This years Reykjavík Arts Festival focuses on gender issues in the arts, as well as censorship and rights struggle more generally. This week, we’re talking to prominent women in the Reykjavík arts scene about Reykjavík Arts Festival, and about their opinions on gender equality in the arts. Today we speak to Fríða Björk Ingvarsdóttir – the dean of Reykjavík’s art university, Listaskóli Íslands.
This year’s focus is women in art. Do you think there’s still some way to go for equality in art, and the arts generally?
I think this focus on women in art is important. Not only because this year is the centenary of women’s voting in Iceland, but also because it’s still very difficult to be a woman in the world of the arts.
It must be said however that gender quotas, or focusing on gender specifically, is only beneficial in a general sense; it gets complicated when you’re measuring individual achievement. What needs to be addressed is that the global art world is mostly dominated by men. The money that is invested in the arts nurtures men rather than women. The world of art – all genres – celebrates men, listens to men and discusses men in a much more serious way than women. We only need to ask how many women conductors we know, how many women are on the top of the sales lists in visual arts, how many women get published in comparison to men, how many women receive prizes in comparison to men, compare promotional campaigns and so forth. The statistics reveal an uncomfortable discrepancy.
Women, unfortunately, still have a long way to go towards being appreciated in the same way as men in the arts. This applies to lceland as well.
How long have you been going to Reykjavík Art Festival / how has it developed in that time?
Well, I attended the festivals as much as I could afford before I left Iceland in my early twenties. Since I came back in my mid thirties I’ve attended many events every year, and followed the festival rather closely.
What are your best memories of the festival?
It’s difficult to say, there are so many good memories. Perhaps the one that sticks out most is my impression of Oscar Peterson in 1978, when I was still in my teens. I’d seen so little then and the concert had a profound effect on me, made me realise the impact of art, regardless of genre, age, nationality and so forth.
What do you think RAF brings to the life of the city?
It definitely changes the city. People stop talking about the weather for one thing (!) and talk about artistic events instead. Everything is more vibrant and colourful. What I notice also is that the festival is better attended by the general public than it used to be. Society is less elitist in that way.
Do you think the city’s young artists & art students benefit?
I hope they do. Young artists and students have much better access to the art scene now than they used to. They’re more enlightened than my generation was and seem to claim what should be theirs anyway.
Anything you’d like to highlight, that you’re particularly looking forward to in the programme so far?
There are many events to look forward to. The part dedicated to the Guerrilla Girls is important for me, as a feminist and a woman. But I also happen to know many participants this year so I look forward to celebrating their achievements too.