“Parallax,” by the artist Elín Hansdóttir, will be showing at the Reykjavík Art Museum until the 19th of May. The show truly has its audience perplexed. Its simplicity in design reflects two basic elements, a room and a video recorder. So why is entering a cause for anxiety? I knew the exhibition was going to attempt to manipulate my visual awareness, but was I ready to be manipulated?
Beginning A Thought
The inspiration of the work was drawn from an exterior façade of a local house in Hafnarfjörður. Intrigued by the home owners’ aspiration to mimic and reconstruct the glass exterior of a Reykjavík office building, the artist sought to translate aspects of their ambition for an archetypal modernist style, reflected in the architectural structures throughout the installation. Working with the ideas of visual memory and reconstruction, the artist began her process for the exhibition and in homage to her thought process, a small image of the house in Hafnarfjörður can be observed just after exiting the exhibition.
A Dark Walk
Entering the darkness of the installation, I saw a motionless space displayed through a television screen. Whilst it recorded all who entered the space, the distance between them and myself seemed enormous. My trepidation was the awkward appearance of the people on screen. Was the room twisted or the people? And just how far did I need to walk to enter this room? The thick black curtains blinded my perception of distance as I walked further. The narrow path winded around several times like a thought process leading to its end. While trying to stay calm as the curtain brushed my arm and holding back a slight scream, I turned with an unnerving sense of confusion and apprehension into the peculiar room.
Although in keeping with the structure and décor of the building, it was clear the artist had constructed the space to a certain degree. However, what was original and what was a façade remained indistinguishable. I watched two teenage girls, arms linked, entering the room on the precarious vertical slanted floor. As they walked towards the black dot that was recording our every move, the space appeared to become smaller in size, gradually connected with the ceiling of the building. There was an unsettling feeling in the air, although no one knew why. Upon closer inspection, it turned out most of the room had been constructed. The lights on the right appeared to be sunlight from outside; however, if you remembered the positioning of the room to the external space, you would recall that the windows are only down the left of the building. Curious to discover more, I knocked on the cement ceiling and heard its hollow echo: it was another artistic façade. If it had been the original we would have been standing very high up. Realising these falsehoods, I felt duped and naïve. Were my visual senses so easily controlled?
It appeared that the artist, Elín Hansdóttir, intends to confuse conventional functions, making the space, the low ceiling and angular floor, uncomfortable to stay in – alerting the viewer’s natural precautions for the unconventional or impractical. Half knowing this before entering, I wondered why I could not overcome my fearful state of mind. Whatever the artists intentions, for me she has managed to play upon our memory and instinctive fears when losing control over our perceptions.
- Parallax Elín Hansdóttir
- Reykjavík Art Museum Tryggvagata 17, 105 Reykjavík