ArtsFest Q&A: Ragnheiður Harpa Leifsdóttir, Artist - The Reykjavik Grapevine

ArtsFest Q&A: Ragnheiður Harpa Leifsdóttir, Artist

ArtsFest Q&A: Ragnheiður Harpa Leifsdóttir, Artist

Published May 11, 2015

With Reykjavík Arts Festival bearing down fast, we thought we’d talk to some prominent figures in the city’s arts scene about the festival, and this year’s focus on gender, censorship and rights struggle. First up: Ragnheiður Harpa Leifsdóttir, one of Iceland’s brightest young artists, who contributed a show-stopping aerial performance to last year’s festival.

This year’s focus is women in art. Do you think there’s still some way to go for gender equality in art, and the arts generally?
Art mirrors the person, the society, the world – so in a world where there is inequality, there is inequality in the arts. Everything is linked together, part of a huge whole. The focus of the festival this year emphasises this exactly.

The fact that we are asking ourselves this question is a strong indicator that women are discriminated against in the art world, as they are in other sectors of the society. We have just as many men and women working in the arts and yet we can see numbers from galleries over the world that women artist are underrepresented in museum collections and galleries, just as they have been throughout history. The statistics don’t lie.

I’ve often discussed why there aren’t more great women artists in our Western history books. However I think the question or focus should rather be on why haven’t more women been considered great artists throughout Western history. The feminist collective Guerrilla Girls ask this same question in their work.

The history we know is written by those who didn’t consider women to be capable of being artists. It leads me to think what knowledge has been taken away of our female artists and how we can rewrite, or start writing our own story.

We mould the future in the way we teach our history. It’s in how we engage in conversation about our social structures that we are able to perceive and face them head on.”

“Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceive that strength.” – G.D Anderson.

What are your best memories of the festival?
A day a few years ago. This was the first day it really felt like summer had arrived. I feel like RAF is like lóan, the bird that tells us by it’s song the winter has ended with it’s arrival. This particular day was when they brought the dancers that flew on strings in the sky. I remember looking up at them and thinking, wow. People are capable of the mostly bizarre, beautiful things.

What do you think RAF brings to the life of the city?
Art is like the heartbeat of a city and Reykjavík Art Festival brings all kinds of different inspiring explosions. Even though you don’t get a chance to see everything you get ideas and stories through the atmosphere and happenings.

ragnheiður harpa flight trails

Do you think the city’s young artists & art students benefit?
I think everyone benefits, always. Sometimes inspiration can be sought into the most surprising art form. I remember I did a course in the Arts Academy once on exploring art we thought we didn’t like. I learned so much from that. I was surprised how closed we can be towards something we decided on and forgot why. I think the cities artists and art student thrive in spaces based on meeting, collision, creative discussion and celebrating art. The focus on opportunities of free events and cheap tickets, bringing people to openings etc. ignite just that!

Anything you’d like to highlight, that you’re particularly looking forward to in the programme so far?
I’m very excited to see a composer I admire a lot. Her name is Bára Gísladóttir, playing in Mengi. Guerilla Girls, because I’ve known about them and admired for a long time. Svartar Fjarðrir, opening dance piece by Sigga Soffía. I’m a huge fan of her work and the team in the piece. And then just take part in the celebration.

See more Ragnheiður’s work on her website.

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