the visual arts and to design. For her installation, Chromo Sapiens, she continues to develop her unique textile techniques and specialized manipulations of her signature material; multi-colored synthetic hair extensions, creating a large-scale environment that can be compared to an overgrown plant-like organism or an inverted hairdo. Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir / Shoplifter invites you into a multi-sensory environment, “a journey into the center of a new hypernatural world”, to use her own words. As you explore it, you might very well find yourself becoming one with it, immersed in a dynamic field of vibrant color, textures, light, shadows and sound.
Chromo Sapiens is formed of three cave-like spaces. On entering the first, the Primal Opus, you are met with quite earthy, dark colors, subdued surfaces with flashes of neon peeking out. The pre-recorded soundscape of Icelandic cult metal band HAM can be heard, but furthermore, it can be felt by the body. Continuing into the second cavern, Astral Gloria is a spacious dome-like space with bright intensely loud neon colors and hairy stalactite and stalagmite-like formations. The third cave, Opium Natura, is somewhat of a garden of ethereal delights, a haven for breathing and contemplating, an airy space where the color palette is very light, with a range of whites mixed with pastels, soft on the eye and emanating light.
For Chromo Sapiens, the Icelandic band HAM was commissioned to create a special soundscape and an ‘Anthem’. The group has played an important role in Shoplifter’s creative processes ever since she was a teenager. She is enormously influenced by how HAM’s dynamic sound takes over our senses and echoes the darkness in all of us. In HAM’s own words from the Chromo Sapiens Anthem; You’re doomed, you’ve got no bloody chance. Until you open up your heart to Chromo Sapiens.
Ugh og Boogar
Curator: Stefanie Böttcher
Egill Sæbjörnsson (b.1973) lives and works in Berlin and Reykjavik. At the forefront of experimentation, he combines music, sculpture, video projection and animations, as well as his own performance – whether as a mime artist, speaker, actor, musician, or singer – to create fictional spatial narratives. Theatrical, poetic and playful, ordinary dormant objects come alive in Sæbjörnsson’s works – be they plastic buckets, a wall, rough stones or handbags – drawing the viewer into a wondrous world where the real and the imagined collide.
Sæbjörnsson works and performances have been shown at The Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum for Contemporary Art in Berlin, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Kölnischer Kunstverein, The Baryshnikov Art Center in New York, Oi Futuro in Rio de Janeiro, PS1 MoMA, Kiasma in Helsinki and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney. Gallery shows include: i8 Gallery Reykjavik, Hopstreet Gallery Brussels, Isabella Bortolozzi Gallery Berlin and Johann König Gallery Berlin. Sæbjörnsson was nominated for the Carnegie Art Awards in 2010 and his works can be found in several private collections and museums. Recent public works include Steinkugel, a permanent public art work for the Robert Koch Institute; and Berlin and Cascade, an extended light installation for the Kunstmuseum Ahlen. In 2011 he collaborated with Marcia Moraes and Robert Wilson on a remake of Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach. Sæbjörnsson has also published three books in conjunction with his work and released five albums. www.egills.de
Ūgh and Bõögâr are Icelandic trolls. They are 36 meters tall and love to eat people, hide behind buildings and – being shapeshifters – transform themselves into new things. They are ferocious
beings, but is that all there is to them? Or do they have a hidden, softer side? Meeting Egill Sæbjörnsson some years ago, Ūgh and Bõögâr started to notice that humans know things trolls don’t know. It made them curious and they started to learn from him, developing a passion for art and traveling. Ūgh and Bõögâr are forces, entities, phenomenons of nature. Nobody know where they come from, how old they are or how they entered Sæbjörnsson’s life. Now they have entered yours, since you have read about them.
Stefanie Böttcher (b. 1978) is an art historian and curator. Since 2015, she has been the director of Kunsthalle Mainz, where she curated On the Shoulders of Giants and Detail is all, as well as a solo exhibition with Lebanese artist Rabih Mroué. She worked as artistic director of the Künstlerhaus from 2007 until 2013, where she gave young international artists such as Lara Almarcegui, Ahmet Öğüt, Pilvi Takala and Kateřina Šedá their first solo shows in Germany. In addition, she has organised extensive survey exhibitions of works by more seasoned practitioners such as Tim Etchells and Robert Kinmont. In 2013, the Goethe-Institut awarded her a curatorial research stipend for Serbia, and the same year she curated the group exhibitions 7 Ways to Overcome the Closed Circuit and 8 Ways to Overcome Space and Time, in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade (MoCAB). Böttcher has also published broadly on individual artists and art as a site for utopia.
