From Iceland — Building something out of nothing.

Building something out of nothing.

Published May 28, 2004

Building something out of nothing.

In one of those rare instances of the rich giving to the poor, the National Bank of Iceland decided to practically give an office building to artists to use as studios. The building had previously housed a rope factory and then Fréttablaðið newspaper. A debate, albeit not a very deafening one, had been going on about artists in need of studios, so bank owners contacted an art gallery named Kling & Bang offering them the house for a minimum fee. Kling & Bang were only too happy to accept and named the facility Klink (small change) & Bank (a bank). The selection of artists to use the facility was done by a committee that democratically reviewed applications. The accepted artists then went into their studios and started work, interacting between themselves and exchanging ideas, the ideal of a mix between different art forms having become a reality.

The exhibition on May 1st was the first fruit of this artistic melange. Fourteen of the selected artists were given the concept of LO-FI to work with and the result was then revealed to the public. When I spoke with the curators Huginn Þór Arason and Unnar Örn Auðarson Jónasson about this choice of concept, they said they wanted to do it in honour of Dieter Roth and others who, along with groups such as the Flúxus and Súm, helped reinvent artistic expression in the sixties. They opposed the idea that art needed to be made of some specific matter to be worth something. They attempted to create their works out of everyday material that had been rejected or wasn´t considered to have any value, and convert it into a part of something sublime. They said that the idea itself was golden and the matter it was created out of needn´t be gold as well. They created gold out of junk, so to speak.

With this in mind I then walked about the showroom. There was one piece that I particularly liked because I thought it was the strongest expression of the concept as I understood it. It was a basketball-sized coconut roll by Huginn Þór Arason, one of the curators. What he was pointing out was that a coconut roll is usually made of scrapings from the bakery. Rejected flour, sugar and assorted bakery ingredients are kneaded into dough with a bit of chocolate powder and butter and then formed into small balls with a sprinkle of coconut on top. From what I had learned, this was the very essence of LO-FI; A huge coconut roll on a pedestal. Rejected material formed into a perfect form and then displayed. Imperfection made perfect.

I walked on through the exhibition room and into the basement where there was something completely different going on. Tilraunaeldhúsið or the Kitchen Motors were celebrating their fifth anniversary. To describe their work it is best to say that they are sort of sound sculpturists that have been actively playing their noise music every month or so. The outcome is a huge number of sound sculpturists that came together that day in the basement of Klink & Bank to celebrate their birthday. It was good to see a former rope factory being put to good use. I hope the National Bank won’t soon see a higher (FI) purpose for it.

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