From Iceland — Spreading the Love

Spreading the Love

Published September 7, 2007

Spreading the Love

The Icelandic Love Corporation is celebrating its 11-year anniversary with an extensive retrospective inside the Reykjavík Art Museum on Tryggvagata. ILC’s three members, Jóní Jónsdóttir, Sigrún Hrólfsdóttir and Eyrún Sigurðardóttir, have invaded the museum and used every bit of space to display props, costumes, videos, photographs and installations. In almost an instant, they have transformed the gallery into a giant playground for art-lovers.

Established by four women in 1996, The Icelandic Love Corporation has gained a reputation both in Iceland and abroad. The fourth member, Dóra Ísleifsdóttir left the group in 2001. The three remaining members have toured the world, surprised bypassers with surprising and innovative performances where humour, femininity and carelessness mixes with political thoughts and serious topics. They have never been afraid to go all the way. To them, there are no rules. Anything goes and nothing is irrelevant.

It All Started With a Kiss
ILC’s history counts more than 200 exhibitions. They have performed in small galleries and large museums, collaborated with renowned artists and musicians and invaded public spaces in major cities across the world. To pick which pieces would best fit the exhibition and reflect the past and the present was understandably a challenging task. As the nature of performance art is, they are usually very dependent on time, place and had-to-be-there moments. That didn’t make the women’s mission any easier. “The hardest part was to figure out how we should present our ideas. We have worked with such a time-based art form. We don’t want to remake the performances so we needed to find a way to make the atmosphere stand on its own without us,” Eyrún explains.

And in a remarkable way they’ve managed to do just that. They got THG Architects to design a huge see-through labyrinth inside the large space on the ground floor. The giant wooden puzzle is built around props, items, TV sets and installations. It produces an intriguing experience, and guides the viewer through all sorts of strange scenes. Simultaneously, you realise how inventive, sometimes strange and complicated, but most of all extensive their exhibitions have been.

They met in the Icelandic College of Arts and Crafts. The first big performance they did was ‘The Kiss’, broadcasted on national TV in 1996 and featured the artists kissing. A kiss, they explain, that was a little bit longer than a birthday kiss but shorter than a lover’s kiss. In the end one of them kissed the camera lens and in the meantime, sent a kiss to every home in the country.

“With this performance we were trying to spread love and good feelings,” Sigrún says. That mission has only expanded in line with their steadily growing career.

I ask them how things have developed and if the emphases in their works have changed much since the beginning: “We’ve gone through all sorts of themes but nonetheless it seems that there is a strong base in our artworks. That is this positivity, optimism and general interest in life”.

Addressing Environmental Issues
Sigrún and Eyrún lead the way to gallery. Photographs showing the women dressed in various crazy costumes and doing all sorts of witty things hang on the walls while flat-screen TV’s show videos of them performing. They’ve clearly done a nice job documenting the performances. The costumes also play a big role in the characters dominant each time: “The costumes are one of the key elements. They are characteristic for different periods in our career,” they explain.

One wall is cowered with photos of the three women acting as sophisticated ladies gone wild in the snow-covered Icelandic nature. Dressed in big fur coats, the glamorous women go hunting, they play the guitar and have fun. The piece is entitled ‘Dynasty’ and was originally shown at the National World Museum in Oslo. The project won the annual Green Leaf Award on the United Nations World Environmental Day. They tell me that the museum asked them to take part in the exhibition, which emphasises on making contemporary art raise awareness on environmental issues. The topic this year was climate change.

“These women are completely corrupt. They are allowing themselves the luxury of enjoying the chilly weather but have nice fur coats to protect them from the cold. The piece is meant to show the final moments of this luxury. To be cold. This exhibition also opened our eyes about these serious problems so we can perhaps say that these women reflect us in a way. But the women in the photos can just take off their fur coats if they get too warm. They don’t worry much more than that,” Eyrún says laughing. “I guess we deal with serious topics in a humorous way” Sigrún adds.

Small Pieces in a Big Puzzle
The past 11 years have been adventurous, eventful and brought the artists to places they never expected. One journey led them to New York to create costumes for Björk for the cover of her newest album, Volta. Pictures from the photo shoot were also featured on the cover of ID magazine.

“Björk saw a mask we had made and at that time she was working on the new album. She wanted to focus on tribal elements and African inspirations and thought the mask connected with her ideas. The mask is really what inspirited the collaboration,” they explain. This mask of course is on display in the gallery.

A little further inside is another clever piece in the puzzle, entitled ‘Invasion – Expansion’. There is a copy machine, stacks of white paper and wheelbarrows full of fake money. Pictures of the artists dressed as seagulls hang on the wall.

“This piece builds on the invasion and expansion of money and globalisation. Here we can photocopy money if we run short on cash,” Eyrún says and points to the machine. The seagulls are meant to reflect the global bully they furthermore explain:

“The seagull is like the businessman. He comes, takes what he wants and leaves,” they add.

The job the group has managed to do is remarkable and it would take hours to explore everything inside. When looking back Eyrún concludes: “If you set your mind to it, the things you plan become a reality.”

The exhibition is open until October 21. Lectures will take place at the museum during that time and a book has been published in connection with the exhibition.

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