From Iceland — The Skeleton Is The Seat Of The Soul: Gerðarsafn Showcases Artworks On Spiritual Science

The Skeleton Is The Seat Of The Soul: Gerðarsafn Showcases Artworks On Spiritual Science

Published October 30, 2019

The Skeleton Is The Seat Of The Soul: Gerðarsafn Showcases Artworks On Spiritual Science
Photo by
Art Bicnick

A curious display of beakers, glass bottles, and diagrams populate the entrance to Gerðarsafn’s group show ‘Lots of tiny people.’ The installation displays the remnants of Canadian visual artist Dawn Nilo’s ‘Just drink tea,’ a ceremony which opened the exhibition that explores anthroposophy and the esoteric arts.

‘Lots of tiny people’ is populated with work by powerhouse art names including Rudolf Steiner, Joseph Beuys, and Hilma af Klint. One part mystic, one part pseudoscience, and several parts witchy as fuck, the exhibition showcases contemporary artists’ attempts to make the spirit visible. The confluence of the esoteric arts with the physical sciences delivers a bewitching exhibition.

Skeletal remains

Arising from studies in the subconscious and her own dreams, artist Guðrún Vera Hjartardóttir sculpts human anatomy and then paints it charcoal or white. Vertebrae dangle as an extension mid-air. A spine slithers from a young form’s back. The work is a study in becoming—becoming human, becoming more-than-human, becoming a being. Her work’s description quotes Rudolf Steiner: “The skeleton is the seat of the spirit.”

Elsewhere in the gallery, Sigrún Halldóra Gunnarsdóttir (ÚaVon) offers a blurred video work with a body displayed, pulsing and writhing, on a table. This body occasionally flickers from sight to reveal a curled skeleton. Sigrún’s work renders the skeleton supple, pliable. Spirit appears partly glimpsed in the shift between body and bone.

Under the skin

The exhibition fills both floors of the gallery. In the basement, choreographer and dancer Martje Brandsma has translated 24 of Philipp Tok’s simple line-and-curve drawings into movement. The result is filmed with each shape present on the screen alongside Martje as she dances. Uli Hohmann’s soundscape tracks the movements with a steady beep of a medical monitor.

Movement materialises also in events planned over the exhibition’s duration. In October, Sati Katerina Fitzova led workshops introducing participants to the sacred dances of mystic George Gurdjieff, whose lifework focused on training the development of consciousness. In November, Dutch educator Edward de Boer and Belgian art therapist Ruth Bellinkx will offer a workshop investigating intuition in art.

Chalk outlines

The simplicity of Joseph Beuys’ blackboards are beguiling to behold. The simple straight and curved lines have been hand-drawn with chalk on a blackboard. The artist was present, but only this trace of him remains in the spectral touch of light on eyes.

The presence of the blackboard gestures towards the desire to study or instruct. So many of the artists’ efforts to make visible the spirit appears in progress or temporary, as with presentation on a blackboard that can be erased. The notional is sketched, but never concretised.

Circles and circles and

Far from the tea ceremony at the exhibition’s entrance, 14 large cyanotypes hang on the wall. Each cyanotype is printed with minimalist geometry and spiritual symbols. This work, too, is by Dawn Nilo, and she draws on Rudolph Steiner’s meditative exercises to render her metamorphosing blueprints.

Could blueprints or blackboards outline ways to comprehend spirit or soul? Nilo’s reappearance at the exhibition’s conclusion brings the curation full-circle. If we walk the circle enough times, our subtle bodies may materialise.

Visit the exhibition ‘Lot’s of tiny people’ in Gerðarsafn runs until January 5th.

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