martedì 24 maggio 2011

Pavilion of Iceland

The official Icelandic representation at the 54th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia is the Spanish-Icelandic duo Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson. Castro and Ólafsson's exhibition for Venice, Under Deconstruction, presents four new works. Among their concerns is an interest in socio-economic and political issues in Iceland and elsewhere. The title of the project refers to Castro and Ólafsson's central artistic strategy to subvert traditional power relations and to deconstruct established patterns of perception in an attempt to re-construct, appropriate and reinvent reality anew.

Your Country Doesn't Exist is an ongoing campaign, begun at Platform Garanti CAC in Istanbul in 2003, and has since developed to include different forms and formats. The piece traveled the world spreading the message, "Your country doesn't exist" in different languages and through various visual modes, including billboards, TV advertisements, postage stamps and wall-drawings. In this new iteration in Venice, the statement is used in a neon sign, Il Tuo Paese Non Esiste (2011), on the façade of the Pavilion. It was also incorporated into a musical arrangement for mezzo soprano, guitar and trumpet commissioned from the Icelandic composer Karólína Eiríksdóttir, and performed on a gondola in the canals of Venice. The video displayed in the pavilion documents the performance in dialogue with different aspects of the city and its omnipresent touristic reality, while the audio recording of the song is broadcast in public space. A live performance will take place on June 2. The fourth part of the series is a "Do-it-Yourself" painting done by the Icelandic ambassador Gunnar Snorri Gunnarsson in February 2011, in collaboration with the artists.

For the video installation Constitution of the Republic of Iceland (2011) the artists again commissioned Eiríksdóttir to score the words of the Icelandic constitution in a musical arrangement for soprano, baritone, chamber choir, piano, and double bass. The composition was first publicly performed in March 2008 in Iceland, six months before the collapse of the country's banking system. The video was produced in cooperation with The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service Television, and with Hafnarborg, The Hafnarfjordur Centre of Culture and Fine Art where it was exhibited in February 2011. The work was broadcast on the day the Icelandic Constitutional Assembly was meant to meet to revisit and propose amendments for a new national constitution.

Exorcising Ancient Ghosts (2010), installed on the roof of the Pavilion, is a bilingual sound work composed from ancient Greek juridical, literary, political, and philosophical text fragments that focus on gender and migrants' depictions, and rights and regulation in the ancient polis. For this work, the artists staged two performances of the text-collage read by two couples while having sex: one features a Neapolitan woman and a Balinese man reading the text in Italian, and the other features a couple from New Zealand reading the text in English. Through the combination of these contradictory but related elements, what is expected to be a pleasurable, sensual moment becomes fraught with estrangement and confrontation. The surprising juxtaposition raises attention to the absurdity of the thought of a patriarchal society. The constant negotiation between flesh, voices, and languages pulls the audience into the intimacy of the situation.


Libia Castro (b. Madrid, Spain) and Ólafur Ólafsson (b. Reykjavik, Iceland), aptly referred to as "citizens of the world," met in the Netherlands in 1997 and have been collaborating since. Exploring the relationships between art, everyday life, sociopolitical and cross-cultural issues, Castro and Ólafsson have built up a body of work using a variety of media, which includes documentary video, sound and multimedia installation, public performance, sculpture, and photography. They have developed a conceptual approach to art making that is characterized by a sense of play, transgression, and inventiveness.

Both artists received their M.A. in visual arts from The Frank Mohr Institute in the Netherlands, where their partnership was formed. From the onset, their work has garnered critical attention in the Netherlands, Germany, Iceland, and abroad. They have shown internationally in museums, biennials, contemporary art centers and galleries, and, in 2009, they were awarded third place in the Dutch art prize, Prix de Rome, for their video Lobbyists. Their work is included in such collections as CAAC in Sevilla, Spain, The National Gallery of Iceland, and The Kverneland Folgerø Sammlung in Berlin, Germany. The artists currently live, and work, in Berlin and Rotterdam.


The Icelandic Art Center realized Under Deconstruction on behalf of, and with the support of, the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. Under Deconstruction was also made possible by the generous support of VIB, Landsvirkjun, CCP, The National Gallery of Iceland, Vilhjálmur Thorsteinsson, Collezione Leggeri, Galleria Riccardo Crespi, Milan, Galerie Opdahl, Fonds BKVB - The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture, CBK Rotterdam - Centrum Beeldende Kunst/Centre for the Visual Arts Rotterdam, The Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Promote Iceland, Reykjavik Pure Energy, Viljandi Innfjár, Restaurant Jómfrúin, Alcoa, as well as anonymous supporters.

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