Reykjavík’s annual Museum Night is an annual celebration of the city’s art and culture scene when galleries, museums and cultural institutions throw open their doors, with free entry for all and sundry. Amidst this joyful melee of openings and events, which includes everything from snowboarding down the hills of the city centre to basement jumble sales to pop-up bars and major openings, one small but perfectly formed exhibition leapt out of the programme. “Love Molecules,” held at the pristine SÍM Gallery on Hafnarstræti, brings together the work of five young artists responding to the biggest theme of all: love.
The works on display vary from an arrangement of gems, jewels and buttons on plush velvet cushions to a poem (to be read, or listened to) to sublime abstract compositions and sketches of quotidian situations. Coming from these various angles allows the show to try and triangulate some of the components of what love is; how it appears to us, how it feels, and how it changes over time.
We met with the two curators of the show, Steinunn Lilja Emilsdóttir (above, left) and Ragnheiður Harpa Leifsdóttir (above, right), to find out more.
How did you arrive at the title “Love Molecules”?
Steinunn Lilja Emilsdóttir: We have a common friend, Eyþór Gylfason, who made a short play that used this phrase…
Ragnheiður Harpa Leifsdóttir: The play was about two scientists searching for the “love molecule”. They weren’t able to grasp what love is in real life, so they thought there must be a scientific solution. The idea fit with what we’d been thinking about for the theme of this show. When we decided to take on the subject of love, it seemed so big and vast… it’s so easy to go into cliché, because we’re bombarded with clichés about love. It’s something that’s always been there, with people wondering what it is—how it binds us together, and tears us apart. It’s the substance of everything, somehow.
What did the scientists in the play find out from their research?
RHL: They failed horribly! So perhaps it’s up to art to find out…
SLE: “What is love?” is one of those questions to which there’s no right answer, or wrong answer. I for one prefer having an answer. So I made up my own, and I’m sticking to it until something better comes along…
RH: Maybe this show was an attempt to answer an impossible question… to investigate from the big to the small. Love is something so big… and yet, you want to look at it under a microscope, and ask, “What is it?”
The show contains a lot of variety, from the sublime abstract shapes, through to the granular drawings of everyday life…
SLE: And they’re all relatable, in their own way.
RHL: And also we have work about the love of touch, texture and optics… and then we have abstract investigations… they’re all different lines of investigation into the central subject. During this process, we came across a book that we held onto as a jumping-off point called “Crystal Connection,” that Ragnheiður Maisól found in a second hand book shop. It’s a crystal who writes the book, supposedly… it’s all about finding your true calling, or your soulmate. You can read it in so many ways—sometimes it feels so right, and then other times it’s very weird. But it helped us to ground what we were looking for in the theme, and it had some good points. For example, when you move towards your true calling, you’ll find your soulmate…
Was the work made especially for this show, from artists responding your theme, or did you curate from existing work?
SLE: The work was made specifically for this show. It was remarkably easy, actually… love is just so interesting. It’s like stories of haunting—you don’t have to believe in ghosts to be fascinated. It’s that kind of subject that you never get bored with and that constantly tickles you.
RHL: You can constantly ask questions about love and relate to stories of your own experience. It’s something we struggle with all the time, and embrace.
SLE: It was a very healthy process, too. We met a few times just to talk about love. How many times do you do that in everyday life? To say: “Oh, it’s 2 o’clock, now I have to think about love…”
RHL: Yes! That part was lovely!
The process of talking out ideas that have been rolling around in your mind is when you really formulate them properly, sometimes, right?
RHL: And you also find what interests you. For example, I found it surprising that only one artist decided to talk about heartbreak—that’s what Katrín decided to focus on. She asked the question: “Is it still love after a relationship is over?” In theatre, that’s often the focus… the drama of it all. But everyone put their own focus on the topic. They’re all so different, but they speak so beautifully together, somehow.
How was the process of combining this new work into the space, as first time curators?
SLE: It felt very natural. We knew the space, and the group was working very well together, so there was no conflict or anything like that. We combined our efforts to make it all work.
RHL: We did it in love! We also had this wonderful process of coming together every week for brunch and talking about where the works were, and what we needed help with, or to reflect on. It was very helpful and rewarding, for us as much as the artists… we got insight into their thinking and we got to watch the ideas developing. It’s the first time we did this as a project like this, with this group. it was enjoyable to see how we all came together to make this.
SLE: The concept helped us. When you come together to talk about love, it’ll never end in conflict. So there theme helped us along. We focussed on the right things.
Do you think the group will make more projects together?
RHL: I hope so—perhaps we’ll alternate roles as artists and curators, or do other projects entirely. You learn so much from curating.
SLE: And it looks great on your CV—we’re really just in it for the fame, and that big curator money! When the show is over, I’ll buy my new curator Mercedes!
See the show at SÍM Gallery at Hafnarstræti 16 until February 19th, and find out more about the participating artists below.
Ragnheiður Maísól Sturludóttir – https://www.behance.net/maisol
Halla Birgisdóttir – http://www.hallabirgisdottir.org
Una Björg Magnúsdóttir – http://unabjorg.com
Sigrún Hlín Sigurðardóttir – http://sigrunhlin.com
Katrín Eyjólfsdóttir has no website, as yet.