From Iceland — Lighting Up Airwaves

Lighting Up Airwaves

Published October 11, 2012

Lighting Up Airwaves

Marcos Zotes blurs the lines between music, art and architecture

by Arit John / Photo by Jon Oskar Hauksson

If you were in Reykjavík last February during The Festival of Lights, it would have been hard to miss seeing that the city’s tallest landmark, Hallgrímskirkja church, had been transformed into a 74.5 metre tall projection screen. A team of eight—made up of designers, projection artists, architects and one dancer—created a two hour long light installation, illuminating the church with images inspired by the four elements, set to instrumental music composed by For a Minor Reflection.

If you saw it, you might be surprised to learn that the project’s driving creative force doesn’t consider himself an artist.

Actually, he’s an architect.

“People tend to have a very limited understanding of what architecture is because they think that it is just about making buildings. You make the plans for a house and somebody builds it,” Marcos Zotes says. “Architecture isn’t just about making buildings; it’s about dealing critically with urban conditions.”

Trained as an architect in London and at Columbia University in New York, Marcos runs UNSTABLE, a design and research laboratory for exploring the social and political connections between architecture and urban environments.

His projections deal with communities and issues of public space. While at Columbia he challenged the university’s policies on public space by projecting the message “PUBLIC SPACE? FAILURE. APPROPRIATE! SUBVERT! ACTIVATE!” onto the walls of the school’s main library. In Brooklyn he projected a giant moving eyeball onto a water tower in an abandoned industrial area, creating a “big brother is watching” vibe over the city.

“My aim in the video projection field is not to create beautiful lights that people just watch,” Marcos says. “The intention is to send a message or be critical of the space onto which the messages were projected.”

With “Rafmögnuð Náttúra,” his Hallgrímskirkja installation, the goal was to allow the community to see the church in a new light. “My intention with the church was to activate the space in front of the it and to create this kind of temporary community,” Marcos explains. “It’s like looking at the everyday environment and suddenly having it completely transformed.”

Back with the band

On November 2, Marcos will put on a lights show for the post-punk band For a Minor Reflection’s show at Harpa, Norðurljós Hall. “They are very good friends of mine. When I was designing the project of the church I wanted to have this element of sound, live sound,” Marcos says. “I approached them and they were very interested.”

Marcos says the band’s instrumental contribution was essential to the overall effect of the installation, and further talks led to plans for collaboration during Airwaves. This time around the group hopes to further blur the lines between music, art and architecture by having the projections and music interact.

“This is a work in progress, but we are studying the possibility of having the music react to the visuals, which is something that didn’t happen at the church,” Marcos says.

The performance will mark a continuation in Marcos’s trend towards experimentation within the projection field. While exploring issues of public space and urban environments are still his main interest, he is also exploring the potential of projection installations to redefine spaces.

“Today I’m pursuing different things and this project with For a Minor Reflection is something different,” Marcos says. “I’m starting to go into venues and that’s more about exploring the possibilities of this technology, creating new tools and dealing with the audience in a different way.”

For a Minor Reflection and UNSTABLE perform together on Friday, November 2 at 22:30 in Harpa Norðurljós.


Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Festival Central
A Fishing Warehouse Comes Alive

A Fishing Warehouse Comes Alive


Show Me More!