‘Visitations’ Wins The Visual Arts Prize

Ora Sawyers
Josie Gaitens

Photograph by

Margrét Seema Takyar

Daniel Starrason

Polar bear encounters in Iceland tend to choose a predictable variety: a bear, often weak and emaciated, is spotted by a nearby. Panic ensues the law enforcement are named, the media incites a temporary hysteria. The bear is shot.

This chaotic cycle, doomed to repeat alone every single couple of several years, is partially the subject matter of ‘Visitations’, an exhibition by Icelandic/British creative partnership Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson—a clearly show that attained them the prestigious Icelandic Visible Arts Award.

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“I’ve been explained to by heaps of individuals not to say it was a surprise,” confides Mark Wilson. “I did really consider we may well be shortlisted, but Bryndís didn’t at all.”

“I was not even imagining about it,” confirms his partner, Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir. “I do not make art to get accolades. But at the same time, I do not deny how excellent it was to get it.”

“I did not imagine the artwork scene in Iceland had fairly arrived at this point,” she carries on. “I felt so delighted that they could award the Artwork Prize to one thing that goes beyond this strategy of the Intimate artist.”

Photo by Daniel Starrason

“Conflict and paradox”

Mark and Bryndís’s function is about as significantly eliminated from classic notions of visible art as could be imagined. Demonstrated at the Artwork Museum in Akureyri from September 2021 to January 2022, Visitations was the fruits of a 3-12 months multidisciplinary analysis venture, funded by Rannís, the Icelandic Analysis Fund. Offered applying a broad selection of media—with video, photos, collage, drawings and zoological stays earning up just some of the distinct exhibits—the undertaking exemplifies the creative practice of Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson, which they have been acquiring around the earlier 20 years.

“Sometimes men and women believe we make get the job done about animals, but we don’t—we make function about weird human behaviour,” describes Mark. “We use a unique animal and the interface that individuals have with that animal to check out distinctive passions, and typically to reveal a absence of consensus conflict and paradox.”

A particular connection

Mark and Bryndís have been building work with each other considering the fact that 1999, and polar bears—or rather, the unusual human behaviours associated with them—have regularly been the target of their artistic exploration.

“It started off from a very personalized standpoint,” claims Bryndís. “It had to do with my name—Snæbjörnsdóttir [‘snow bear’s daughter’, in English]. I lived in Scotland for quite a few several years, and I was rather persistent that men and women would be capable to say my surname. I do not know why, but it turned hugely important for me.”

A transformational second arrived when Bryndís visited a museum keep room in Scotland, and was confronted by the sight of hundreds of stuffed animals of just about every type. The practical experience, she claims, “activated this deep emotion of some variety of reduction. You know—what have we finished? What are we performing?”

The unsettling incident provided unforeseen momentum and helped to crystallise the solution Bryndís wanted to consider with her apply. The pair soon finished their initially challenge, ‘nanoq: flat out and bluesome’: an artists’ survey of taxidermy polar bears in Scotland.

Making connections

This initially collaborative perform verified not only the pair’s enduring desire in polar bear ordeals, but also their wish to require companions from exterior the creative sphere, an ingredient of their exercise that has remained a dependable thread all over their many assignments. From historians, folklorists and zoologists, to farmers, pet owners and hunters, Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson see collaboration as an crucial component of their perform.

“This point about ‘the artist, the genius’… I always felt like this was overall nonsense—and I nonetheless do, fundamentally,” Bryndís suggests, waving her fingers dismissively. “Art is about bringing folks collectively.”

“It’s about making unlikely connections on just about every amount,” agrees Mark. “We function a ton with other disciplines, and we discuss a lot about the importance of that.”

Image by Daniel Starrason

Sick-fated readers

For Visitations, the artists focussed their perform around two polar bear arrivals to Iceland in 2008. The two ‘vagrants’—as non-native visitors are known—both came ashore on the North coast of Iceland, within just months of every single other. Both equally had been shot and killed, although there was significant dialogue of seeking to tranquillise the next a single.

“How do you deal with a stranger, when the stranger constitutes a danger?”

In a macabre twist of destiny, Bryndís experienced the peculiar practical experience of encountering this distinct bear 2 times: at the time living, and all over again after its dying. She was ready to accompany the push to see it, managing hungry and frightened, throughout the wild expanses of Skagafjördur. The next encounter came when she and Mark have been conducting investigation at The Icelandic Institute of Purely natural Record. It was below that they uncovered that lots of of the skeletons of bears killed in Iceland are kept for scientific applications.

Image by Daniel Starrason

“On one particular of our initially visits there, they just lent us the bones of that unique bear.” Bryndís suggests, almost incredulously, as if she nevertheless just can’t quite imagine these kinds of a matter took place.

“Again, you have these type of moments,” she carries on. “You’re driving your automobile and in the back again of the car are the bones of the bear that you saw living. It’s complicated to let it go it haunts you.”

The strategy of the stranger

This complicated idea of a haunting, of a marriage with a species that is mediated by a heady mixture of folklore and worry, types the basis of Visitations. The bones that Bryndís and Mark drove residence that working day were being also an show in the display not wired alongside one another and exhibited as in museums, as if they continue to inhabited the ghostly variety of an absent animal, but in a stacked heap in a box. An indeniable container of proof of what took place when a bear satisfied a man.

“More abstractly, we’re seeking at the strategy of the stranger, and the notion of hospitality” says Mark. “How do you offer with a stranger, when the stranger constitutes a risk? Due to the fact obviously, historically, there’s only been a single answer to that query.”

‘Visitations: Polar Bears out of Place’ took place at Akureyri Art Museum from 25.09.2021 – 09.01.2022, and was curated by Æsa Sigurjónsdóttir. Understand a lot more at visitations.lhi.is

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