One of the most intriguing events in the 2016 Reykjavík Arts Festival programme is an interactive performance by the Wunderland group. Entitled “Phoenix,” the event is the third of its kind, and promises an immersive experience as participants take a guided walk along Reykjavík’s harbour, encountering performers and specially created environments. We caught up with Gunnar and Mette, two of the people behind the event, to find out more.
Phoenix seems like an interesting cross-breed of interactive experience, theatre, installation and performance. How does it touch on these different areas?
Phoenix plays with all your senses. Each guest goes through their own personal adventure, alone, meeting and interacting with performers in some places, and listening to sounds and words in others. They wander through an urban landscape of deserted cars, boats, a tent and a structure made of things found at the harbour. You could call it an interactive, sensory performance; but you could call it a concert walk, poetry walk or a living installation, too.
Reykjavík, and Iceland generally, are quite immersive environments. Does it help to have this kind of canvas on which to create a piece like this?
Definitely. Phoenix adapts to its surrounding and changes accordingly. So the nature and the location of Snarfarahöfn harbour—the urban landscape, the boat community, the industrial background and impressive view to the mountains all shaped the performance.
Do you have to train your mind to notice things differently when designing such a piece?
Yes, I would say so. Phoenix is made by artists working in the Denmark-based performing arts initiator, Wunderland. It was founded by Mette Aakjær, who has a background in physical theatre and dance. Mette shaped the basic idea and concept for the performance, and from that foundation, the artwork is shaped by a collective process. All the artists invited are trained to heighten their awareness of reality—many have movement training, and all have a very sensory approach.
What are some of the memorable sensory experiences that became key to this edition of Phoenix?
Speaking for just a few of us, key sensory experiences were: the sound of the birds and the long, dry grass, blending with the sound of the machines of the industrial harbour and the wind from the mountains. The boats on land, looking like they’re floating over the ground, or perhaps longing for the sea. The strong sense of a community.
How many people will be able to pass through this work in the time it’s in Reykjavík?
If all time slots are filled, there are about 300 that can take the journey. People enter one at a time, every eight minutes, and each individual journey is around 90 minutes.
Do you have a message for someone who might be considering signing up to experience Phoenix?
During the past three editions, the guests have spread the word to their friends, until the last days have always been sold out. So our best advice is to book early.
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