The Reykjavík Arts Festival is a breath of fresh summer air to the city’s cultural scene, bringing together a rich mix of local and imported art, dance and theatre each May. The programme positively bulges with openings, performances and events, and it can all blow by very quickly—so here’s our team’s quick ‘n’ dirty guide to ten events you shouldn’t miss.
FlexN, Photo by Sodium
May 21 — FlexN
This festival opens with an energetic performance from this troupe of 15 dancers, who combine different styles, from Brooklyn to Jamaica, into a fluid, expressive take on street dance. JR
Brim, 20:00, Price: 5.500 ISK.
May 22-June 5 — Phoenix
Some artwork aims to extend the attendee’s role from passive viewer to an active participant. The Reykjavík edition of Phoenix, by the Wunderkind group, promises to provide an interactive sensory experience using guides and technology to walk people through an immersive living artwork. JR
Snarfarahöfn, Elliðavogi, 14:30-16:30, Price: 2.500 ISK (book in advance)
May 21 — Shift
I always describe abstract painting vs. representational painting as similar to poetry vs. prose: with the former of each, you don’t have to worry about following the plot as much as enjoying the ride. So, as poetry is defined as much by its white spaces as words, so too are the mysteriously monochromatic paintings in Hulda Stefánsdóttir’s new exhibition, ‘Shift’. Give your art-muscles a little flex. GDF
BERG Contemporary, May 21-July 2
May 21 — The Inner Life of a Hay Bale
This exhibit promises to explore the microcosmic world of life forms coexisting within bales of hay. The artist does so through the familiar mediums of drawing and sculpture. What’s more, however, she also includes one of the art forms most often overlooked and underrated in “high art”: animation. This will be nothing like a Saturday morning cartoon. GDF
Gallery Gamma, May 21-August 27
May 22 — Rhythm Knitting
Steinunn Sigurðardóttir, the cover star of our Artsfest issue, takes knitting practise to places you might not expect. This workshop, made in collaboration with Sugarcubes drummer Sigtryggur Baldursson, focuses on the rhythmic nature of knitting, and promises to expand your idea of what knitting can be, whether you’re a beginner or an expert. JR
The Nordic House, 16:00-19:00, free (book in advance)
May 22 — Cello, My Heart’s Barometer
Whether giving up on your childhood cello lessons is your life’s great regret or you can’t honestly remember what a cello sounds like: it’s time you listen to some more cello. If you appreciate the sombre, emotive tones a single cello can produce, multiply it by nine and add a singer to get some glimpse of the deep, auditory beauty of this performance. GDF
Laugarneskirkja, 16:00, Price: 4.700 ISK.
May 23-June 4 — Dead Man’s Cellphone
This play by Sarah Ruhl is her first to be performed on Icelandic soil, and has been translated into Icelandic especially for the occasion. The premise begins simply enough—with a stranger answering an annoying ringing cellphone, left on the table next to them. But where it goes from there… well. You’ll find out. If you speak Icelandic. JR
Tjarnarbíó, 20:30, Price: 4.400 ISK.
June 2 — Epic Saga of Mankind’s Mistakes
Not shying away from the big issues, this work of music and poetry by Hallveig Rúnarsdóttir, Erpur Eyvindarson, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and Bjarni Frímann Bjarnason seeks to examine human progress on a grand scale. Bring your own popcorn. JR
Gamla bíó, 20:00, 4.500-5.500 ISK
June 4 — UR_
Anna Þorvaldsdóttir’s chamber opera took two years to develop, in Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Germany. Now, it comes to one of these homes for an Icelandic premiere at Harpa. We’re promised a grand audio-visual construction that uses mankind’s relentless need to search as a launchpad. JR
Harpa Norðurljós, 20:00, Price: 5.500 ISK
June 5 — The Mosaic Project
Not to be confused with exhibition “Mosaic”, also in the arts festival, is “The Mosaic Project” by Terri Lyne Carrington, one of the world’s leading jazz drummers, and a triple Grammy winner. She’ll play Harpa with a specially-assembled seven-part band. What more do you need to know? See you there! JR
Harpa Eldborg, 20:00, Price: 6.900-7.900 ISK
CHEAT SHEET: TODAY’S OPENINGS (May 21st 2016)
3pm Berlinde De Bruyckere @ National Museum of Iceland
4pm The Inner Life of a Hay Bale @ Gallery GAMMA
4pm Vanishing Culture @ Reykjavík Museum of Photography
5pm Mosaic @ Tvier Hrafnar
5pm Once We Were Neighbours @ ÁSI Gallery
6pm Shift @ BERG Contemporary
See the full programme here.