Exxistenz is located at Bergstaðastræti 25B, Reykjavík
“Perceptive art is made out of the integration of reality with hand movements whose intentions recreate reality,” gallery director Freyja Eilíf explains. “The intention I have for Exxistenz is that it will be a creation for its own self.”
She sits in the studio section of Exxistenz, the Museum of Perceptive Art, adjacent to the gallery’s entrance. Upon entering the cosy, plant-populated gallery, one faces options:
1) Turn left to sit on snake-adorned stools in Freyja Eilíf’s art studio.
2) Turn left and walk deeper into the museum to discover a group show of curious non-entity entities by Kathy Clark or impossible car headrests by Þór Sigurþórsson.
3) Turn right to enter the Flesh Room, a cotton-candy pink monstrous extravaganza of a relaxation room.
4) Do not venture left or right, but instead stare straight ahead to consider the menu of existential services available on location.
Welcome to this charming Exxistenz.
Out with the old
Exxistenz has replaced Freyja Eilíf’s former gallery, Ekkisens, in its home on Bergstaðastræti. Ekkisens was initially started in 2014 as a way to showcase artwork by recent art-school graduates.
“I felt like the ground work I had laid out for Ekkisens had run its time,” Freyja Eilíf says. “I felt it did so after the first three years, but instead of closing it, I kept it running while I was puzzling out what to do next.”
“I drew a snake intuitively two to three years ago,” Freyja Eilíf remarks. “That snake turned out to be the logo for this museum and studio.”
Conversation with Freyja Eilíf is populated with these spectacular animals—pregnant elephants, burrowing rodents, and—yes—her emblematic snake. To visit Freyja Eilíf’s gallery-cum-museum-cum-studio-cum-healing-centre is to be immersed in a psychedelic womb tucked behind the grey residential streets of Iceland’s capital.
Of elephants and moles
The aforementioned pregnant elephant in the room is an image Freyja conjures to describe the protracted birth of Exxistenz.
“It happened very slowly,” she explains. “Even though I knew exactly what I wanted to do, it was still a bit of a journey. I feel like I’m a blind star-nosed mole trying to perceive reality—get my way through and find the answers. I’m still figuring out what I’m doing here.”
Non-entity entities and other fabulous beasts
For Exxistenz, Freyja Eilíf is inviting guest curators to populate the space with group shows. The inaugural group show is curated by Johanne Christensen (DK) and Serena Swanson (UK), featuring ten artists. She has bowed out of the curatorial process herself, opting instead to integrate her studio into an adjacent room of the gallery.
“I am a weird curator; I cannot make a show without including myself,” she confesses. “It just feels really bad to me. My status is somehow artist and director of the museum. I’m not sure I am a curator unless I can include myself.”
As for the existential services, Freyja Eilíf offers interested clients healing sessions in the Flesh Room. The services feature fantastic names and descriptions for the esoteric arts—from energy work to past-life integration to Tarot.
Of her multimodal healing options, she explains, “I have configured my practice with teachers, so it’s no hoogoo-boogoo. While it’s coded and presented in an artistic way, it’s real stuff. It’s deep work.”
The integration of creative practice with the healing arts, as well as artist’s studio with gallery and performance venue, makes for an otherworldly encounter of the curative and curatorial kind. Of this alchemical blend, Freyja Eilíf concludes, “I still host events and exhibitions, and I make my own practice. It’s like following breadcrumbs on the earth. I’m braiding many things together as one.”
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