From Iceland — Abstract Hip Hop, Conceptual Art And Homebirths With Curver Thoroddsen

Abstract Hip Hop, Conceptual Art And Homebirths With Curver Thoroddsen

Abstract Hip Hop, Conceptual Art And Homebirths With Curver Thoroddsen

Published June 21, 2018

Photo by
Timothée Lambrecq

Curver Thoroddsen is an artist, musician, Björk collaborator, and one half of experimental electric band Ghostigital. These are a few of the formative influences that made him the talented and prolific multidisciplinarian he is today.

The Final Countdown and Popular Culture
I was ten years old and Iceland was rapidly opening up to popular culture. Before 1986 all radio and television was government run, with no TV on Thursdays and during the whole month of July. When the law changed, Bylgjan and Stöð 2 started broadcasting, and music videos started flowing in. I was at my friend Danni’s place when Final Countdown came on, and we both immediately knew we wanted to be rock stars. I ran home and told my mom and that I would always wear my new Moonboots while on stage.

Smekkleysa and the Icelandic underground scene
The energy and the colourful characters connected to “record label” Smekkleysa [e. Bad Taste] had a huge influence on me. Surrealist poet Sjón; the playful mountain-bike-enthusiast-looking bunch of The Sugarcubes and Risaleðan; time machine rockabillies Langi Seli & Skuggarnir; up-to-no-good book nerds Ham; and Bless, led by Dr. Gunni, who I thought was really some kind of a doctor until I was 14 years old. Smekkleysa was an awesome collective of people and their impact on the whole Icelandic art scene was very positive. It made me super interested in the brewing Icelandic underground scene at the time. I bought every compilation cassette, listened to and taped countless radio interviews, and tried to see as many concerts as my parents let me sneak into. So you can just imagine how happy I was when Smekkleysa released my debut album, ‘Haf,’ in 1994.

Reptilicus and Industrial Noise Music
On a Smekkleysa compilation tape, I found a track by industrial cyberpunks Reptilicus. I totally shat myself. Both because of the awesomeness, and because I had never heard such dark and horrifying music before. I became their biggest fan, and would stalk Jóhann Eiríksson taking the bus home from his work at an industrial factory. They opened up the world of noise, darkness and experimental music to me, and to the rest of Iceland at that time. They put on experimental concerts at unusual places and imported The Hafler Trio and Andrew MacKenzie, who had a profound impact on me and the experimental scene. I’m an incredibly lucky fanboy to be currently remastering the whole Reptilicus catalog for their 30th anniversary.

Conceptual Art and Relational Aesthetics
I was always interested in making art, but was never good at drawing or painting. So my first art world heroes were those who made art beyond image-making, and used conceptual means for their creations. Andy Warhol and Duchamp were my first obvious influences. During our first months in the Icelandic Art Academy, the teachers whipped us into the moment. It was a real eye (or I should rather say mind) opener. Learning about On Kawara, Roman Opalka, Richard Long and Rirkrit Tiravanija was a game changer for me. I started doing works that fused together my love of popular culture and interaction of the viewer by inserting myself into the everyday media, usually with some kind of a performance. It was 1999, long before social media, so by using the newspapers, radio and television as my canvas, the works became some kind of a postmodern meta-mirror of the culture I am a part of. Much later, during my Masters studies, I found out that this way of working had been dubbed Relational Aesthetics.

Jam and weird dark comedy
Holy shit! How in the world was Chris Morris even allowed to do Jam? In today’s PC environment it would never happen. I was touring with Mínus around the UK in a nightliner with two other metal bands, and they had Jam on VHS. Far above the music, drugs and people, Jam was the most hardcore thing on the bus. It is the best thing I have ever seen! I have always been a fan of weird and absurd comedy like Monty Python, Konfekt, Look Around You, Nighty Night and such, but Jam really takes the cake. It’s so dark and fucked up that you can only watch one at a time. When showing it to my students I have to skip every other scene so I will not get fired. There were only six Jam shows made but they are so dense that it’s still a goldmine. Nothing comes close— not even Rick and Morty.

Sensational and abstract Hip Hop
I heard a track once in 12 Tónar record store, and for some reason left the store without asking what it was. I was perplexed by it. I couldn’t figure out what it was, but it stayed with me, brewing in the back of my head. For months this weird track would pop up in my mind. It was hinting at some new way of making music—an enigma. Six months later, I couldn’t take it any more. I had to know what this was. The guys at 12 Tónar helped me find the perpetrator. It was New York rapper Sensational’s debut album, “Loaded With Power.” Holy mother of god! It’s the 3rd best album in the world, presenting a whole new level if creativity. I ate up all the WordSound label catalog at the time and other abstract hip hop following that, like Cannibal Ox and Dälek. I now have every Sensational release ever made, and even made it into the documentary about him because I love him so much. The first time I went to New York was exclusively to record Sensational for the first Ghostigital album. He has been a guest on all of our “pop” records and is also on our upcoming 2018 album.

Stan Brakhage and experimental Cinema
When doing my Masters degree at The School of Visual Arts in New York I felt that my whole news-media-performance-thingy had played itself out. I had gotten tired of it as a technique and, in a way, I guess I could sense the change that social media would have on everyday culture. I wanted to learn something new, and was interested in video art. I took a course on experimental cinema with Amy Taubin that changed my life. She opened up a whole new world for me, and a different view of filmmaking. Of all the amazing stuff she showed us, Stan Brakhage’s ‘Window Water Baby Moving’ had the deepest impact on me. It’s a film piece showing the homebirth of his first daughter. At the time my then-wife was expecting our son, so I was, of course, emotionally vulnerable to the subject. But woah—the beauty is almost unbearable. Like all Brakhage’s work, it’s silent (so as to not interfere with the film) but it feels incredibly LOUD in itself. The intensity is beyond anything I’ve seen before or since. At the time it was made, 1959, not even doctor candidates were allowed to witness a birth. So the film is also historically remarkable. I delved into the world of experimental cinema and have not come up since.

Read the makings of more artists here.

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Show Me More!