MENGI is more than a music venue. A tucked away space on Óðinsgata, it has, since opening its doors in 2013, become a cultural centre of sorts, hosting exhibitions, experimental multimedia collaborations, and all sorts of creative events, alongside a weekly concert series.
Bjarni Gaukur Sigurðsson and Elísabet Jónsdóttir are two of the space’s founders. We sit to talk in the front of the house, where there’s a small store selling books, records, artworks and design objects, displayed on neat custom-made shelving. Design thinking, it turns out, has always been a part of the MENGI philosophy.
“MENGI was always supposed to be more like a living room or gallery than a dark music space,” says Bjarni. “Elísabet designed the furniture, and everything was specially made at the time. Doing more with this is something we’ve thought about talked about for a long time. Since the beginning, really.”
At DesignMarch 2017, Mengi hosted an exhibition of works in progress by Guðmundur Lúðvík Grétarsson. “They were works in progress, from the idea to the finalised product,” says Bjarni. “It linked well to the Mengi philosophy of things not having to be fully realised. So, we decided to go for it ourselves this time.”
The prototype Mengi Objects line will contain three pieces: a record storage case, a unit for vinyl and a record player, and a framed poster featuring a text work comprising the names of everyone who has played at the music venue since it first opened its doors.
“The products all link to Mengi,” says Elísabet. “The label releases records, so the objects look at how we can store them and preserve them.” Continues Bjarni: “We’ll really be testing the water to see if people like them.”
In the family
Connecting the dots between creative disciplines is what Mengi has become known for. The venue’s music ethos encourages both emerging and established artists to take steps into the unknown, whether through multidisciplinary collaboration, or playing work from underexposed side-projects, new ideas or works in progress.
The Mengi Objects venture feels very natural for Elísabet. “My sister is an architect, and I’m a designer, and we worked together to make the interior of Mengi,” she says. “We’ll also be working with Matthias Árni Ingimarsson—he’s a Mengi collaborator and part of the Mengi family. He’ll be doing the carpentry. It’s all in the family.”
Strength in numbers
The poster will feature somewhere between 800-1000 names—neither Bjarni or Elísabet can put their finger on exactly how many people have performed in the time since Mengi first opened its doors.
“It’s a very minimal poster with a small font,” says Elísabet. “But it’s symbolic because it features all the names of the Mengi people.” She laughs: “At least, we hope it’s all of them! The stage can get very full sometimes.”
With their line of design objects, a new recording studio in the rejuvenated Iðnó venue, and mutterings of even more crossover projects to come, the Mengi family isn’t resting on its laurels. In fact, it seems set to have more and more brainchildren in the months and years to come.
See the Mengi Objects at Mengi at Óðinsgata 2, from March 15th.
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