Hi, dear readers. My name is Árni Már and I’m here to tell you about an annual arts and music festival type thing that I along with a few of my friends established five years ago. It’s called Festisvall, it’s been steadily growing since its inception, and I think you’ll like it.
We started out in Hjartagarðurinn, The Heart Park, right in the middle of downtown Reykjavík. We had little in terms of resources for our first event—what we did have in spades were great artists, excellent musicians and a passion for the project. It all worked out beautifully.
After a successful trial run we wanted to keep going, so we did. The next two years were great, although not without their challenges. At the time, I was working for an Icelandic online music store called Gogoyoko, doing marketing and events, so they collaborated with us on the festival. Upon returning to work after vacation, my boss at Gogoyoko was pretty pissed that I had devoted the summer of 2011 into preparing what became a huge Festisvall, which took place at six venues with around 3,000 attendees.
In 2012, the gallery we meant to stage Festisvall at folded with little notice. Undeterred, we cleared everything out of my apartment, painted it white and transformed it into a white cube exhibition space. You find ways. And on we went.
Eventually, we sensed it was time to do something new, something fun.
Leipzig. Yes let’s move to Leipzig. My family and I packed up and went to Germany in 2013. At the time, we had a pretty good team around the festival. We got a huge grant from the European Union, which was nice, so we had plenty of resources to do a bunch of art.
We brought five Leipzigers and a British guy to Iceland for collaboration and exhibition, and were also able to bring fifteen Icelandic artist and musicians to Leipzig. It was great; we had two wonderful galleries working with us, an underground club and a tiny museum (I guess it was about four square metres).
After the party, we found we still had some of that EU money left—enough to stage another exhibit and some more concerts. So we did!
This whole process has been very challenging, entertaining and a great learning experience for all of us involved. It has been hard at times, but sometimes easy, always fun—and we’ve made some great friends! What started off as a small, impromptu event in downtown Reykjavík has become an active, vibrant network between Iceland and Germany that actively enables young up and coming artists to go abroad and play.
It is only through our great and growing team, and its abundant passion for the project, that we have accomplished this feat and hopefully made a few people’s lives more interesting in the process. Inspired by our triumphs, small and large, we are nowhere near finished, constantly reaching out to new venues and places to expand the party.
This year, we’re going bigger than ever before, and it’s going to be fantastic! We made it to five years! We are fünf! We are celebrating the occasion by going to four cities, starting with a party at the Kex Hostel and at Vitagarður in August (you should come), before heading off to an underground club in Leipzig. After that, we’re staging an exhibition in Somos in Berlin, a party with Samaris, Berndsen, Hermigervill, M-Band and Good Moon Deer at Berghain and we finish off with the great Mediamatic in Amsterdam, featuring an exhibition, performances and concerts.
While doing this we also decided to form a creative studio where we aim to gather all of our power, network and experience to make good things happen. We decided that this was the next logical step, and it has thus far been a pretty interesting ride to watch Studio Festisvall come to live.
Writing this, I’ve been thinking about the last five years. This has been one hell of ride, and with great friends, support from my family and the team around us we have managed to accomplish some great things. Dear future: As I see what we have been able to do, as artists sticking together and working towards a shared goal, I can’t help but look forward to see where you’ll have lead us in another five years.
Dear reader: Whether you’re currently in Reykjavík, Leipzig, Berlin or Amsterdam, come and join us for this fifth year of Festisvall. We’re looking forward to seeing you guys!
Festisvall Reykjavík happens on August 19-22 at various venues in Reykjavík. Along with exhibiting the work of various artists, the Reykjavík edition of Festisvall will host performances by Berndsen, Good Moon Deer, M-Band, Hermigervill and EAST OF MY YOUTH.
Árni Már Erlingsson is an artist and co-founder of the Festisvall art festival.