Iceland Trolls At Biennale - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Iceland Trolls At Biennale

Published May 15, 2017

Icelandic artist Egill Sæbjörnsson knows how to steal the show. His repertoire features bodily fluids and phallic objects, so it’s no surprise that when chosen to represent Iceland this year at the world famous Venice Biennale, he decided to handover his position to trolls. Ūgh and Bõögâr to be precise—two mythical figures who’ve been part of Sæbjörnsson’s life for the last 10 years.

At the opening of the 2017 Venice Biennale, visitors were invited to get up inside the trolls, walk around their heads, while enjoying an espresso. Ūgh and Bõögâr then casually trolled visitors, discussing, which guests would taste the best.

Flirting with trolls

“It started as just me flirting with the phenomenon of trolls and then they became these imaginary characters that I was playing with, without really even intending to make art with them. But as they got bigger and bigger, they eventually took over my life,” Sæbjörnsson told the Guardian.

Controversy has surrounded the exhibition with the trolls morphing into representations of political figures Donald Trump and Margaret Thatcher.

By Sæbjörnsson’s standards, however, the Biennale exhibition is pretty tame. For his graduation piece at the Icelandic Art Academy in 1998, Sæbjörnsson filmed himself jerking it.

Keeping up the controversy

In recent years, Iceland has developed somewhat of a habit of choosing controversial works to represent the country at the Biennale.

Back in 2009, Ragnar Kjartansson painted his erotic best friend sporting Speedos every day for 6 months (thats 144 paintings), and in 2015 the Icelandic Art Council picked Christoph Büchel to help create the first mosque to grace Venice, which was later closed down for “safety reasons.”

You can watch Sæbjörnsson trolling until the end of November 2017.

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