From Iceland — Working On Digital Boundary Lines

Working On Digital Boundary Lines

Working On Digital Boundary Lines

Published August 8, 2012

By now most, if not all, Icelanders know the work of Egill Sæbjörnsson (and quite a few people abroad). Since breaking into the Icelandic art scene in the late nineties he has worked on harmonising his two passions, art and music, into one.
For the most part, Egill divides his time between Berlin, his home since 1999 and Brazil, but he’s in Ice-land over the summer and we decided to catch up with him at Gallery i8, where his latest exhibition is running ‘til August 25.
Can you give us the artist’s perspective on this exhibition?
What I’m working with is that I’ve placed these boxes on the walls, and on top of them I’ve placed these plates. On the wall, via projection, you see balls that bounce around and on occasions, land on said boxes.
The balls were made in a computer program that we devised for this installation. Their movement across the screen, therefore, is governed not by a loop that runs continuously, but a self generated protocol. Like a fountain, where you never see the same water falling twice.
But the boxes and plates are analogue?
Within the boxes there are these magnetic block keys called solenoids that activate the plates. Behind the initial program that runs the balls, there is a subprogram that controls the solenoids so that when the balls on screen seem to strike the plate the sound is acti-vated. However, within the box there is a small piece of machinery that really makes the sound.
There is a really interesting interplay of the digital and analogue in this exhibition.
Yes, the boxes are real and the sound they make is real, not synthesized as you might think. They are firmly based in reality, whereas often when you see video art the sounds come from a speaker and, hence, isn’t real.
I have been playing around with the concept of pseudo instruments, in traditional instruments, say a guitar, you have a body that amplifies the sound that comes from the strings and you need an agent, in this case the fingers and with that you make the sound. At a concert you see the sound being made and at the same time receive the experience of the music.
You get that natural connection of the two senses, sight and hearing?
Yes, a synesthetic perception. For the longest time, in the musical world, people wanted to separate the two; their idea being that people should close their eyes and listen to the music—that was the only way to fully grasp the real har-mony. But in truth, all the other senses affect your perception and enhance the experience. These factors are, for instance, the performance space or the social context. The visual is second only to the sound itself.
The hand that strikes the cord is much like the balls in the video. They look like they are striking the boxes, but in fact they are not, hence the usage of pseudo, as a pseudo-instrument looks like it’s making the sound when in truth it is not. The same applies to synthesizers.
Is it a misinterpretation on my part, that the balls are programmed so that when they strike the boxes or go in the vicinity of the boxes the programme makes the sound?
No, that would only happen if there were a real ping-pong ball. This is only a video and conjures the notion of the impact. A large part of our real-ity is now in cyber space and this exhibition is in part looking into the line between imagined reality/virtual reality and the reality we inhabit on a day-to-day basis. This is a video installation that mimics a 3D space, but is truly only 2D, the tweak is the introduction of the physical objects that truly inhabit the real space of the exhibition hall.
At first when people walk in they perceive everything to be normal, but then they do a double take and go: “Hey wow, that’s not natural!” The whole effect works by playing with that boundary.
More information on Egill Sæbjörnsson at
Find Gallery i8 at

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