The Sequences arts festival has been pretty awesome these past few years. It is a unique offspring of the big happy Icelandic arts family, and it takes place every October. At Sequences, artists from Iceland and all over the world gather to cook up some really incredible stuff. Rumours had that this year’s program would differ somewhat from its previous incarnations, so us Grapeviners caught up with festival manager Klara Þórhallsdóttir and art director Kristín Dagmar Jóhannesdóttir to get the word on what to expect.
What’s Sequences all about?
Klara: Sequences started in 2006 and was founded by four artist-run galleries: The Living Art Museum, Kling og Bang Gallery, Gallery Dwarf, Gallery Bananananas, as well as the Center for Icelandic Art—CIA. Since then, it has been held annually in Reykjavík. It has evolved to an independent organisation, and is still the only festival in Iceland to focus solely on visual arts. ‘Sequences real time art festival,’ is the full name, and it focuses on time-based media, such as performances and live art, sonic- and video art, as well as creating a cross-platform for these and other art genres.
Each year there have been new organisers for the festival. So each time the festival has been quite different and revolved around specific concepts, though the main emphasis remains the same.
How has the festival developed?
Klara: For the first year, everyone who wanted to was able to participate. It got very popular among young artists to finally have some kind of a platform where they could make an effort and introduce their work and ideas. Since then, it has developed and last year the main board decided to form a curatorial board that would select the projects or artists that would participate.
Kristín: This we felt was important in order to give Sequences a sense of focus, and to strengthen its identity.
This year you’re changing the infrastructure of the festival, basing it exclusively on live shows. What gives? Did you respond to lack of funding by making it more guerilla-ish?
Kristín: Most of the projects this year are run on a low budget, but that didn’t really determine our choices. From the visual arts perspective, performance might stand as the obvious choice of real time art and therefore we decided to really focus on the performative nature of art for this year’s festival. Next time it might become something totally different. Mainly, our concept has grown from the work of the festival’s honorary artist, Magnús Pálsson. Throughout his career, Magnús moved freely between genres in his art practice. He studied theatre design and visual art in the early 1950s and later worked in both fields. We were therefore interested in finding some sort of rendezvous between stage arts and the visual arts.
What are, in your opinion, the most interesting performances we’ll be witnessing this year?
Kristín: The whole Sequences week will be full of exciting events and it is hard to pick favourites. The opening night will include Magnús Pálsson´s performance and a live event by video artist Sigurður Guðjónsson outside of the House of Ideas (the festival’s headquarters), with a performance-party taking place inside later on. Then we are also offering more theatre-based work, such as Oblivia and Ingibjörg Magnadóttir, or dance collaboration such as the work of Björk Viggósdóttir, Melkorka Huldudóttir or Prinz Gholam. We are also very excited about the work of Spartacus Chetwynd, who has been called the queen of lo-fi art performances, and Soren Dahlgaard, who will close the festival.
It’s also interesting that Sequences will offer a series of lectures and artist talks that will run alongside the festival for the first time. Speakers include some of the participating artists and other invited speakers from the fields of visual arts, stage arts and theory.
What does Sequences future look like? How do you see it in five years? Is there something you want to establish in the long run?
Klara: Sequences has been growing every year, and now we have gathered a great deal of experience in how to run such a festival. And it is getting recognised for its cultural value that in the end will hopefully serve our art society. I am very optimistic that in five years this festival will be a fundamental part of the cultural field, and one of the stronger parts of Sequences is how its concept has changed along with the organisers each year. It gives the festival space to tackle issues that come up each time, and to reconsider the diversity in visual art.
Beside all that, it really is priceless how the festival becomes a documentation on art today. It will gain great historical value in later years, as every event that has taken place during the festival has been documented and kept. We hope Sequences will in the long run establish itself as a serious platform for visual arts in an international context.
We at the Grapevine are no strangers to the dilemmas and panic that surface when you see the packed schedule for such a grand festival as Sequences – both rich and chaotic. Thus we present: a bunch of interesting things we noticed in the programme.
The Dumb Region of the Heart
A 15-minute video loop will be played on two separate screens in the back seat of a car. Audiences will be picked up, two at a time, and driven around while they watch the videos on the screens and listen to it through headphones. The video is a poetic abundance of sounds, words and images. It’s an ambiguous voyage to the ever-equivocal crossroads. It’s about going and it’s about returning, or not.
WHO Páll Haukur Björnsson: a rising star in the visual arts scene in Iceland. This will be his first performance after returning from the Venice Biennale, where he’s modelled for Ragnar Kjartansson for the last six months.
WHEN OCT 30, House of Ideas, 8PM
The Mind is about… well, the mind. The mind doesn’t have a shape, and we don’t really know if it is inside us or if it is a part of the outer universe. Conscience is also a complicated phenomenon, and we work with that as well. It is not about a relationship between two persons. It is more the relationship of a person with her/himself and with society in general.
WHO Egill Sæbjörnsson is one of Iceland’s many multi-talented artists whose work is an unusual fusion of music, sound, video and installations. In addition to this, he often appears in person as part of his exhibition projects.
WHEN NOV 5, Hafnarhús, 8 PM
Although we do not know exactly what she is going to dazzle us with at the opening party, we can sure expect it to be spectacular. Spartacus Chetwynd has become known for her baroque and surreal performances, charged with humorous image quotations from art history and melded with pop culture references. So grab a beer and catch some craziness.
WHO Spartacus Chetwynd is a British artist who creates both paintings and large-scale collaborative performances that explore notions of the grotesque, using humour and references to various cultural icons
WHEN OCT 30, House of Ideas, 8 PM
Seminar at the Nordic House PLUS an Amazing Dinner Party
All through this year’s Sequences, The Lost Horse Gallery will host an exhibition, Made up and let down, with Sofia Dahlgren (SWE), Line Ellegaard (DK), Pernille Leggat Ramfelt (NO), Malin Ståhl (SWE) and Anita Weström (SWE). The piece itself is an intervention of Nordic artists habited in London, and is depicted here in Reykjavik, where it might find similar culture gatherings, so it should be interesting.
The artists are throwing a seminar, “Made up and let down: Nordic art in an international context,” where they’ll aim to analyze the exhibition in a creative way, testing new systems for critical discourse and ways to advance as a critical forum. The best thing is that there is no entry fee AND it includes a celebratory dinner afterwards at the famed DILL restaurant at the Nordic House. Yup, there you have it!
WHEN NOV 3, Nordic House, 12AM