We are sitting in a pile of hay in Vogar, near Keflavík, drinking wine and watching hipsters lying about in the evening sun. Kolbeinn Hugi Höskuldsson and Mundi Vondi, a pair of local cool-kids-slash-artists who describe each other as a try-out musician and a fashion victim, are freshly showered after giving a performance inside a turf covered shed. The people in attendance boarded a bus in downtown Reykjavík a few hours prior—well stocked up on alcoholised beverages—with no clue where they were about to go or what exactly they were about to see. Little did they know they were about to witness two naked men covered in clay, dangling from the ceiling, attacking a piñata of full of beer.
“We started talking about how girls check out their genitals when they’re teenagers,” Kolbeinn Hugi muses over the last performance they did together. “They have to stand on top of mirrors. I read this book that my niece had and it said you had to place the mirror on the floor and stand on it and check out your vagina. So we were talking about placing mirrors all over and then when you have mirrors, you think about lasers.”
The performance of which he is speaking happened just two weeks prior, on a similar adventure, and consisted of a bare-assed battle of laser-pointers inserted into the most daring of orifices and crawling around a dirty cellar. “It started as a joke, but we realised quite fast that the joke had to become reality,” says Mundi. Luckily, both they and the crowd were socially lubricated with copious amounts of free alcohol in order to lower the level of perplexity.
Meaningless, but not vapid
Perplexing the audience is not necessarily the goal though. There seems to be no intended purpose or message from their artwork. In fact, Kolbeinn Hugi is of the opinion that it is misguided to search for meaning. “In my opinion people have this misconception about visual art,” he says, “you go to a visual art show and it’s supposed to mean something. You listen to music and you just accept it for what it is and you enjoy, or you don’t. You don’t question it. You go to a concert and you’re not like, “Why does he play the riff this way? Why does he not chug more on the guitar?” It’s weird.” The object of the performance rather is simply completing the task at hand. “What I like doing is just getting into a situation,” Mundi continues. “You have a goal, you’re not acting in any way, and you’re just completing your role. You haven’t pre-determined what you want to do or how you’re going to do it, you just know what you’re going to accomplish.”
Kolbeinn Hugi recounts that people often construe his events to be theatrical, but reacts strongly against this. “I met this guy and I handed him a flyer and he was like ‘Is it theatre’” he recalls. “I said, ‘Theatre!? No! What the fuck? It’s anything BUT theatre!’” While he admits that he feels more comfortable with having a preferred outcome to their works, their performances differentiate from theatre in that they are not scripted or necessarily have their outcome pre-determined. In the case of the piece they have just completed, he says they were not entirely sure what they were setting out to accomplish. “We just had some elements and we tried them out in front of a crowd,” he shrugs. “I don’t know what makes it not suck. It’s probably your intuition or something.”
They certainly aren’t shy about the things that fuel the inspiration for their work together either. “I like to think about violence, and I’m a pornographic maniac,” Mundi says, perfectly deadpan. This is rather unsurprising, considering the piñata they unleashed their fury upon had their faces alternately projected upon it, and with each blow of their sticks would release a horrible cry of distress. Oh, and again: they were completely naked.
“It’s a great excuse to get naked,” Kolbeinn Hugi enthuses. “I got a phone call from someone asking “Why are you always doing this gay shit with Mundi?” and I said “Hey man, he’s the only person who wants to get naked and do these things with me.” There’s always a need for naked people! They are in shortage. How many naked people do you see a day? I see one, maximum. Possibly more if I go to the swimming pool.”
“I just love to experience stuff that I haven’t seen before and I like to hear stuff I haven’t heard before,” he goes on, “and the beauty of visual arts in general is that it’s accepted that you can do pretty much whatever the fuck you want. The downside is that it’s always questioned. I like that you can surprise people. That’s really inspiring and that’s why I love performance.”
Don’t bother to pack your bags or your map
The trip we are currently on is the second time in a fortnight that the two have dragged an unsuspecting group out of the city for a night to a secret location. The first trip brought a bus of fifty people to a gallery in Keflavík where, in addition to the laser-cross performance, Kolbeinn Hugi exhibited a light display, a replica of the bar Bakkus was erected and hip electro-crew Quadruplos performed a set. The bus ride down to the location also featured live on-the-road tunes courtesy of the hilariously named Señor Sweaty. On this trip, however, the bus was not equipped to play live music, but after Kolbeinn Hugi and Mundi did their thing we were treated to the final show by Reykjavík noise-punk duo DLX ATX (they are currently ‘re-organising’ the band). The bus then returned to the city by 10pm, just in time to go out and party.
When it comes to paying for these events, the two have managed to find crafty ways to spend virtually no money. They keep their personal costs down by working with extremely cheap materials, and they have become very good at making the most of their resources and being frugal. The galleries and spaces that host their shows very graciously fund their travel costs. “A lot of the time galleries will pay for a really small advertisement in a magazine,” explains Kolbeinn Hugi. “It will bring maybe two people and it will cost 40.000 ISK. Why not get a bus full of people, advertise for free and get way more people, you know?”
As for the reason they bring people out of town for these events, they attribute it to the fact that things happen in the city all the time, but the countryside has its advantages. “I’ve done shows all over,” says Kolbeinn Hugi, “and some towns are interested, but some towns are not. People just want to stay home, so why not just bring people over?”
They also believe that bringing a group of people together in a capacity like this effectively displaces them from a normal art show setting. “When you isolate the crowd like this, it forms a certain bond with the people,” Mundi explains. “You get them out of the city, out of the where is the next thing happening, they are completely stuck here so they relax more. I think us driving people to an unknown location is also part of our hope for giving people some adventures in their lives. Some people never leave Reykjavík, or not for a good reason. They might go camping and have a good time with the grill, but we want to give people more.”
Quite accurately, all the people who have come along seem to be in a particularly laid back state. People are hanging around in the field by the edge of the sea, sharing their drinks and making new acquaintances with people they otherwise may not have engaged with. “This would never happen in town,” says Mundi. “It wouldn’t happen in Reykjavík. Never.”
Although it is currently unconfirmed, Kolbeinn Hugi and Mundi are likely to organise more of these trips throughout the summer. They happen at a moment’s notice, but the Grapevine gets the inside scoop, so we’ll let you know!