A teenager lies on the floor feeding herself popcorn with her feet. A woman in a glamorous outfit hopelessly sweeps a room filled with sand. A man presents a plate of burnt kleinur doughnuts to an empty kitchen. No, this isn’t a fever dream or enigmatic fantasy. Welcome to ‘Psychography’, one of the latest cinematic works by the Icelandic Love Corporation, which is currently featured at the ‘When The Globe Is Home’ exhibition at the Gallerie delle Prigioni in Treviso, Italy until the end of February.
The grand video
The 18-minute long extravaganza is based on a participatory performance made by the group in 2016. While the now-duo has dabbled in many different mediums over the years, this was their first, as they describe it, “grand video.”
“We had this opportunity to make this performance in the countryside at an old farm that used to be a settlement from the Viking age. It was also occupied by the British army during the war, so there’s a huge saga, or history connected to the land,” Eirún Sigurðardóttir, one of the two collaborators, explains. Jóní Jónsdóttir, her partner in the corporation, agrees.
“What we did—we had a psychic or medium with us at the start of the project. We wanted to see what a psychic would feel coming into this old house that hadn’t been lived in for years, to see if there were some images or anything that we could start working with,” she continues.
The Hidden Woman & The Farmer
Fortunately, the psychic saw a plethora of images, which provided a framework for a few of the characters featured in the film.
“For example, there is a character that we call the Hidden Woman. The psychic saw exactly that character in the house,” Jóní says. “She saw this Hidden Woman that was protecting the land, but couldn’t move away from it, but she was very happy that we were coming to clean the house.”
“There was also a very damaged, not-so-happy spirit that was locked inside the house. He was so angry and so hostile that the psychic said we should not work in the house, never sleep in the house and never collaborate in the house because things would start to happen. People would get hurt and so we really had to clean this aura out of the house,” she continues. “There is a character in the movie, which is not based on this guy exactly but has a bit of him. It’s this farmer with a big shotgun. But instead of him having this really black energy, he’s more locked inside himself. He’s not a bad person but feels trapped inside his own feelings.”
All of these numerous characters, the duo emphasises, exist in different dimensions of the house, somehow locked to the land itself. Take the aforementioned girl with her popcorn. “She’s trying to get out the window and run away but she gets caught in the net and pulled back in,” Jóní exclaims. “It’s a little bit like our ‘Hotel California.’”
“Yes, they are in different years and times and moments in the history of the farm or of the land,” Eirún says. “The only people that are together in the film are me and Jóni, all the rest is blocked in their own world.”
The national costume of the Earth
Jóní and Eirún themselves feature in the film as the Madams—two stoic women donned in the Icelandic national costume made of camouflage fabric. “They have been there forever. They are almost like the Earth themselves. We are dressed in camouflage and in a national costume, so maybe we’re in the national costume of the Earth,” the two explain. “Of course it has this violent side because [camouflage] is very much connected to war, as is nationality. So it’s not only peaceful—it’s a mix.”
The aforementioned exhibition the film is featured in, which is entitled ‘When The Globe Is Home’, was curated by Claudio Scorretti and Irina Ungureau. Containing works by artists of 13 nationalities, the exhibition seeks to explore the relationship between the near and the far, the collective and the local—the “Home” and the “Globe”. Though it was planned before the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibition has since taken on an unexpected relevance in our new world as the works there explore topics like climate change, sustainability, the migratory crisis, and other contemporary global issues deeply affected by the outbreak.
The gallery itself—the Gallerie delle Prigioni in Treviso, Italy—is housed in what used to be a prison. This, both Jóní and Eirún emphasise, is somewhat of an Easter egg in the context of the film. “Our characters are maybe not in a prison, but somehow they are locked in their dimension,” Jóni concludes.
A collection of souls
For the duo, the film feels like a culmination of their 20-year long creative relationship. While the Icelandic Love Corporation currently consists of Joní and Eirún, past members include Sigrún Hrólfsdóttir from 1996-2016 and Dóra Ísleifsdóttir from 1996-2001.
In Icelandic, the title of the film is ‘Sálnasafn’, which loosely translates to a collection of souls. ‘Psychography’ is their interpretation of this concept in English. The wordplay brings to mind an intricate connection between the psyche and geography. “Not only the geography of the land but of the soul,” the two conclude. “The landscape of the soul.”
The Icelandic Love Corporation’s ‘Psychography’ was most recently featured at the ‘When The Globe Is Home’ exhibition at the Gallerie delle Prigioni. You can explore the exhibition virtually here.
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