Exploring Site Specific Art
The Sequences Festival is an annual independent arts festival established in Reykjavík in 2006. Founded by four artist-run galleries—The Living Art Museum, Kling & Bang Gallery, The Dwarf Gallery and Gallery Bananananas and developed by the Center for Icelandic Art— this year’s 27 works focus on time-based arts with emphasis on site-specific, multi-disciplinary work. We sat down with Executive Director Tinna Guðmundsdóttir, Artistic Director Kristín Björk Kristjánsdóttir and Honorary Artist Ruri to explore the inspiration behind the festival.
Exploring Site Specific Art
Ever since artists removed the proscenium arch or traditional exhibition spaces from the equation, festivals have continued to create artwork away from black-box style theatres or museums. “I’m fascinated about how you can walk through town and have things pour over you” Kristín Björk Kristjánsdóttir explains. “A person shouldn’t need an arrow pointed at art saying ‘this is art’; I like how it can be something that just happens to you. You don’t have to step into a space that is specifically an art space to experience it. The thinner the line between art and reality becomes, the more interesting it gets.”
This opens the mind to view all spaces as ‘active’, creating new rules for the audience: you activate the space when you walk into it, and you choose when the performance ends. “There is a magical aspect to it,” Kristin continues. “It becomes a surreal thread into daily life, rather than something you have to put aside, with directions on how to experience it. In sequences 2006, Andrew Burgess had a video work projected onto Parliament called ‘Another Þing’, which completely distorted the way one experienced the space. This year, Magnús Árnason, ‘The Darkest Star of Icelandic art’ will take the Nordic House under siege with a morbid slime installation.”
The Magic of Time and Space
Honorary Artist Ruri explains: “Art is like magic and the time based artworks in Sequences, bring together magic and technology and science.” Time Based Media (introduced in 1972 by UK video art pioneer David Hall) is this festival’s primary element. Performances can be ‘one-off’ moments in time, or run for the entire duration. For example ‘Stilluppsteypa’, an experimental electronic duo, will exhibit an `artificial intergalactic alien presentation` in the basement of Listasafn Íslands which will only exist for the length of the festival, whilst some works may become permanent installations.
Spatial experimentation is evident in so much of ‘Sequences’. The aim of ‘Situationists’ was to notice how certain spaces intervene with states of mind, and to seek out reasons for movement there, other than those the environment was designed for. Tinna Guðmundsdóttir remarks that remnants from last year’s festival are still ‘intervening’ with Reykjavik’s landscape. “People still point out Theresa Himmer’s sequined waterfall from 2006 and they ask ‘has that always been there?’ When they discover where it came from, it is such a nice feeling to realise you were a part of it, a part of the magic.”
A Multi-disciplinary Movement
The festival aims to facilitate the fusion of different artistic disciplines, Kristin explains. “Even the Sequences artists themselves are inter-disciplinary. They always have more than one string to their bow. For example, in our VJ event, filmmakers collaborate with musicians. Danni from Sometime will be playing a scruffy, custom made drum kit that triggers video signals.”
“It was inspired by Iceland Airwaves,” Tinna continues. “They always have artists who make something ‘deluxe’ just for them. We wanted to do something similarly special for Icelandic artists. We really tried this year to bring different people together and when they had suggestions for collaborations, we agreed to it. The festival strives to give Icelandic and foreign artists a platform to work together.”
It is evident that this platform is successful. Two of this year’s artists, composer Hildur Ingveldardóttir Guðnadóttir and visual artist Elín Hansdóttir, met on a plane and decided to collaborate. The aptly named ‘Ode to flying’ is a re-devising of “Music for airports 2/2” (originally recorded 30 years ago by Brian Eno.)
Honorary Artist Ruri comments on her first time collaboration with acclaimed musician Johann Johansson: “It’s quite a challenge because we hadn’t even met before this idea came up, and for me it is a very interesting one.” The multi-media artist started working with the musician long distance in the summer. “Then we met in Copenhagen, so we have been working it over the net, which is typical for the times in which we are living.”
Sequences and the New Media Revolution
The festival experiments with ‘New Media’ – the creation of live and virtual exchanges for audiences – through interactive video, sound and installation. Experimentation with the inseparable nature of reality and simulation in the 70’s led to the development of walk-through installations that allowed audiences the freedom to move within the space and become affected in ways never before allowed in art exhibitions.
“New Media artists had to fight their way into being,” Tinna explains. “The pieces in Sequences are not ones that are commonly acknowledged. There is a lot of New Media in museums, but how can you buy a performance? How can you sell it? It’s impossible to recreate or capture.”
Ruri comments: “People say ‘It cannot be art because you cannot keep it, there is nothing left, when you finish it’ so I say to people, it’s like memories: It lives onward in the memories of those who are present. Memories are not valid, some say, they have no value. I love to ask the person, ‘are you married?’ Very often they say yes. So I ask, ‘Why did you get married? By the same method of evaluation, it has no real value. It only lives in your memory.”
In regard to this year’s memories, Tinna concludes: “When so much is focused on the audience going ‘through something’, you have to be here to see it. I like art as an experience. It should be alive and overwhelming – New Media is the future of art.”
Sequences Arts Festival October 11 – 17.
For more info: www.sequences.is
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