Curator: Nína Magnúsdóttir
Christoph Büchel has anchored the concept for THE MOSQUE in both the historical context of Islamic culture’s profound influence on the City of Venice, and the socio-political implications of contemporary global migration. Enriched for centuries by trade with the East and shaped by Arabic art, architecture, and language, Venice was home to a Muslim prayer room (though not a mosque), established in 1621 in a space inside the 13th century palazzo today known as the Fondaco dei Turchi. Nevertheless and in spite of its inextricable links to the Muslim world, the City of Venice has to this day never permitted the establishment of a mosque in its historic center. The Cannaregio site of THE MOSQUE is adjacent to a section of the historic city still known as the Jewish Ghetto, where longstanding political restrictions on Jewish rights and residences were instituted into law in 1516 – and subsequently applied also to Muslim merchants worshipping in Venice in the 17th century and living segregated from the rest of the city’s people. In fact, the modern English language term ghetto comes from the Venetian word “ghèto,” for the slag that was stored in a foundry in this district of the city.
The creation of mosques is a source of contention today in locations around the globe. As the Venice Biennale contribution of Iceland, a country with one of the lowest immigration rates in the Western world, THE MOSQUE also creates a reference point specifically for the Muslim Community of Reykjavik. The Iceland Muslim Community is gradually becoming a part of the social fabric there, and after twelve years of political debate and media controversy, is finally preparing to construct the first purpose-built mosque in the history of the nation’s capital. With these events as its backdrop, THE MOSQUE draws attention to the political institutionalization of segregation and prejudice, and to settlement policies that lie at the heart of global ethnic and religious conflicts today.
Mohammed Amin Al Ahdab, President of the Muslim Community of Venice, commented, “Recently, several encouraging signs of openness and understanding have come from the government of our city, from local authorities both civic and religious. But through its depth, truth, and wisdom, the Biennale project of our Icelandic friends is the greatest indicator thus far that a bright new page can be written into the history of the City of Venice through a new form of art — art that is not limited to painting and sculpture only, art that needs today all the way, the art of dialogue.”
At the Cannaregio church site of THE MOSQUE visitors will find the physical attributes of Muslim worship – the qibla wall, the mihrab, the minbar, and the large prayer carpet oriented in direction of Mecca – juxtaposed with the existing Catholic architecture of the Church of Santa Maria della Misericordia in a visual analog for the layering of history, religion, and culture that gives rise to both progress and conflict.
The City of Venice was the Mediterranean center of trade from the 13th century to the 15th century, when the Sultanate of the Ottoman Empire was establishing its presence. Complex religious and political issues dominated Venetian history, requiring the City to perform a cultural balancing act between East and West. The ongoing and diverse patterns of commercial and cultural interaction between Venice and the East rendered it the trading capital of the world for centuries – and the tourist attraction it is today. Evidence of Islamic influence is everywhere in Venice: The city’s unique and famous architecture is an amalgam of Occidental and Oriental styles. Venetian dialect is rich with Arabic words and inflections. The first mechanically printed Arabic Quran was published in Venice in 1537-38. The only remaining original resides in the city today.
THE MOSQUE draws attention to issues that connect Venice and Iceland and shape dialogue about their respective futures. Venetian problems such as the commodification of culture, complete saturation by tourists, and an ongoing de-population of native Venetians that threatens to reduce the city to stasis, find parallels in Iceland
via exponential increases in tourism, the commercialization and exploitation of nature, and low immigration rates.
Born in Basel, Switzerland in 1966, Christoph Büchel is recognized internationally for his conceptual projects and complex large-scale installations. Büchel often draws upon current events and politics, re-appropriating mass media sources and everyday life situations. His precise representations of reality seem to be more real than reality itself. Often the world he creates is fully functioning, and visitors forget that they are in an art installation, physically projected into other contexts and community settings that make up the contemporary world. These lifelike installations, which often also involve interaction and dialogue with specific communities, are often meticulous constructions that mirror the inner workings and hierarchies of advanced capitalist societies, contexts we pretend not to see or consciously refuse to acknowledge.
