Snorri Ásmundsson, artist and enfant terrible against the Icelandic establishment, held a performance piece last week on the tiny north Iceland island of Hrísey. In this piece, held in the island’s church, Snorri donned the robes of a Lutheran minister and held two “masses”.
In the first mass, attended by about 30 people, Snorri talked mostly about himself while munching on a chocolate bar. He then played the piano, leading the parishioners in two hymns twice—Oh Best Brother Jesus and Bright Over Bethlehem—before then playing the organ. At the mass’ conclusion, he told attendees to consider themselves bearers of light.
“We can all be bearers of light,” he preached. “Just to love, to love. Love your mother, love your father, love your children. Just love everything, so we can feel good. I hope to be able to continue to hold masses, across the country, in more places.”
How dare you disrespect the church with this talk of love???
The parish committee for the region was reportedly displeased with the event. Narfi Björgvinsson, the chair of the committee, told reporters that he did not fully realise how the church was going to be used when it was booked by phone the week previous, and took great exception to what transpired.
“He goes there dressed for mass, and did other things he didn’t have permission to do and clearly no one would ever consider doing,” Narfi told reporters. “The purpose was clearly to rile people up.”
Narfi added that he had only agreed to allow a music concert to be held in the church and nothing else, and felt deceived.
The rotten apple
Narfi admits that Snorri didn’t ruin anything about the church, and does forgive the artist for performing as a minister. Going forward, however, Narfi believes bookings for the Hrísey church will need to follow a new standard.
“This naturally creates a situation where you can’t trust anyone,” Narfi said. “If anyone asks to use the space, it will have to be under other more preconditions than we’ve previously had, to trust people. This is a rotten apple that ruined it for everyone.”
Snorri has built his career on plucking the nerves of Iceland’s establishment elite, but his preaching a mass wherein he encouraged people to love one another, and thereby upsetting church authorities, probably says more about the church than the artist himself.