A tentative and ambiguous point of departure, this exhibition, which is presented alongside a five-part film programme representing film and video art from the Nordic countries, looks at landscapes, their topographical representation and personal interpretations, through the lens of four Icelandic artists with rather different artistic backgrounds: an experimental filmmaker, a fine artist, an international video art pioneer and a composer-turned-filmmaker. The exhibition sets out to create a densely textured and multilayered composition with mobile points of attraction and interconnections between separate works. Thorbjorg Jonsdottir’s video installation Þjórsá (2019), created in collaboration with Borghildur Oskarsdottir, captures Iceland’s longest glacial river in an aerial one-take shot. This large-scale installation is accompanied by two other recent works by Jonsdottir, both filmed in the Colombian jungle: I Feel Myself Turn into a Serpent (2019) and its companion piece A Tree is Like a Man (2019), the latter of which is here presented in the form of still frames from the film.
In Steina Vasulka’s 2000 video triptych Lava and Moss, we see images of lava fields near the harbour of Hafnarfjörður. Steina is one of video art’s pioneers and her work, often produced in collaboration with her husband Woody Vasulka, has been instrumental in exploring the possibilities of video since the late 1960s. On Lava and Moss, Steina says: “It’s a great challenge; to move the landscape that has been frozen and solid for many centuries; to get the landscape dancing. If there is God everywhere, his presence is definitely most obvious when you look at lava and moss.” Vasulka’s piece expresses a rapturous, touchingly myopic relation to its subject matter, built on microtonalities. Sigurður Guðjónsson’s Veil (2012), meanwhile, emerged from his interest in expanded duration: the way shifts and micro-movements acquire an almost hallucinatory quality over time. What happens to our apperception when we plunge ourselves into a close observation of the erosion of sand?
Finally, composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s debut film End of Summer was shot on 16mm film in Antarctica in 2013 and is set to music by Jóhannsson, Hildur Guðnadóttir and Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe. A melancholic piece, a choral hymn of sorts, that functions both as an actual and metaphorical depiction of migratory flows, End of Summer manages to create a sense of decelerated movement and otherworldliness, but also of the urgency, fleetingness and precariousness of a world existing between the habitable and the beyond.
Martin Grennberger, curator