From Iceland — Moving Matter: Cycles and stillness with Eva Ísleifsdóttir and Sindri Leifsson

Moving Matter: Cycles and stillness with Eva Ísleifsdóttir and Sindri Leifsson

Moving Matter: Cycles and stillness with Eva Ísleifsdóttir and Sindri Leifsson

Published September 5, 2016

Parker Yamasaki
Photo by
Brynja Sveinsdóttir

Eva Ísleifsdóttir enters Gerðarsafn a little soggy from the mist. She tears off her raincoat and meets me on the north end of the museum space, where her half of the two-artist show ‘SCULPTURE/SCULPTURE’ is housed. Our boots squeak along the shining floor; every movement is amplified in a space built to host silence and admiration. It’s a familiar environment for Eva, the cool confines of the art museum, and her sculptures directly exhibit that familiarity. Eva has worked in museums for over a decade as a receptionist, collections manager, and, of course, exhibitor.

Across the hall Sindri Leifsson has manipulated poplar trees onto movable posts, which stand in a 3×3 grid in the museum space. His works also spill into the neighborhood: one piece stands on the lawn outside the museum, another is planted behind the local church, another in a parking lot nearby. His wide dispersal of materials speaks quite literally to Eva’s assertion that “in Iceland, everybody kind of works everywhere.”

Sindri’s fascination with sculpture is underpinned by a fascination with movement. It’s a counterintuitive approach to the medium traditionally defined by the statue, an artistic attempt at preservation. In Sindri’s exhibit, performers will dislodge and carry his sculptures into new arrangements every ten minutes, so that “there is always left some trace of what it was, which becomes part of the piece,” as Sindri explains, and it carries on evermore.

Eva’s sculptures too will teeter along the line between sculpture and performance. One major piece will change locations throughout the course of its residence at Gerðarsafn. Others are to be viewed as “props” in something greater. The constant process of transformation speaks to Eva’s title for her half of the show: ‘Exactly Perpetual Motion’.

“It’s like a never-ending game,” Sindri explains, shuffling his hands in invisible sweeping circles.

“This perpetual changing of composition,” Eva says, continuing the thought, “is almost kind of philosophical. They always say to be in the present, you should imagine that you will never reach the goal. So it is also a presence thing.”

Big ups to small towns

Both Eva and Sindri were born and raised in an area on the outskirts of Reykjavík called Ártún, which we deem a “sub-suburb.” Though both note that the wild natural surroundings played a crucial part in their upbringing, their proximity to Reykjavík also granted them the opportunity to closely observe way a city transforms, and what that means for the way people move about.

We talk about the construction on Hverfisgata, and how by closing down one side street people are forced bit by bit off of the sidewalk and into the bike lanes, or into the street. We meander around the topic of city planning for a while before heading back home to the familiar topic of the suburbs.

Information creation

Sindri tells us about one of his favorite pieces, “Streamside Day” (2003), a fictitious neighborhood festival that the artist Pierre Huyghe created for a newly built suburb in upstate New York: “Everyone is wearing like a deer mask, or a bunny mask, grilling some hot dogs. And now this town celebrates this Pierre Huyghe-fabricated-celebration every year.”

“And how easy it is!” Eva remarks “It’s just an action, just as simple as making a decision.”

“But it is also sympathetic,” Sindri continues. “It is easy to make a decision and have people maneuver in a certain way, but then it is also sympathetic to create new information in your surroundings. I want to work on that level as well, creating new information that’s not trying to sell you something, and not trying to get anything from you, it’s just there to offer a new perspective.”

‘SCULPTURE/SCULPTURE’ by Eva Ísleifsdóttir and Sindri Leifsson is on display at the Kópavogur Art Museum until October 16. Find more of the artists’ work on their websites: Eva Ísleifsdóttir and Sindri Leifsson.

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