In Büchel’s work, complexity is found in the elaborate detail developed for each project. A hallmark of the artist’s work is layers of social and political commentary. Büchel locates contradictions and social inequities in the ideological forces dominating society today and finds a way, through his art, to demystify and resist these forces by revealing them as constructed realities subject to change.
Curator: Mary Ceruti and Ilaria Bonacossa
“A floor is a place. A floor represents a fixed location, stationary, and by conventional logic it is safe to say that floors don’t move; but as decorative surfaces, as historical artifacts, and as archaeological discoveries, they are commonly preserved, and transplanted, to museums, or to other locations where the aura, the ghost, the shadow, the atmosphere of their original locale is suggested. It becomes a narrative in a new time and place; a remembrance of lives, customs, cultures, events is imbued in the material, rubs off the surface. They become gigantic souvenirs of a different place, time, experience.” –Katrín Sigurðardóttir, First Proposal, Venice, May 2012
Katrín Sigurðardóttir’s Foundation, is a large-scale installation comprising a raised ornamental surface.
Foundation was conceived as a trilogy of installations: in an ancient laundry in Venice, in an old customs depository in Reykjavík and in a trolley shop from earlier times in New York. With its historical reference, Foundation draws attention to the inherent history of its host buildings, and they come to embody the toil of the serving trades. The visitor walks upon the floor of the nobleman, while the ceiling above his head is that of the servant or laborer. At each exhibition venue the pre existing walls continue to shape the work, draw a new pattern. Thus, the real story – of intersecting three different buildings in three countries – will intentionally contrast with the fairy tale of the baroque-inspired floor.
The tiled surface, handmade by Sigurðardóttir and her colleagues in her studio, calls into question the boundaries between art and craft. The floor is not made by traditional methods, however, as Sigurðardóttir chose to use art materials rather than industrial materials to cast the tiles.
In her work, Katrin Sigurdardottir examines distance and memory and their embodiments in architecture, urbanism, cartography and traditional landscape representations. In her work she often plays with scale distortions. When she refers to distant places from the past, she relies on modeling and demonstrates how things become smaller from a distance and fade in memory. She tampers with the traditional attitude we have towards our environment and reminds us of the part we play in its development. Sigurdardottir emphasizes the close relationship between our sense for place and creativity, because when we experience a new environment we transform it into a place in our mind and remember it so. This play on the border of mental and material space is repeated in diverse and fascinating ways in her work. Katrin Sigurdardottir was born in Iceland in 1967 and has a studio in New York, she divides her time between the two places.
Two curators, Mary Ceruti, and Ilaria Bonacossa, were engaged in realizing Sigurdardottir’s exhibition. Based in Italy, Bonacossa has a diverse career in the field of curating, producing works and writing about art. She was appointed as principal curator at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Torino 2003-08 and co-founded Art at Work in 2009. The collective commissions and develops contemporary art projects, through an innovative working platform that operates in both public and private institutions, as well as profit and not for profit organizations. She has written about art for international institutions, publishing and magazines. Based in the U.S. Ceruti is Executive Director and Chief Curator at SculptureCenter. Located in Long Island City, New York, SculptureCenter is dedicated to experimental and innovative developments in contemporary sculpture. Ceruti oversees all aspects of program, planning, and organizational development and has organized numerous solo and group exhibitions, special projects and commissions by emerging and established artists.
Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson
Curator: Ellen Blumenstein
Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson collaborations explore the political, socio-economic, and personal forces that affect life in the present day. Their work, which has taken them to cities around the world, and often develops out of their personal interactions with people and places, can be characterized as an interpretation of culture and the complex relationships that compose it. Castro and Ólafsson’s exhibition for Venice, Under Deconstruction, unveils current sociopolitical issues in Iceland and elsewhere, using video, performance, sculpture, sound, and music interventions.
It features: a new iteration of their ongoing project, Your Country Doesn’t Exist (2003-present), which is presented in various locations in the city; a musically-infl ected video installation, Constitution of the Republic of Iceland (2008-2011), showcased within the pavilion; as well as a sound sculpture, Exorcising Ancient Ghosts (2010), installed on the roof of the pavilion.Your Country Doesn’t Exist is an ongoing campaign, begun in 2003, for which the artists have traveled the world spreading the message, “Your country doesn’t exist” in different languages and through various visual modes, including billboards, T V advertisements, and wall-drawings. In Venice, Castro and Ólafsson are presenting the project in four iterations.
