by Ana Bruno
Last February you havebeen awarded the Icelandic Art Prize 2018 for the exhibition Inlight, which wason show last year from late September until the middle of October in the chapeland morgue of the former St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hafnarfjörður, congratulationson that! Were you expecting to get such a positive feedback on that show? Whatdo you think about the Icelandic Art Prize? Do you think it could be a goodinput for Icelandic artists?
Of course, you alwaysaim to do your best, but it comes with gratitude when things work out,especially within such a fragile process that creating can be and it certainlydoesn’t hurt when you receive positive feedback on it. When I started, I reallydid not expect anything, because the focus was all on creating the works andfinding a showroom in collaboration with the ASÍ’s Art Museum. It’s thereforesafe to say that the receival of the work went far beyond the brightest hopesand that the recognition was very appreciated. There is enormous growth inIcelandic art and it is important to support it and make the field itselfvisible, and therefore I welcome the Icelandic Art Prize. It is always fun toreap what you sow and get encouragement, and to celebrate what’s happening toothers and while we have prizes for literature, theatre, music and film, ofcourse there ought to be an Icelandic art prize.
A hospital is an unusual space for a show, and a morgue in particular is a verysuggestive place, even when it is disused. How do you think that influencedyour exhibition at St. Joseph’s Hospital?
It is always fascinatingto exhibit in a space that is not usually used for shows, it’s super effectivefor the creative process and you start to think differently which takes you innew directions. In this case, I chose the place as part of the work so it hasequally as much importance as the work itself, to create this interplay betweenthe medium and the space. The chapel and the morgue has a story that is acertain extra layer that adds to the work, as well as the space itself, whichoffers new possibilities in the presentation of video. It may be said that theshow has been an attempt to activate this space and the place in its entiretyand make it spark.
Your exhibitions areusually placed in dark spaces, is that just a technical need for your works, away to highlight the videos, or is there some other reason behind this choice?
The reason for the darkened space comes first and foremost out of technicalreasons, so the result will be the best. However, technology is always gettingbetter every year, so I expected to be able to show my works in a less darkenedspace, but when I did some experiments with it, it was like something wasmissing. It is always fascinating to walk into this darkened space with thelight from the projector resonating from the screen and you also experiencesound in a different way within a darkened space, you get to dive deeper intothe work and the atmosphere.
You studied abroad forsome years, both in Copenhagen and in Vienna, how did these experiences changeyour approach to art? What did you bring back to Iceland from these countries?
When I was in Copenhagen,I had just started studying – what I took from there was the experience ofliving in a larger city and having access to a bigger spectrum of visual arts,but it turned out to be a good preschool before I started studying at theIceland Academy of the Arts. I was a graduate student in Vienna for six monthswhile studying at the Iceland Academy of the Arts and decided to go back toVienna after graduating in further studies. I met people during the exchangeand wanted to enjoy the city further. There was some mystery in the city thatcharmed me, but during this time I fled between Vienna and Berlin and it was agood experience to get acquainted with the art scene in both those cities. Ithink it’s incredibly healthy for all artists to stay abroad for some timeand broaden their perspective, build new relationships, but at the same timeI’ve always been quick to come home again. There is a certain power in the artscene in Iceland, which has always fascinated me, and it is as if it is easierto implement projects in a short period of time than in the places I havestayed abroad. What I have come home with after staying abroad is bit hard tosay, but probably everyone’s experience is reflected in some way in their work.
Is there any artist inparticular that has influenced your artistic practice?
It’s tough to choosejust one because so many artists have influenced me in so many ways, but I wantto mention Andreij Tarkovsky. When I was studying at The Iceland Academy of theArts I watched his films over and over. His use of time and space hasinfluenced me. He builds up tension and engages the audience with very longshots. He creates a unique atmosphere and awareness of time passing, which hasstayed with me and influenced me and probably my work as well.
The subjects of your worksare often objects and materials, where does this interest come from?
I think this starts veryoften with my curiosity of seeing things in a different way and transformingthem into something more abstract with the help of the video camera but alsofor aesthetic reasons. The time element is also important. Both thetransformation that occurs in the object itself while recording and the timeelapsed while the pieces are displayed. This creates an interesting interplayand forms the overall effect.
Your pieces have a strongtactile aspect, you seem to be interested in the concrete features of theobjects, but you chose to use the digital video as your main medium, which isprobably one of the most immaterial medium. Why did you choose to work withdigital video?
When I started workingon video it was a certain magic to be able to work with audio and video at thesame time and create nonlinear stories that described some kind of conditionand atmosphere that charmed me. Then you could say that I did not alter out ofthis medium because of the endless possibilities that it has. Nevertheless,I’ve always found it hard to say that I’m just working on video, because thebeauty of this medium is that you can go so into many directions within it,whether it be performance, sound art, painting, sculpture and even poetrye.t.c. This might just be a matter of how one chooses to play within themedium.
Your works are oftenintriguing loops that bring people to a sort of meditative state of mind. Ithink it’s really interesting how you create links between the concrete worldof common objects and the spiritual field. In your videos you often transformthe objects making them appear as something else, something more abstract. Isthis link something that you look for when you plan the pieces?
It all starts withexploring the function of each object and doing experiments with thecamera at the same time. Getting to know the things through the camera andwitnessing some transformation through the object.
I think this transformativeelement is very important to me and I play around with it. I always feelintrigued when things are transformed and I aim to allow the audience toexperience the aura of the thing through the video. Although I choose aparticular object, it may be that it’s not the thing itself that interests me,but the sound it creates, the motion, or some activity within the thing that weusually do not take notice of.
These experiments beganaround 2010 when I exhibited in a small gallery called South South West,located in a small wooden house in Keflavík. I transformed the house into asound and video machine and since then I have been focusing on the machinery,manmade infrastructure and technological relics and allowing them to impact theaudience by giving insight into the abstract function, or a chance toexperience the objects from a new angle. The meditative thing was somethingthat came as a side affect to begin with. I guess meditating is repeatingsimple mantras again and again, so watching something over and over couldcreate the same effect.
How would you describeyour look on the world? Do you have a scientific approach when you observeobjects, or do you look at them more in an emotional way?
Hopefully, a bit ofboth. I guess I try to stay open emotionally and sometimes I seek inspirationthrough searching within and even work on a subconscious level, through visionsI have when sleeping or meditating. In my early works I often tried to imitatewhat I visualized – but now I guess my videos are often based on objects frommy immediate environment and these objects have a scientific function thatspeaks to something inside, so as I say, a bit of both, I hope.