While Iceland has a reputation for having a strong and vibrant social welfare system, Iceland’s disabled population often feels overlooked and invisible. As a group, they are frequently the centre of social media discussions, and Bára Halldórsdóttir, an artist who is herself disabled, has often been perplexed by the conversations she has read.
“People don’t understand that if they see me out at a coffeehouse, that was preceded by a few hours getting out of bed and getting ready,” says Bára. “I’ll then be feeling okay. But soon thereafter I’ll be home, spending the rest of the day in bed.”
It is the misconceptions she has read about the disabled that prompted her to wonder at times if people have even seen a disabled person before and sparked the inspiration for the installation project, ‘INvalid/ÖRyrki’.
Life in a box
The installation is still a work in progress, and is currently being crowdfunded, in terms of both funding and technical assistance. When complete, it promises to feature Bára herself as the centrepiece. She will be inside an enclosure, surrounded by the objects she would have nearby in her room, where by her count she spends around 80% of her time. Attendees will be able to see Bára, but not communicate with her face-to-face; they will however, be able to interact with her through social media.
The aim of the piece is to visually represent the isolation that the chronically ill experience day after day.
As the project’s mission statement points out, not all disabled people are the same. For those who are visibly, obviously ill, no one questions their disability. For people like Bára, however, who can have good and bad days and can spend some time out and about after considerable energy and preparation, their disability is often brought into question.
Close to the heart
While Bára is probably best known as the Klausturgate whistleblower, fighting for the rights of the chronically ill is the matter closest to her heart, and this installation piece is an extension of that. In fact, as she says in the project’s mission statement, “I’ve been effectively performing this piece in one way or another through Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and other media for a few years now.”
She believes the timing is right for the installation, which she hopes will give the general public a deeper and broader understanding of the disabled experience.
Still work to be done
Bára says that while she does not have experience with this scale of a project, she is optimistic that it can be a success with the help of the general public. There are a few people on her team already, and she has launched a Karolina Fund page asking both for donations, as well as the help of a carpenter and technical assistant to make this project a reality.
Donation levels offer rewards that are both intriguing and a bit tongue-in-cheek. For example, a smaller donation can get you a Tarot card reading conducted by Bára, while the largest donation will get you “tutoring in audio recording and wearing disguises.” This is a reference to the legal case some members of the Centre Party have launched against her, as they have accused her of disguising herself as a tourist prior to recording four MPs speaking abusively about women, queer people, and the disabled at a Reykjavík bar in November 2018.
When launched, ‘INvalid/ÖRyrki’ will be open to the general public, free of charge. To donate to or otherwise participate, visit the Karolina Fund page for the project.
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