Preceding the Biennale, the artists staged and recorded a public performance that
featured a mezzo-soprano, Ásgerður Júníusdóttir, traveling the canals of Venice by gondola while singing the phrase: “This is an announcement from Libia and Ólafur: Your country doesn’t exist”. The vocalist sang the phrase in several languages, and was accompanied by both trumpet (David Boato) and guitar (Alberto Mesirca). The lyrics were written by the artists, and included appropriated phrases from a text by writer and curator Antonia Majaca, about the Your Country Doesn’t Exist project. The score was composed by Icelandic composer Karólína Eiríksdóttir. For the duration of the Biennale, a video installation of the performance is displayed in the Pavilion of Iceland. On 2 June, a performance will also be staged in the canals of the city. The gondola will follow a route passing the national pavilions in the Giardini di Castello and the Arsenale. Additionally, a neon sculpture reading “Il tuo paese non esiste” (“Your country doesn’t exist” in Italian) is installed on the façade of the pavilion. The final part of the series is a “Do-it-Yourself” painting done by the Icelandic ambassador Gunnar Snorri Gunnarsson in February 2011, in collaboration with the artists.
Constitution of the Republic of Iceland represents Castro and Ólafsson’s first collaboration with Icelandic composer Karólína Eiríksdóttir. For this piece, the artists worked with the composer to create a score to which the Icelandic Constitution could be performed by soprano and baritone vocals, piano, double bass, and a mixed chamber choir. The composition was first publicly performed in March 2008 in Iceland, six months before the collapse of the country’s banking system. The video presented in Venice is a recent performance of the work, which was staged at The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service Television, and broadcast on Icelandic national T V in February 2011. The video was aired several times, the fi rst of which having been the day the new elected Constitutional Assembly was set to begin revising the Icelandic constitution.
Exorcising Ancient Ghosts is a bilingual audio piece based on Castro and Ólafsson’s research into the rights of women and foreigners in ancient Greek society, which was produced in Naples in 2010. The work was inspired by the artists’ discovery of an Athenian law from the mid. 5th-century B.C, which prohibited Athenians from marrying, or having intimate relations with foreigners. Castro and Ólafsson worked together with a team of researchers to create a dramatic “text collage”, composed of various excerpts from ancient Greek political, philosophical, judicial, and literary texts. The artists then staged two readings of the texts, spoken by two couples having sex: one featured a Neapolitan woman and a Balinese man reading the text in Italian, and the other featured a couple from New Zealand reading the text in English. For Venice, the artists present the work as a sound installation on the roof of the pavilion, incorporating the architecture of the pavilion itself into the work. The audio recordings are projected simultaneously from a terra cotta vase through two sets of headphones.
Curators: Markus Thór Andrésson & Dorothée Kirch
The End featured Ragnar Kjartansson, a self-described incurable romantic, whose multifaceted artistic practice is rooted in a tradition of acting and performance with an existential and absurdist sensibility that can be linked to artists ranging from Caspar David Friedrich to Gilbert and George. Kjartansson’s exhibition for Venice, entitled The End, will feature a tableau vivant of the artist and his model that will last for the entire six-months of the Biennale, along with a monumental video and music installation. It will be presented in the Palazzo Michiel dal Brusà, a 14th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal near the Rialto, which has served as the Icelandic Pavilion since 2007.
Transforming the Pavilion into a makeshift studio for the Biennale, Kjartansson will relentlessly paint the portrait of a young man posing day after day against the backdrop of the Grand Canal. The young man modeling for him will be smoking cigarettes and drinking beer, while clothed only in a bathing suit. For six months, Kjartansson will limit his art production to the painting of this scene. He will produce one work after the other, with the paintings made on previous days left to accumulate in piles around the studio. Though not an idealized version of the artist and his model – such a proposal being disrupted by the incongruous appearance of the Speedo, the cigarettes, and the beer in an otherwise romantic setting – the performance is partially based on questions of the artist’s self, suggesting his perpetual re-conceptualization in relation to his surroundings and previously existing works of art.
In a separate room, a new video and sound installation consisting of several scenes shot in the Canadian Rocky Mountains will display Kjartansson and a collaborator playing an ambiguous country music arrangement on a variety of instruments. Recorded directly in the snow-covered mountains, the music will take on the sounds of nature that, along with the expansive sights and sounds in the video, will be in sharp contrast to the intimate and isolated performance in the adjoining room of the Palazzo. Taken together, the recorded performance in the Rocky Mountains and the live performance in Venice will create a dramatic juxtaposition between two iconic settings. Connecting the two portions of the exhibition, however, are themes of creativity, camaraderie, and Weltschmerz or world-weariness.
