Technical Difficulties - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Technical Difficulties

Technical Difficulties

Published November 12, 2009

The Sequences festival was formally launched a week ago, on Friday October 30th. I had heard that major sponsors had been backing out throughout last year due to the financial crisis. I don’t know if this is true, but it would certainly explain some things. My experiences at the festival led me to believe that it was severely understaffed—at times it also seemed unorganised and chaotic.

Due to prior engagements, I missed out on the opening night celebrations. I later heard that the best thing on offer was Sigurður Guðjónsson‘s live event, consisting of a gigantic video projection, men smashing rocks and the great death metal band Severed Crotch.

Waiting around on a Saturday afternoon

On Saturday my art walk began by the harbour, at the beautiful Maritime Museum, which I was visiting for the first time. I was there for a performance by a couple of Danish artists that call themselves Prinz Gholam. The event was supposed to start at 14:00. Half an hour later, nothing had happened. Nothing at all.

A person I assumed to be one of the artists walked around in circles, looking all stressed. Nobody said a word. The 25-strong audience said nothing, and for a moment I found myself thinking: “Wow, art can be so hard to understand, this is so post-modern! A happening that imbues in the viewer a feeling of inferiority and insecurity.”

This was not the case. After poking around with a TV set for quite a while, talking about technical difficulties and scolding a six year old for treading too near the TV, the artist finally set the piece in motion. It consisted of these two Danes doing physical therapy exercises for twenty some minutes. “Suspended time and absorption are central in our performative work,” I read about this piece. It is true, that is what it is. It felt self-absorbed, and time sure was suspended.  But I did not like it so much.

From the Maritime museum I went to see The Spartacus Chetwynd Mime Troupe. I was excited to see them. The name of their piece got to me, Feminism: Little Tales of Misogyny. But at the House of Ideas, my friends and I waited around for forty minutes before giving up and leaving. We did not want to be late for the airing of the video instillations at the Regnboginn movie theatre.

When we got there, we sat around in the dark for 25 minutes before hearing a voice in the dark saying the show was not happening due to technical difficulties. Turns out we missed the only thing that had actually been screened.

See now. Three events visited, and three suffered from technical difficulties.That is understandable. Technology will sometimes fail you. Not so understandable, though, is the fact that not a single representative of the festival was to be found at any of these events. No one stepped forth and told the waiting audience what was happening or why they were waiting.

This is not cool. Sequences is a major cultural event, and there was nobody there to represent it. In my book, that is seriously amateurish.

What saved my Saturday at Sequences was the Parfyme group. In the programme, the group says that they work with “immediate actions carried out – without too much planning.” The event seemed super organised and together compared to the other events visited. Their post office was a friendly place to visit, the postmen were all smiles and their concept is a great one. Write your friend in the countryside a line, they deliver it on a gigantic postcard, videotaping the journey and bringing it back in a week. I loved it!

Sunday at the Reykjavík Art Museum

My Sequences Sunday began at the Reykjavík Art Museum, at an artist talk with Egill Sæbjörnsson and Macia Moraes. The two shared a relaxed and nice chat about the elements in Egill’s work. It was actually really good. Egill managed to wear a wig and eyeliner without being pretentious, and his ideas where utterly interesting, the way he tries to put our presence into a larger scale of time and ideology. Well done! Afterwards Egill walked the audience through his show, and it was great. His piece The Mind is mixed media of theatrics, sound and images, all brimming with meaning. I loved it!

The honorary artist of the festival, Magnús Pálsson, was next up. His operetta, Taðskegglingar, was surely the main event of the weekend, as was indicated by the mass of people lining up to see it.

The Icelandic sound poetry choir performed the piece to a packed room of spectators. It was boring. It took too long, and it was hard to follow. There was a pretty cool scene where everything clicked, when the group formed into an airplane with suiting soundscapes. The rest was just incoherent and confusing. Magnús Pálsson is for sure a major figure in the world of performance art in Iceland, but still this was not as good as it should have been.

Halldór Úlfarsson was next on the schedule. His work in the Icelandic Graphic Gallery, entitled Almost Nothing, was interesting, a circling video camera and a monitor videotaping the room, looping it in time. This set quite a nice scene, and the artist’s presence was not to spoil it.

The last event on my list was S.C.O.U.R.G.E by Melkorka Huldudóttir at Dwarf Gallery, a tiny Basement in Þingholt. The piece was nicely overwhelming in the very fitting room. A black helmet connected to tubes giving out a mechanical breathing sound while different lights lit up the small space, the artist sticking her head into the helmet and pulling it back out repeatedly.

Lazy artists

The last thing I managed to fit into my Sequences schedule was Páll Haukur Björnsson’s This Dumb Region of the Heart, which turned out to be one the weekend’s highlights. His companions picked me up in a shady looking car, the driver put on his driving gloves and his cohort put a portable DVD system in my lap. The drive began and so did the piece. It is in some ways a road film, these video recordings of Venice-scapes. His take on death, travelling, the repeating patterns in reality and God. I loved it!

This about sums up my experiences at the first weekend of Sequences. I wish I could have made more of it. Then again, not so much. I witnessed too many things that led me to believe that performance art is the platform of choice for lazy people, or those just plain not ready for other things.

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