Sigurður Guðjónsson’s dark and mysterious works exploit many variations of time
based media. Using mainly video, his work could very well be classified
simultaneously as musical works. His work has been featured in numerous
shows all over the world and he has now joined Reykjavik’s newest gallery BERG
Contemporary, where he will open his new show today. He was gracious enough to
let me catch a sneak peek inside his new works and experiments.
Can you tell
me a bit about the show opening later today? What can we expect? What are your
thoughts on having joined BERG Contemporary as an artist?

BERG Contemporary is a great addition to the Icelandic art scene and I´m honoured to be one of their
current artists. My upcoming show is a video installation where sound is the
counterpoint. It consists of three new videos (AV Machine, Tape, and Well) and
soundscapes where I´m using machinery, man-made infrastructure, and
technological relics as materials for the videos. They are looping sequences
with only a single moving element in each shot. I’ve been thinking a lot about
these old devices and found it interesting to experiment with the functionality
of the objects in a new context.

K: Where does your
inspiration come from and how do most of your works come to be?

SG: I think of my
exhibitions as installations and when I get into a new museum or exhibition
space, I often start to figure out how I want the installation to look. It’s
never the same and it’s a huge part of the process of creating an exhibition.
 Sound and visuals are somehow intertwined and inseparable in my mind. I
am also very much inspired by my everyday surroundings and the environment. I
like to do experiments and am in a sense driven by my curiosity about
technology. I guess I like to find new functionalities of things and play
around with my camera. Often a certain location gets me going, and then I
record the visual world and the ambient sounds of the location. On the other
hand, my inner world plays an important part too. I’ve often been inspired
by dreams or images that I see when I’m in that state of consciousness
somewhere between waking and sleeping.

You’ve been working with
musicians a lot lately, and throughout your work. Can you tell me more about
why you feel that music is an important element? You have a connection with the
metal scene, am I right? (I remember for example a fantastic piece I saw in
2009 at the beginning of the Sequences festival, where you collaborated with a
heavy metal band.)

SG: I’ve always worked with
musicians in one way or another. To begin with, I collaborated with various
musicians to work on scores for my already finished videos, but in the last few
years I’ve met up with contemporary composers like Anna Thorvaldsdottir, for
example, and we’ve started a conversation in order to create a world of visuals
with a score. It’s been a very challenging and inspiring process to work from
scratch with another artist on new projects and it’s a rewarding process
because it doesn’t happen without facing challenges in every step.

Very often the sounds
that I find within a space create the setting, influencing other formal and
aesthetic qualities, while at other times the atmosphere, in all its sensory
aspects, drives a work forward. I guess it makes sense somehow that I work with
other musicians, and you’re right about my connection to the metal scene. I
started out as a guitarist in a death metal band as a teenager; at the same
time, I started painting and experimenting with 8mm films. I would say that
sound is as important as the visual in my art.

K: How or when did you
realize that you were a visual artist or that video art was something you
wanted to do?

SG: When I was a teenager,
my father suggested randomly that I should go down to the basement and paint.
He was a jazz drummer and a hobby painter – I guess I was influenced by him,
and also I immediately enjoyed painting. When I entered the Icelandic Academy
of Art in 2000, I spent a whole year drawing and making sketches before they
opened up the video lab. At one point, I found that I could compose music and make
videos that match, and that’s when I thought, ‘This is really it for me!’

K: In descriptions of your
work I’ve noticed that the viewer’s personal perception seems to play a big
part in the works. Do you consider them as spiritual or existential works?

SG: It’s true – the audience
and their perception play a key role in my work. I put my vision into the space
– I put what I see or perceive on tape and invite the audience in. So it’s
really up to the audience if they happen to have a spiritual experience or interpret
my work as existential. What they receive is very much out of my control,

K: What I’ve come to
notice over the years is that your narrative has changed in some ways, becoming
visually simpler, sometimes focusing more on repetition, with fewer traditional
characters and less of a linear story. The works ‘Edda’ (2013) and ‘Bleak’
(2006) strike me as good examples of these differences. Do you feel that your
work has changed? Or perhaps the way you work?

SG: I guess the change in my
work might have to do with the fact that in the last few years I’ve been
looking more and more into what one perceives physically in the space. Earlier
my work was made largely in the editing process, where fragments were gathered
together on the timeline in order to create a linear or non-linear narrative
that was displayed on one screen as a movie. In my latest work, one can say
that I am cutting the pieces directly into the space and playing with how the
viewer goes through and connects. I’m digging more into each image, filming
organically – rather long shots from around 6 to 10 minutes – and when they’re
put into a performance they loop so people can see the whole video. The time
element and the function of each shot is crucial and there is always a certain
transformation that occurs in the work.