Verksmiðjan á Hjalteyri: Jarðtengingar - Grounded Currents
miðvikudagur, 15. júní 2022
Verksmiðjan á Hjalteyri: Jarðtengingar - Grounded Currents
Opnun í Verksmiðjunni á Hjalteyri, 18 júní 2022.
“Grounded Currents -Jarðtenging”
Júní 18, 2022 Í Verksmiðjunni á Hjalteyri.
Verksmiðjan á Hjalteyri, 18.06 – 24.07 2022/ Neðst á Hjalteyri við Eyjafjörð / 604 Akureyri.
Listamenn/Artists: Maryse Goudreau, Hugo Llanes, Zinnia Naqvi, Sigrún Gyða Sveinsdóttir,
Marzieh Emadi & Sina Saadat
Sýningarstjóri/Curator: Þorbjörg Jónsdóttir
Texti/Text: Shauna Laurel Jones
Opnun laugardaginn 18 júní kl 14 00 / Opening Saturday, June 18th at 2:00 PM
Opið þri-sun 14:00-17:00 /Open daily except Mondays 2:00 – 5:00 PM
Myndlistarsýningin Jarðtenging / Grounded Currents opnar í Verksmiðjunni á Hjalteyri laugardaginn 18júní 2022 KL 14 með verkum listafólksins: Maryse Goudreau, Hugo Llanes, Zinnia Naqvi, Sigrún Gyða Sveinsdóttir, Marzieh Emadi & Sina Saadat
Sýningin er alþjóðleg samsýning yngri kynslóðar listafólks. Þau vinna ekki út frá einni einstakri sameiginlegri hugmynd og verkin eru sum marglaga í merkingu sinni eða nokkuð flókin enda verður það helst ára staðarins & óvenjulegt rýmið sem að mótar öðru fremur umgjörð fyrir samstarf og heild og virkjar sköpunarkraftinn..
Þau vinna sjálfstætt á staðnum og/eða fyrirfram að nýjum verkum. «Verksmiðjan er ekki aðeins rými sýningarstaðarins, heldur einnig rými athafna sem mótast og er mótað af tíma- og rýmisbundnum samskiptum. Verksmiðjan er óhefðbundið rými og ekki hlutlaust sem hefur fremur tekið mið af ljóðrænni afstöðu listamannanna sem þar haft sýnt og starfað » Listafólkið á ýmislegt sammerkt og eru að nokkru leiti valin út frá því: Þau vinna öll með videómiðilinn og þá líka teiknimyndir eða animation ásamt ýmsum öðrum aðferðum samtímalistar, þau eru með manneskjuna, samfélagið til athugunar og/eða umhverfið og náttúruna sem að á hug margra á þessum síðustu tímum.
I lived in Iceland for over a decade but—dismissively—never went whale watching until back in Reykjavík this spring. With my eight-year-old as alibi, I bought two tickets for a boat on Faxaflói Bay; I packed sandwiches, binoculars, and low expectations. Onboard, we studied posters in the lower decks with their familiar and exquisite wildlife illustrations by Jón Baldur Hlíðberg, a keen naturalist who once described to me the activity of modern birdwatching (traditionally a no-girls-allowed endeavour) as an evolutionary extension of the hunt. Perhaps that’s the real reason I was sceptical about whale watching: even though it is posited by the tourist industry as an eco-friendly alternative to whaling, it still had the air of a seek-and-consume pursuit. I didn’t need to go out and hassle whales; for me, it was enough to know they were there.
You can tell where this is going, right? That once I saw actual, animate humpback whales spouting and fluking in Faxaflói Bay, my cynicism melted away and I was transformed by the encounter? Well, maybe. It was indeed surprisingly magical. But the pleasure was an odd one—a voyeuristic one. We saw no breaching, only backs and tails, tantalising suggestions of behemoths below. The guide, a marine biologist, counted over the loudspeaker for us the minutes between dives; we all somehow held our breath for eight and a half minutes with the whales until they surfaced again. Despite spending nearly all of their lives underwater, whales need to come up to breathe, and that is what the whale watching industry capitalises on. Breathing. Our boat was close enough that I could look into the creatures’ blowholes as they expelled the air from their voluminous lungs. Humpbacks, being baleen whales, have two blowholes, like two nostrils. It is an aberrant thing to gaze into someone’s nostrils and find some gratification there, and an awkward thing to admit to it. And yet that is what I did, and what I am confessing.
There is a similar spark of uncanny voyeurism igniting the works in Grounded Currents as the artists here are looking, reaching, across some divide or another. And here I am reaching for a word that doesn’t seem to exist in the English language, because I don’t mean voyeurism in the sexual sense; I don’t mean surveillance with its usual connotation of espionage; I don’t mean observation in a neutral, methodological manner. But watch, as Zinnia Naqvi strives to understand her encounter with an uncomfortable exchange between her middle-class aunt and a domestic worker, a recent immigrant with a family crisis. Naqvi’s The Translation Is Approximate rehashes the conversation she witnessed and recorded some eight years previous, exploring her relationship with the power dynamics between the two women—and between herself and this scene that became the subject of an earlier artwork. To whatever extent there is “voyeurism” here, it is, perhaps, motivated by sympathy, and a desire to narrow or at least interpret socioeconomic and cross-cultural gaps.
