In November 2020, the Grapevine, along with many other media outlets, received a press release announcing the arrival of a new budget airline in Iceland entitled MOM Air. The logo and colour of the airline—a bright bubbly magenta—were clearly referencing the defunct WOW Air, though representatives from MOM Air claimed they had no formal connection with the former airline. While they presented themselves as an actual airline, something about MOM Air immediately read as bizarre. Not only was their name rather peculiar, but their services were eccentric, offering add-ons for flights such as life jackets and toilet paper. In all ways, the whole thing just seemed too weird to be true.
The domain name of MOM Air was registered to artist Oddur Eysteinn Friðriksson, which also raised increased questions about the validity of the airline. Despite claiming at first that MOM Air was not performance art, Oddur eventually revealed that the airline was actually his final project in performance art for the Iceland University of the Arts. And considering he had gotten worldwide media coverage, many requests for tickets, and even promos from influential Influencers, it was clearly a successful one.
Now, Oddur is auctioning off the ownership of the performance work in a feat that has never been done before through Gallerí Fold. While not a NFT, he’ll be selling an electronic certificate of ownership for the project registered to a blockchain. We sat down with Oddur to learn more.
Thanks for talking to us, Oddur. Could you start by telling us about MOM Air from your perspective?
It was a performance project and concept art. There was a final project for a course I was taking in November of last year, so I created a website for an airline that didn’t exist called MOM Air. I promised all sort of things like COVID and non-COVID flights, optional life vests under the seats, optional toilet paper on board and two free seats on every flight. Then, after launching a website, I sent a press release to media all over the world and then just waited to see what would happen and who would interact with the artwork.
And you got quite a big of reception.
Yes, I had 10,000 booking requests over the two weeks of the project. And while people were stuck in the [nonfunctional] booking machine, I put up a forum to send in complaints and I got 200 complaints as well. At the peak of the performance, I had 14,000 followers on Instagram—and I think that’s quite a lot for a two-week project. There were definitely a lot of people trying to get free tickets and because of that, I actually printed realistic-looking airline tickets—which were supposed to be free—and had them laminated so they looked like real tickets. Then, I sent them to influencers who actually posted that they had tickets so I had a lot of advertisements through that. And obviously the media as well—I think I counted about 70 news articles globally in 20 languages. It was even featured on CNN travel on the first page for 24 hours.
The design is obviously referential to the now-closed WOW Air. What was the intentionality behind that?
After WOW Air collapsed, a big void in Iceland for new airlines opened up and a lot of people wanted to fill that void. For example, you had WOW Air, which wanted to relaunch through Michele Ballarin, and Skúli Mogensen as well wanted to launch WOW Air 2. And, obviously, now there’s Play Air. So in 2020, Icelanders had become serial launchers of airlines. I thought that also because we had COVID on top of that, it sort of extended the void. If we wouldn’t have had COVID, we might have actually seen a new airline launch. So I just took the opportunity to create this performance art, which criticises how people received information through media and news outlets.
I mean, it’s an eye-opening critique. There were so many people who believed it without even doing a modicum of research.
Yeah, in fact, on the website, we said if influencers wanted to collaborate with us, they should hashtag #MomMomMom or something like that. And actually, a lot of influencers did that and connected with us to try and get free tickets. So I sent them free tickets and they advertised.
That’s kind of dystopic, isn’t it?
Yes, extremely. We had @alexfromiceland, Binni Löve, and quite a few other influencers that posted MOM Air-related stuff. In fact, they sent me their photographs to add MOM Air logos and change the colours to make them representatives of MOM Air and then posted that to their stories and feed.
Was anyone angry after it was revealed the airline was a hoax?
No, that would have been interesting. But, during the performance, I was contacted by the lawyer of WOW Air, who threatened to sue me for copyright violations.
So under the threat of a lawsuit, did you reveal to him that MOM Air was an art piece?
No, no one knew. I like the surprise. In fact, when I had the tickets printed, I had the CEO of the printing company sign a non-disclosure agreement. I also hired a team in Pakistan via Fiverr to create the 3D replica of the plane. That was one of the things I felt was extremely authenticating—to have a 3D rendering of your airline on the website.
What was it like for you to watch the project explode?
I sort of went into a mania, to be honest. I was engulfed by this character who was the CEO and owner of an airline. For those two weeks, I actually controlled a big business and I was interacting with thousands of customers. Companies as well—Nói Síríus and Einstök actually reached out to collaborate with MOM Air. I was even offered airplanes, cabin crew and airline slots at airports.
So you really could have taken advantage and gone through with this?
Yes, I could have. Really, I was in such a manic state that if someone had said, “Here’s the money!” I would probably have launched this airline.
Let’s switch gears and talk about the auction. How do you go about selling a piece of performance art?
So Gallerí Fold has an auction for in-house artists. They asked me if I wanted to put something up. And since I started university, I’ve mainly been doing performance and concept art and when I started doing that, I thought, how can I market this? How could one of my collectors own my performance art? So I started doing research and I found out that no one had done it in the way that I wanted to do it. So it’s one of those things where you actually have to create the market for the artwork that you want to create. That’s exactly what I’m doing.
People have, in the past, created ownership over performance and concept art that is instructional, perhaps a video of the performance or so. For example, the banana that was taped to the wall by Maurizio Cattelan. I love that piece, but that’s an instructional piece. So anyone that tapes a banana to the wall and owns a certificate owns the [performance]. But the certificates of ownership that I am creating, you cannot repeat. I cannot launch another airline. It would be a new performance. So I have created ownership of something that has happened in time and space already. This could have been done before—like creating some sort of physical document—but the technology that exists today, such as being able to register it to the blockchain, makes it extremely interesting and gives it that extra foot of security that collectors and museums like to see in their pieces.
I’m very much interested in doing performance art and have shifted in that direction. There’s no difference between a sculpture or painting or this certificate—it’s a relic of a performance of a concept. So just being able to create this certificate and create a relic of your artwork is such a fun, communicative way to express yourself through art.
It really is. Now, to end, we can’t help but admit that you have quite the knack for aeronautics. Do you ever see yourself entering that world again?
If some controversy or something that interests me would present itself then yes, but I never aim for creating the same stuff over again. I just look for opportunities in my environment to create interesting art.
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