Also a part of the exhibition, and in anticipation of the Biennale, Kjartansson and his friend and fellow artist Andjeas Ejiksson began exchanging letters in early 2008 chronicling preparations for the Pavilion. The two artists approached this dialogue from a performance angle, slipping into the roles of two sentimental gentlemen of yore. In the correspondence, which will be published in its entirety in the exhibition catalogue, Ejiksson describes the Pavilion as follows:
“I imagine the Venice Pavilion being a lighthouse at the end of the world, watching the verge of nothingness.
Waves chasing the lost souls and the mist blurring the horizon, protecting you from the vertigo of the abyss. It is a nameless sea and sitting on the dock is a man without fate”
Ragnar Kjartansson (b. 1976, Reykjavík, Iceland) conjures up emotions in his work that he can pass on to his viewers, with a keen eye for the tragicomic spectacle of human experience where sorrow collides with happiness, horror with beauty, and drama with humor. In his versatile artistic career, he has focused on video, painting, and drawing, with performance at the heart of his practice. Both of Kjartansson’s parents are actors, and acting, repetition, and identity are ever-recurring themes in his work. He has taken on countless roles in his performances, combining his own personality with personas from cultural history. His work incorporates a mélange of show business icons and nostalgic imagery from bygone eras of theater, television, music, and art, allowing him to blur the border between life and art, reality and fiction, and to create bold statements that strike chords with his audiences. In addition to his work in the visual arts, Kjartansson has had a career in music, releasing several albums with his bands and performing throughout the world.
The Golden Plover Has Arrived
Curator: Hanna Styrmisdóttir
Steingrimur Eyfjörd is one of the foremost of a generation of artists who came to prominence in Iceland during the 1970s. His prolific output over the past 25 years draws on his experience not only as an artist but as a comic strip author, magazine editor, writer, curator and teacher. His work employs a wide variety of media, including photography, comic strip, video, painting, sculpture, performance, writing and installation. His art may appear equally diverse conceptually: founded on influences as disparate as folk tales, Icelandic sagas, women’s fashion magazines, religion, superstition, critical theory and many other current topics, Eyfjörd’s chains of association intersect at a nodal point of multiple meaning, forming a body of work that is multi-layered and at times perplexing yet always reveals an articulate and unexpected approach to the issues at hand.
Art historian Elena Filipovic has said of Eyfjörd’s work: ‘Confusion, longing, and frustration are some of Eyfjörd’s underlying subjects but these terms also inevitably describe how one feels in front of his works. His investigations of materiality and form can seem absurd or enigmatic and psychologically charged, yet they almost always prompt an awareness of the emotional, physical, and cognitive experience of art.’ (Steingrimur Eyfjörd, The National Gallery of Iceland, 2006)
The Golden Plover Has Arrived
The golden plover is a small wading bird, regarded as the harbinger of spring in Iceland. Its arrival in the country in late March, early April, is invariably announced in the local media. In The Golden Plover Has Arrived, composed of 14 individually titled works, Eyfjörd scrutinizes the culture, economy and politics of various moments in Icelandic history, in a deconstruction of prevailing interpretations of the creation of modernity in the country. As part of his work, Eyfjörd consulted and collaborated with people from all walks of life, among them artists and academics. He also visited a medium who put him in contact with a hidden person (a common Icelandic myth), normally invisible to human eyes. The purpose of this was to buy a mythical being – an elf–sheep – for The Sheep Pen, the central work in The Golden Plover. This somewhat surreal act highlights one of the most intangible concerns in Eyfjörd’s work: his interest in the function of consciousness in the construction of physical reality. This aspect of Eyfjord’s work is also a reflection of a belief and culture particular to Iceland, and can be further explored in the curator’s introduction in the Biennale catalogue. A highly acclaimed exhibition of his work at the National Gallery of Iceland in spring 2006 provided a retrospective of Eyfjörd’s significant contribution to contemporary art in the country. He has exhibited extensively in Iceland as well as internationally, including solo and group exhibitions at the Reykjavik Art Museum, the National Gallery of Iceland, Akureyri and Kopavogur Art Museums, the Living Art Museum, Den Haag Gemente Museum, The Royal College of Art in London, Mücsarnok in Budapest, the Centre International d’Art Contemporain at Carros, the Meilahti Art Museum in Helsinki and the Henie Onstad Kunstcenter in Oslo. In 2006 he was selected for the Carnegie Art Award and in 2002 he received the Icelandic DV cultural prize for visual art.
