November 4, 2017

Weather and Art Report from Iceland

I landed in Iceland with WOW-Air. The captain announced that we arrived twenty minutes ahead of time.

In the WOW-Air magazine they warned tourists not to write their name in moss and not to hunt sheep. 

It was the end of September and 11 degrees in Iceland. “It’s still two digits kind of weather,” it was said to me optimistically. 

The weather was stormy. It was Irma but somebody told me that in Iceland they’re always at the end of the hurricane. 

For the first time, a cocktail party was thrown in my honor, as a visiting curator from Berlin. It was from 5 till 7pm on a Saturday, a perfect timing to transition into the evening. We had wonderful stirred dry martinis, followed by sushi, and we finished it off with whipped cream. 

“It’s magic mushroom time,” so an artist at the party: “If you see some young people covered with hoodies next to the road, that’s what they're searching for.” 

Finally I made it to the Blue Lagoon. Blue Lagoon employees took a picture of me while swimming. It was a free service and they asked my permission to do so, but I hope they’ll never release the photo publicly because I look like a red shrimp in blue water. 

I was standing outside in the rain waiting for the bus to the Blue Lagoon. Other people followed my example. “You’re a natural leader!” somebody told me. That kind of made me feel proud. 

Magnús Pálsson told me about an art work he had once made with key holes. It had been a long time ago and he couldn’t remember what they had been for. Finally, we figured out that ghosts use keyholes to move from one space to another. 

“Well, you know about fish,” my hostess told me while getting ready to cook.

They serve free coffee at the Reykjavik Contemporary Art Museum. The coffee is always excellent in Iceland. At the museum you can sip your coffee with a view on the harbour  It almost helped me to recuperate from the overdose of melancholy that artist Ragnar Kjartansson purposefully served us, wasn’t it for the rainbow that suddenly appeared. 

I went to see the newly renovated Marshall building for art spaces. Olafur Eliasson is also settled there, but his space is easy to avoid. Mylo, the Living Art Museum, is on the first floor and Kling og bang gallery on the second. A collective made an interactive show about Thomas Mann Magic Mountain at Mylo and at Kling og Bang there was a discussion about the ongoing shows of Emily Wardill and Jóhannes Atli Hinriksson. I always feel that the Icelandic art community is more out of the box, not minding so much putting each other in categories. You can move from this to that and try it out, whereas in Berlin it seems like you have to stay in your lane.

I was reading Magnús Pálsson's catalogue, which has a great interview with the artist. Here just a few of its pearls:

Do you believe in the ida that every bit of information is present everywhere and can be tapped even in a secluded situation?

"There is this huge bank of information that you can have access to and, yes, even more if you are isolated. No i shouldn't say that - but it's your antenna that counts." 

Maybe you just have to keep an area of yourself where there are no likes and no dislikes, a bigger area.

"You always have to try to eliminate taste, and that creates these surprises and distasteful things."

[...] It [art] keeps us  .... basically it keeps us occupied, it keeps us out of mischief and in that sense it is very good, it keeps our minds on things that are healthy for us.

Do you really believe in this?

"I don't believe in it."

Do you think that going beyond the bounds of taste has become stronger in later works?

"I think it's been there all along. I would like to be more terrible than I am. I would like to be terrible and distasteful and drunk and banal, but I don't quite know how to handle it. I would like to imitate folk art, this attitude of loving art, of non-ambition and just the pure love of creating art."

You are so good at having an office and keeping it orderly, you have some sensitivity related to the post office.

"I often call myself an office artist."

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