From Iceland — A Design For Life

A Design For Life

Published April 3, 2009

A Design For Life
During the last few weeks, it has undoubtedly been hard to ignore the various (and often minimal) design instalments scattered around town. Don’t get me wrong though, to the untrained eye it might just seem that Icelanders are a colourful and artsy pack. But they aren’t. These design figments floating around were apart of the several fashion happenings going down during the last two weeks or so. The festivals responsible for making some of our lives seem a bit more dazzling were The Nordic Fashion Biennale and DesignMarch, but they alone cannot be held responsible, as several ‘off-venue’ events played a crucial role.
Miniature communities
One of these off-venue events was an exhibition hosted by the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, where architecture students had fabricated a micro version of Hverfisgata and its surroundings. After having knocked back a few-too-many cups a coffee, and having read up on the phenomenon all-too-well, it felt like I was actually hoofing down the street itself. Well, not really, but it was rather awesome to see an area you know so well from a giant’s perspective, and it must have taken those kids months to replicate the street so thoroughly. There was also a selection of other works by students from other departments, probably on par with the architectural work, but fearing I would fall into another trance, I fled the scene.
Down at Hafnarhúsið, Mundi, the alleged prodigy of Icelandic design, exhibited his newest offerings. What struck the eye immediately were those walking down the catwalk. Mundi had very obviously deviated from the norm of having the standard anorexic, apathetic models modelling his designs, opting instead for individuals with Down syndrome to showcase his work. While taken as a novel gesture by the bulk of the crowd, some expressed mixed feelings about the whole scenario. Composer Ólafur Arnalds, one of Mundi’s followers, found the deed magnificent and explained that if Mundi’s designs were human, they’d definitely have the extra 21st chromosome, thus his choice of model was not in any sense exploitative.
     The Opening of “The Opening” and a cultural Mecca in the Swamp
The dance company bearing the magnetizing name “Spiral” premiered the piece “The Opening” in downtown’s only swimming pool, Sundhöll Reykjavíkur. Choreographer Andreas Constatantinou depicted a world were nightmares and dreams emerge, and his intentions were, amongst others, to attack the spectator while in his most vulnerable state. This he achieved through various strategies, such as separating every guest from their companion, given that they had one, and, with no hope of a shoulder to cry on, he attacked. An anonymous member of the dance group described Constatantinou as a somewhat deranged artist, but after a short pause she took it further: “well, not exactly deranged, he’s a complete wacko to be honest, and really the most nitpicking diva I’ve ever worked with.”
At the Nordic House an infinite party was operated under the name “The Nordic Fashion Biennale,” and when there wasn’t champagne and fancy lectures up for grabs, there were a hip bands, like Mammút or Agent Fresco, ravishing the crowd. All in all, the events that took place definitely lit up the bankrupt atmosphere currently prevailing in the streets of Reykjavík. And yeah, although I’m no David Fricke, and am maybe a little short on experience in these matters, I’d definitely rank this as the hippest long weekend on the annual design-festival calendar.

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