Published February 26, 2021
As a flicker of light appears at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we sat down with the next generation of Icelandic artists to discuss the future. The conversations were freeform—some focused on the upcoming years, others reflected on realisations from the past months, others still looked with wide-eyes at the future of the scene, which has only grown within the restrictions of the coronavirus.
Presenting, an artistic vision of the future, as told by the future. Today, we talk to art collective Krot & Krass.
Krot & Krass
When talking to Björn Loki Björnsson and Elsa Jónsdóttir of art collective Krot & Krass, you’ll find they focus almost exclusively on the positive. Both are unflinchingly uplifting, rejoicing in the silver linings of 2020—the most prominent being the regrowth of the Icelandic art scene.
“It’s good now in Reykjavík. My friends in the creative industry—many have gotten studios. Housing is freeing up. That’s super positive for us,” Elsa says. “A year and a half ago, everybody was having problems with studios.”
Loki nods. “People were thinking about moving to Athens or abroad to cheaper places, but a lot of people are coming back now,” he interjects, smiling. “That’s very nice.”
For the duo, the pandemic offered a moment of renewal. Known for their work exploring typography and the deeper meaning of words and written language, they were now given space to dive into new hobbies and projects. They painted their van, which they have lived in on their travels and spent time exploring more eclectic interests, from singing with a few close friends to analysing handwriting.
Old meets new
But the biggest change the pandemic brought about for the duo was a new studio space—a large warehouse in Gufunes called FÚSK, which they’ve been renovating for the past six months. You could say it’s their own personal contribution to the aforementioned revitalisation of the Icelandic arts scene—and it’s a big one.
“It used to be a fertiliser factory,” Elsa explains. “Yes, it’s a big space. 1,200 square meters with seven-meter … ceilings,” Loki adds. The pair envisions it having not only studios but also a gallery space, offices and maybe even a music venue—eventually.
“We’ve always been working with the theory of the-old-meets-the-new,” says Elsa. “We work with a lot of stuff from Icelandic art history but translating that into new times, and we’re also doing [that] with this house. Taking old materials and collecting things to build with.”
The two look at the warehouse as a physical manifestation of this philosophy. It is—quite literally—an old institution that’s being revitalised into something that’s needed now. And there’s something beautiful about the fact that Loki and Elsa used their pandemic time to prepare for a better post-pandemic life for not only them but for the whole community—even when there was no end-date in sight.
“There’s a communal structure to the place, which made us interested in buildings and religious architecture in itself,” Elsa explains. “What makes a space holy? How can you make your own holy place?”
Building for the future
Above all else, Elsa says that pandemic has forced people to look closer to home, which has promoted sustainability and more conscious consumption. The pair are trying to renovate their warehouse using only salvaged materials and jokingly suggest that they’d like that point to be advertised in this article in case anyone has any extra plywood laying around. Well—here’s the advertisement: their website is krotkrass.com.
“It’s been a safe haven. You go there and you just think about possibilities,” Elsa concludes. Loki smiles. “It’s not happening now. It’s happening when this is all finished,” he says, before pausing. “Everything being built there is for the future.”
Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.
You can also check out our shop, loaded with books, apparel and other cool merch, that you can buy and have delivered right to your door.
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!