Against the Restraints of Gravity


Against the Restraints of Gravity

Review by Kremena Nikolova-Fontaine. Photos courtesy of the artist.

Writing about installations is difficult because it is a symbolic and purely subjective experience. Having in mind that participation of the audience is often an important element of installations and performances, I wondered whether I am doing a disservice to the artist Björk Viggósdóttir (b.1982) by reviewing the exhibition Gravity at Hafnarborg: the moment it is explained to readers what they are expected to feel, the surprise of discovery and child-like spontaneity is instantly killed.

gravityswingsThe installation of swings.

Besides my confusion, I didn’t have the opportunity to revisit the exhibition several times in order to witness the staged live performances, which must be a key element of the artist’s concept (the exhibition runs until March, so check the scheduled events at the reception desk).

Seeing just the installation is like viewing still-shots and set design from a movie sequence without the actors; or I would compare it to looking at someone else’s family photo album, where you can relate to the memories of complete strangers based only on your own similar experiences of holidays and milestones in anyone’s life.

Despite these two major minuses, I decided to write about my subjective experience of seeing just the installation after all. Even though I normally look for abundance of factual data and quotes, the explanatory text by the curator Klara Þórhallsdóttir—which provided almost none of those (except a short biographical information at the back of the exhibition’s leaflet)—inspired me like a poem with its philosophic lyrical reflections, even though it is a challenge to be sufficiently informative and truthful.

kathlathorsafnanottAn image from the dance performance of Kathla Thor at Museum Night (February 8), as part of the installation Gravity.

After seeing another exhibition on the first floor, Drawings – Ingólfur Arnarsson (on show until February 17, 2013), climbing the stairs to the second floor, where the exhibition Gravity is located, I was shocked by the different way in which the space was used: the former is detached, industrial and calculated, while the latter is emotional, fairytale-like and symbolic, even though both use white as a theme color and minimal elements.

I wrongly assumed that the drawings of Ingólfur Arnarsson (b.1956) would be literal drawings: traditional, expressive and sketchy. Instead they turned out to be an arranged group of almost identical postcard-sized white hand-painted rectangles of irregular surfaces (personally, I failed to detect any obvious differences at close inspection, except their position on the wall in relationship with the other units of the group).

The regular and irregular relationship of the units resembles bricks, tiles, railroads and any man-made repetitive infinite arrangements in perspective. The monotony is contrasted by a color photograph of grass breaking through the pavement. Strangely, the white drawings and the photograph work perfectly together as an installation and reflection on the spacial order of cityscapes.

As opposed to Drawings, I rather expected that Gravity (judging by the title) would be more scientifically oriented, but instead it felt like landing foot into someone else’s private dreamland.

gravityvideoA screenshot from the video.

Тhe museum’s white walls and the artist’s white swings contrasted against the blue semi-darkness of the projected video with geometric shapes (reminiscent of white paper lanterns but the objects are distorted into mirror-images of undefined curvilinear figures) could be both interpreted as reference to a cyber-future and also as a flashback to the nostalgic past of the innocence of childhood.

Somehow the installation with the swings in the main hall reminded me of a sci-fi scene from the movie The Matrix where humans are bred into incubator pods.

Here, I should clarify that there is another hidden installation with white ropes and a video of random images from the artist’s travels abroad, which you will find in the adjoining small hall to the right, but the main one with the swings is the attention-stealer.

The ropes hanging from the ceiling reminded me of the fairytale about the beanstalk in the sky. Why so many ropes and why so many swings, I can only guess, but I do agree that repetition has a monumental quality (hence the allusion to red flags, China, the events at the Tiananmen square, for example, but I am not sure the globalization aspect of this video worked for me).

Looking at the artist’s blog, Björk Viggósdóttir is obviously fond of massive amounts of repetitive mundane objects, whether umbrellas, kites, balloons, ropes or swings, but there is undeniable romantic poetry in it.

Speaking of the innocence of childhood, the installation was populated by both kids and parents testing the swings. Personally, I did not join them. Perhaps I’ve become too much of a nagging aunt who started wondering how many times I’ve seen swings at exhibitions before...

But at the end of the day, what does it matter what and where Gravity reminded me of: I did have a good time, especially on an uninspiring winter day, and that’s the only thing which matters!

The exhibition Gravity – Björk Viggósdóttir runs until March 10, 2013.

Hafnarborg, the Hafnarfjörður Centre of Culture and Fine Art is located on Strandgata 34, 220 Hafnarfjörður.

Kremena Nikolova-Fontaine – kremenan (at)

Kremena Nikolova-Fontaine is a passionate collector of art books, dedicating every spare moment to learn more about art while dreaming about having an exhibition of her own. She studied graphic design at the School of Visual Arts in Akureyri from 1999 to 2002. In college she realized that she didn’t want to be a designer or commercial artist but rather an illustrator and writer. At the moment she’s experimenting with her first graphic novel.

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