From Iceland — The Invasion of the Visual Artists

The Invasion of the Visual Artists

Published October 6, 2006

The Invasion of the Visual Artists

The first Sequences – Real Time Festival, an international cross-media art festival focusing on time-based art phenomena will kick off Friday October 13th and perk up downtown Reykjavík for two weeks. The festival includes 140 local and international artists, musicians and performers who will invade over 30 venues in Reykjavík’s city centre. Established museums and galleries, shops, bars and public spaces will be hosting multiple exhibitions focusing on time-based art phenomena. Linking contemporary visual art with other media, especially sound and performance art, bringing together different art forms.
The Grapevine talked to Christian Schoen, director of the Centre for Icelandic Art and one of the festival’s organisers, and discovered that there’s going to be a lot of very weird things happening in the city.

“Basically the idea was to establish a platform for what I think is very typical for the Icelandic art scene today. Typical in the sense of this special raw and creative energy characteristic in Iceland as well as the collaboration and interrelation between visual arts, sound and performance art. Numerous artists are working in collaboration with other artists and musicians. Here, art and culture has kind of a different notion than in other parts of the world. The freedom in creativity in general is something that makes Iceland very attractive and is in my view something very unique but very typical of its art scene,” Schoen explains.
“To create a festival is nothing new but a lot of art festivals have no clear focus,” Schoen continues. “I think that festivals make sense if they are really focusing on something contemporary, something up-to-date. Therefore we stressed that in our concept we would be focusing on time-based art projects. Time-based art is a term that is used in art theory for specific projects that deal with time and are somehow in perception time based. The subtitle “real-time festival” stresses that you really have to be here to experience it. You can’t transport the idea of the festival through catalogues for example. You have to experience what is going on by showing up at the venue at the time the performance takes place, and even participate in it.”
By the number of artists taking part in the festival, it is clear that the need for expression and creation is strong in local as well as international art culture today. The Reykjavík downtown will be somewhat crowded with contemporary visual artists putting up art performances, sound installations and video projections and the venues are as diverse as the exhibitions they are housing. To name a few, Gallery Turpentine will host Jón Sæmundur Auðnasons’s Longplay installation and Húbert Nói’s movie of a 50-megawatt geothermal drill hole at Hellisheiði. The short film TimeKilling will be on display at the Naked Ape, The National Gallery will focus on the post-1980s paintings by the first generation influenced by pop and punk culture, while a ping pong dance installation by Egill Sæbjörnsson will take place at SAFN. The list goes on and on.

Praying in a pyramid
Sequences’ opening ceremony will take place at The Living Art Museum, which is the artistic heart of the festival. Hosting various performances, video projections, and sound installations, it will begin with performances by Geirþrúður Finnbogadóttir Hjörvar and Snorri Ásmundsson. Ásmundsson’s Pyramid of Love will undoubtedly grab someone’s attention but he is building a pyramid made out of plexiglas, which he will sit inside to meditate and pray for love and happiness.
“I find that love, peace and happiness is lacking in our society. With this performance I want to send a positive message out to the public,” Snorri says. The pyramid will be placed in various locations around the city during the festival.
The basic idea for this festival is namely not to invade only established art venues like galleries and museums but also places where life is, where the public hangs out and wanders around. Performances will take place at Austurvöllur, Laugavegur and various other public spaces. Musician Kira Kira’s contribution to the festival, called the Helium Choir, which is a 20-minute sound installation, will take place up in the tower of the Apótek building while Marta María Jónsdóttir will show her animated film on the corner of Laugavegur and Klapparstígur.
“I’m personally very excited to see the artists working in public spaces,” Schoen says. “You’ll have to find the exhibitions or stumble on them, kind of like a surprise. The front wall of the Icelandic Parliament will for example be lit up one night,” (that event is a video projection by Andrew Burgess). Giving the old building a fresh new look. The city centre will be no less exhilarating when Copenhagen/New York collective Parfyme Deluxe will get on their weird little wagon and speed around town with the aim of helping people and doing good deeds.
Ilmur María Stefánsdóttir is very mysterious when explaining her project, called Stupid People, which she will perform opposite Café Hljómalind on Laugavegur, Friday the 13th. Stefánsdóttir describes the performance as “a surreal, pointless and useless performance about a lonely cat in a tree, wet window washing, eccentric painting, impossible jumping in the wrong outfit, a 70s circus in windy rain, poorly performed with frightfully bad technique.” When asked to clarify a bit Stefánsdóttir told the Grapevine that the idea is basically to take things out of context and find them a new role. “The useless element in things is very dominating. What do I mean by useless? Well, that all has to unfold when you see the performance.”
At Skífan record store, Stefánsdóttir’s three video works, Dinner Party, Mobiler, and Playtime will be screened at the same time. “The useless element is also very clear in the video works. In Dinnerparty I’m for example preparing a dinner party but not in any ordinary way. I cook fish with a hairdryer and boil potatoes in a food processor and in Playtime, which I worked on in cooperation with Davíð Þór Jónsson keyboardist, I play some weird instruments, change an ironing board into a cello and use a blender as drums for example,” Stefánsdóttir adds, but how that all worked out, she says we’ll just have to see for ourselves.
For the upcoming two weeks there will be plenty to see and the schedule is quite packed. Asked about certain highlights, Schoen points out particularly the schedule at Tjarnarbíó movie theatre, where a row of local and foreign artists and musicians will put on a rich program of video and performance nights.
“It is really hard to point out certain events. Of course you can’t be everywhere at the same instant but we try not to have too much going on at the same time. If locals are willing to participate with us, I’m pretty sure that this festival is going to be a very unique event, and hopefully an annual one.”

For full program visit: www.

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