In Marzieh Emadi and Sina Saadat’s videos and animations, we also see stretching across rifts and voids. Quite literally, in the case of Rope Walker: a tiny figure crosses a tightrope above dozens of scenes of live footage filmed in the night-time streets of Vienna—a patchwork quilt of drivers, passengers and pedestrians monitored, anonymously, and stitched together into a mesmerising blanket revealing the quotidian motions of everyday urban life. In other works, Emadi and Saadat focus inwards, reaching from the conscious into the unconscious and back, in dreamlike imagery touching on the surreal. Sometimes, they even watch sleepers sleeping, and as viewers of their work, we become accomplices. Sigrún Gyða Sveinsdóttir, on the other hand, gives voice to the watched in Hlaupa, a video installation based on an operatic performance in which four trolls reveal the burden of being observed. Extending back into Icelandic folklore in order to interrogate contemporary crises of climate and society, Sveinsdóttir sets the stage for her narrators to tell the tale of another troll who gave up running from the petrifying light of the sun and allowed herself to turn to stone. Was this a willing self-sacrifice, or a surrender under duress? I imagine an eerie resonance between that hardened troll and a character conjured by Agnes Obel when she sings in her own haunting voice: “They say every sin will have a thousand eyes / To guilty fools with guilty minds / But I must be cruel to be kind / Deep within my head of stone…”
We know from physics that observed phenomena sometimes change their behaviours simply by virtue of being watched. Protons and electrons aside, is it even possible to faithfully observe another sentient, self-aware being like a whale without disrupting its ways? Certainly not on an intrusive whale-watching boat on Faxaflói Bay, but probably neither through subtler scientific means—if only because whales are already drowning in the overwhelming noise of human activities. “Aquatic animals are immersed in sound,” explains biologist David George Haskell in his 2022 book Sounds Wild and Broken. “Sound flows almost unimpeded from watery surrounds to watery innards. ‘Hearing’ is a full-body experience. […] Having lived most of my life inland, many hours’ drive from the sea, I have seldom seen or heard whales. But the whales hear me. They are immersed in the sounds of my purchases from over the horizon every day of their lives.” Artist Maryse Goudreau, however, lives right on a North Atlantic bay in Quebec, and much of her practice focusses on the lives and sounds of her local beluga whales. She reverses the dynamic Haskell describes, immersing participants and viewers in belugas’ calls and even the drumming of their hearts; she asks collaborators to interpret the meanings in these sounds from across the chasm of species lines. In her multi-channel video Beluga Constellation, Goudreau imagines a future in which cetaceans’ songs—their “data”—outlive and replace human technologies. I wonder, then, whether those whales would take some pleasure in eavesdropping on us.
Eavesdropping: perhaps that is the word I have been grasping for, the common activity in which these currents are grounded. In the context of contemporary technology and big data surveillance, “eavesdropping” connotes something less insidious and more analogue, a harmless listening-in, a curiosity driven by a desire to be part of what’s happening on the other side of the wall. These artists brought together in Hjalteyri invite us to witness their acts of well-meaning witnessing. And Hugo Llanes grounds it to the north Iceland–local by dropping anchor in Eyjafjörður, peering in on the creatures who normally swim past the Factory undetected. The jaws of the Atlantic wolffish he has etched on the seashells in his site-inspired installation have emerged from the artist’s longstanding interest in power dynamics, from the legacy of colonialism in his native Mexico to the domination of humans over other animals. Llanes heard that regular divers in Eyjafjörður took interest in a certain wolffish because they noticed she seemed to be curious about them, even to recognise them. And why wouldn’t she? We’re all curious, whether about the people whose language or circumstance we can’t quite understand, about the inner dreamscapes we can’t seem to grasp, about the creatures whose sounds spark excitement but not comprehension. Even, simply, about the breathing mechanisms of those creatures, familiar and mysterious all at the same time.
—Shauna Laurel Jones,
art historian and environmental writer
Sýningin og koma listamannanna er styrkt af Uppbyggingarsjóði Norðurlands eystra, Hörgársveit, Myndlistarsjóði og Norðurorku
Verksmiðjan á Hjalteyri er sýningar- og verkefnarými stofnað 2008 í gömlu síldarverksmiðjunni á Hjalteyri. Aðaláhersla er lögð á alþjóðlega samtímalist, kvikmyndir, vídeólist en einnig námskeið listaskóla. Verksmiðjan á Hjalteyri var handhafi Eyrarrósarinnar 2016 en hún er árlega veitt fyrir framúrskarandi menningarverkefni á landsbyggðinni. Verksmiðjan hlaut einnig nýlega sérstaka viðurkenningu Myndlistarráðs fyrir áhugaverðustu samsýninguna 2021.