Polar bear encounters in Iceland are likely to acquire a predictable type: a bear, typically weak and emaciated, is noticed by a nearby. Stress ensues the law enforcement are named, the media incites a brief hysteria. The bear is shot.
This chaotic cycle, doomed to repeat by itself every single handful of yrs, is partially the matter of ‘Visitations’, an exhibition by Icelandic/British artistic partnership Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson—a demonstrate that acquired them the prestigious Icelandic Visual Arts Award.
“I’ve been instructed by loads of people today not to say it was a surprise,” confides Mark Wilson. “I did really assume we may be shortlisted, but Bryndís did not at all.”
“I wasn’t even wondering about it,” confirms his husband or wife, Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir. “I really do not make artwork to get accolades. But at the very same time, I never deny how superb it was to acquire it.”
“I didn’t imagine the artwork scene in Iceland had quite arrived at this position,” she continues. “I felt so pleased that they could award the Art Prize to one thing that goes over and above this plan of the Intimate artist.”
“Conflict and paradox”
Mark and Bryndís’s function is about as significantly taken out from regular notions of visible art as could be imagined. Revealed at the Artwork Museum in Akureyri from September 2021 to January 2022, Visitations was the end result of a 3-yr multidisciplinary analysis job, funded by Rannís, the Icelandic Investigation Fund. Presented utilizing a broad wide variety of media—with video, photos, collage, drawings and zoological stays creating up just some of the distinct exhibits—the job exemplifies the creative observe of Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson, which they have been building about the past 20 several years.
“Sometimes individuals feel we make get the job done about animals, but we don’t—we make get the job done about bizarre human behaviour,” clarifies Mark. “We use a unique animal and the interface that people have with that animal to take a look at various passions, and generally to reveal a lack of consensus conflict and paradox.”
A personal relationship
Mark and Bryndís have been creating perform alongside one another because 1999, and polar bears—or instead, the unusual human behaviours affiliated with them—have frequently been the emphasis of their creative exploration.
“It started from a quite personalized point of view,” states Bryndís. “It had to do with my name—Snæbjörnsdóttir [‘snow bear’s daughter’, in English]. I lived in Scotland for lots of decades, and I was quite persistent that people today would be capable to say my surname. I never know why, but it became vastly critical for me.”
Picture by Daniel Starrason
Image by Daniel Starrason
A transformational second came when Bryndís visited a museum shop home in Scotland, and was confronted by the sight of hundreds of stuffed animals of each and every kind. The encounter, she says, “activated this deep sensation of some variety of reduction. You know—what have we carried out? What are we executing?”
The unsettling incident offered surprising momentum and served to crystallise the strategy Bryndís needed to choose with her exercise. The couple shortly done their very first job, ‘nanoq: flat out and bluesome’: an artists’ study of taxidermy polar bears in Scotland.
This initial collaborative get the job done confirmed not only the pair’s enduring fascination in polar bear activities, but also their motivation to entail companions from outside the house the artistic sphere, an element of their practice that has remained a steady thread all through their numerous tasks. From historians, folklorists and zoologists, to farmers, pet proprietors and hunters, Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson see collaboration as an critical part of their function.
“This issue about ‘the artist, the genius’… I generally felt like this was full nonsense—and I however do, generally,” Bryndís suggests, waving her hands dismissively. “Art is about bringing folks jointly.”
“It’s about creating not likely connections on each degree,” agrees Mark. “We do the job a ton with other disciplines, and we discuss a lot about the significance of that.”
For Visitations, the artists focussed their perform around two polar bear arrivals to Iceland in 2008. The two ‘vagrants’—as non-indigenous readers are known—both arrived ashore on the North coast of Iceland, within just months of every single other. Both equally had been shot and killed, although there was major dialogue of hoping to tranquillise the next just one.
“How do you deal with a stranger, when the stranger constitutes a menace?”
In a macabre twist of destiny, Bryndís had the peculiar working experience of encountering this distinct bear twice: when residing, and once more right after its death. She was ready to accompany the push to see it, managing hungry and frightened, throughout the wild expanses of Skagafjördur. The next face arrived when she and Mark had been conducting investigation at The Icelandic Institute of Pure Background. It was below that they identified that lots of of the skeletons of bears killed in Iceland are kept for scientific applications.
“On one particular of our initial visits there, they just lent us the bones of that distinct bear.” Bryndís states, nearly incredulously, as if she continue to can not really consider this sort of a matter took position.
“Again, you have these variety of times,” she proceeds. “You’re driving your car and in the back of the motor vehicle are the bones of the bear that you observed dwelling. It is tough to enable it go it haunts you.”
The plan of the stranger
This sophisticated thought of a haunting, of a romance with a species that is mediated by a heady mix of folklore and panic, types the foundation of Visitations. The bones that Bryndís and Mark drove house that working day have been also an exhibit in the exhibit not wired jointly and displayed as in museums, as if they nevertheless inhabited the ghostly sort of an absent animal, but in a stacked heap in a box. An indeniable container of proof of what occurred when a bear achieved a male.
“More abstractly, we’re on the lookout at the idea of the stranger, and the notion of hospitality” says Mark. “How do you offer with a stranger, when the stranger constitutes a risk? Mainly because definitely, traditionally, there’s only been one response to that concern.”
‘Visitations: Polar Bears out of Place’ took position at Akureyri Art Museum from 25.09.2021 – 09.01.2022, and was curated by Æsa Sigurjónsdóttir. Learn much more at visitations.lhi.is