The event was MC’d uproariously by book salesman, punk singer and former Minister of Health Óttarr Proppé. Óttar has mostly steered clear of the spotlight since he dissolved his government and left politics, and it was great to see him post-politics, again free to ignore normality.
The event started with a mesmerising concert in the museum’s main hall, Stapi, where Barði performed some of his timeless classics with a band comprised of old collaborators, notably singer Esther Talia. Barði was on form, between songs playfully menacing the crowd–mostly comprised of old friends and acquaintances from the Icelandic music scene–in his droll monotone. The crowd was then ushered into the main exhibition hall, where a statue of Barði was unveiled. The statue was made for a 2006 exhibition by Alessandro Guerriero in Milan at Triennale di Milano, where 30 artists were asked to design their own clothing to be displayed on a statue in their likeness.
If you’d asked any Icelander a few years ago “who’s the Icelandic musician most likely to end up as a knife-wielding statue complete with a dog that also has his face”, the perplexed respondents would probably answer Barði Jóhannsson. Outside his music career, he’s known for surrealist turns on radio, and hosting the TV show Konfekt, possibly the most original comedy in Icelandic TV history, where every boundary was pushed.
Barði’s career started in Iceland, but he’s spent a considerable period working in Paris, France. Bang Gang started as a teenage surf-rock duo with Henrik B. Björnsson, who later became known as the front-man for Singapore Sling. That project fizzled, but he retained the moniker for a new idea, a trip-hop duo comprised of him and singer Esther Talia Casey. The project turned into a solo/collaborative venture at some point, with many contributions from Keren Ann (who is also part of the duo Lady and Bird with Barði) and work with Nicolette, M83, Helen Marnie of Ladytron, Jófríður Ákadottir, and many others.
Bang Gang has released four studio albums, the most recent one being 2015’s The Wolves Are Whispering. He has composed or worked on over 30 scores and soundtracks for film, TV and theatre. After all of this, his most recent career turn shouldn’t come as a surprise, but still. He is now the marketing manager of a large Icelandic hotel chain.
Hopefully we’ll hear something new from Bardi soon, Friday’s event in Kef City did remind us how much we’ve missed him.