Steingrimur Eyfjörd was born in Reykjavik in 1954 where he lives and works.
Versations / Tetralogia
Curator: Laufey Helgadóttir
Gabríela Friðriksdóttir (b. 1971) work is a multimedia installation combining painting, sculpture, and bas-relief as well as the four-video piece Tetralogia, which was created in collaboration with Björk Guðmundsdóttir, Daníel Ágúst Haraldsson, and many others. Architect Birgir Þröstur Jóhannsson designed a façade to complement the content of the work and also designed the interior structure for Friðriksdóttir’s installation. Versations/Tetralogia takes aim at exploring the boundaries and tensions between different media and their use in furthering the chaos, excess and disorder of contemporary society. Friðriksdóttir also plays with the line between reality and dreams, having drawn on Icelandic spiritualism to create her own personal cosmology and fantastic mythology. Her work at the Biennale also references the conversations amongst Icelanders over time about narrative works in Iceland’s long literary traditions—but in her title, she leaves out the “con” in “conversations,” suggesting that conversations are often attempted but seldom fully realized.
Curator: Laufey Helgadóttir
One of Iceland’s most internationally prominent artists of today, Rúrí (b. 1951) works in a wide variety of media, from sculptures, installations, and environmental art to multimedia and performance. Her piece in the 50th Venice Biennale, Archive—Endangered Waters, was an interactive multimedia installation comprised of 52 photographs of waterfalls threatened by increasing dam building. Shot from diverse locations in the Icelandic highlands, developed on transparent film, and held between two panes of transparent glass, the photographs were encased in a large steel frame with moving slots that scientifically “archived” Iceland’s waterfalls. As visitors to the installation would walk throughout the closed pavilion, their movements would directly affect those of the photographs in the steel frame, and as each photo slid into place the recorded sound of that waterfall could be heard. As in many of her works, Rúrí highlights in this piece not only the beauty of the natural environment and the human relationship to and presence within it, but also engages viewers in a literally physical relationship with her art as well, asking them to reflect on how their own actions and movements affect the natural world. Rúrí’s work often engages contemporary events such as war and conflict in addition to the destruction of the environment—and whether explicitly or subtly, with force or elegance, commands reflection on individual connectedness with a collective societal consciousness.
Finnbogi Pétursson (b. 1959) , who represented the country at the Biennale in 2001, created a monumental sound installation, Diabolus, in Iceland’s pavilion that became itself a musical instrument through which visitors would walk. Like much of his work, Diabolus incorporated sound, Pétursson’s focal medium, with sculpture and architecture; since he began exhibiting in 1980, his work often uses the implements that produce electronic or acoustic sound—loudspeakers, wires, and instruments—to form sculptures themselves. As for Diabolus, Pétursson bisected the wooden Alvar Aalto pavilion with a 16-meter-long tunnel, ending in an organ pipe of his own creation, through which guests would move through and experience this subtle work of art both publicly and privately. From a speaker under the organ pipe resonated a tone at the frequency of 61.8hz, and an air pump blowing through the same pipe produced another tone at 44.7hz. Together the two tones form an interference wave—in this case, the result of two sound waves of a similar frequency that when combined form a new, single wave—at the frequency of 17hz, a dark-sounding tone known as the diabolus. Actually banned by the church in medieval times for its supposed devilish and disordering qualities, Pétursson’s creation of the diabolus mixed contemporary electronics with the centuries-old organ pipe to essentially uncensor a sound once forbidden in the Catholic Church, whose seat, of course, is in Venice itself.
Features in the Danish pavilion.
The Nordic countries invite Iceland to the Nordic Pavilion
Sigurður Guðmundsson takes part in the international exhibition, 72-76, one of the fringe events held in connection with the Biennale.
Svavar Guðnason and Þorvaldur Skúlason share a pavilion with Norway and Sweden.
Kjarval and Ásmundur Sveinsson are Iceland’s first representatives at the Venice Biennale.