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Text by Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir

Text by Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir


Beware! If you wander around during the opening, that certain something – that some days is mundane, other days not- will alter itself. It charges itself with yet another layer of question. Until what, artist? Until the bundle of questions blows up the certainty of those in charge of what the day should be like? And the night. Blows up the certainty of those that maintain the norm at the expense of everything else. But is it only an inner explosion, without a bang, dampened by the accumulation of a thousand rubber sheets?

Gate (interior paint)
When you enter, through the opening, the blood-red opening, the invisible wound, you will find yourself in a precarious situation and you will never get to the bottom of it. Since the entrance is not based around fantasies of virgins, but a challenge to self-responsibility. A project for a lifetime: To read apart and to break protective membranes and expanded, fused senses. Weave it once again, patch and glue. Wrap a cloth around the vulnerability, the subtleties in the perception, and the conclusion.

Vertigo (soundproofing carpet, velcro)
Carpeted two-dimensional sensory spaces. Sándor Ferenczy was a Hungarian psychoanalyst who Freud tried to write out of psychoanalysis history with the help of co-dependent colleagues, because Ferenczy based the therapy too firmly on love and empathy. In a chapter titled Psychosoma Ferenczy writes: “When the pain is “unbearable” … there still remains a potential of life with the help of spiritual force – in psychosomatic asphyxiation, the patient still seems to feel and function, telepathic organs of sorts start to come into being, due to mental power.”

Sonar (silk screen)
A child feels obliged to stay silent when something serious is committed against it. Ferenczy researched this silence meticulously. Decades later, Michel Foucault writes in his Histoire de la folie that he is not interested in writing yet another chapter about the language of psychiatry, instead, he wants to write the history of speechlessness, to write about words that are silenced by dis-ease.To open the ears to persistent mutterings within the scorched root of meaning, to write the archaeology of silence.

Tongue (rubber, wood)
A sheet of the same stuff that surrounds the jaw before the twisted iron drill breaks through. From the thick, yet flexible material that envelops the abdomen to protect the womb from radiation. The black tongue, it speaks in the language of confidentiality. What language is that again? Did the tongue intend to speak on our behalf, but went limp under pressure? Towards what was the confidentiality meant then?
How can a tongue-tie be broken? „Don‘t say anything, say something instead “, the children‘s book on bullying reads. But do not say anything foolish. Let me see your tongue! Go straight to the naughty chair, your tongue is black.

The fantasy of relating an indiscretion and the fear of saying something foolish: will the tongue flutter like a white flag or a red one above a new-found land of a sacred mystery. Or is your tongue twisted? It is worth remembering that super imperialists made the black tongue the emblem of abnormality and unreliability, and the supposedly lying tongues of natives were pierced, discarded, or cut from the mouth, buried under the surface of the earth.

Aim (plexiglass, wooden poles, make-up)
The rubber seeker finally finds the tree in the darkness, aiming its light and saber with a swerved blade. Working carefully: cuts a particular pattern in the tree: a few holes with the same exact space in between (like a French barrel-organ musician who punctures holes in porous paper with a scalpel. Because, if the tree is wrongly cut it has nothing to give, or way too much and it dries up, empties itself. When accurately perforated the rubber flows into a zinc container, a liquid called milk, and it stacks up into balls, rubber balls which later are flayed apart, turned into rubber-skin attached to a raft that tends to disintegrate in harsh rivers. The milk-membrane ruptures and the native tongue streams from the ball. Into the water. You dip your tongue through the surface: it is a mythical passage. The primary structure of genealogy.

Apertures (pvc canvas, projection)
Anemia. Vertigo. Surrender without devotion. But forward we go. Opening after opening. You are an aperture, lighting up the ambiguous relationship between the artist and Loki, to be able to perceive it in its delicate origins – if that is possible at all. Artist, the aperture is turned towards you and you open your mouth humbly. Move the rubber-tongue in rhythm with the second indicator that touches the skin, tickles. The nose is itchy, it is black, from a material that surrounds the nostrils of sensitive animals which know precisely what is what and stand by the entrance gate, a disease control gate in airports. A drug or virus detecting dog sniffing until it finds your innermost obsessions and desires. Through the cracks in the make-up of icons and gaps in masks the light seeps. And blasts the defensive walls, in lust, love, and unrestrained laughter.

Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir

Text by Drew Daniels

Text by Drew Daniels

Galaxies and Black Holes

Haraldur Jonsson’s “Galaxy” greets the viewer with a dense star cluster of lamps, huddled together to give and receive warmth, a temporary community of designed commodities not yet sold, arbitrarily joined by function. Despite the clamour of incommensurable “styles” of lamp, upon closer examination a touching kind of family resemblance emerges, the lamps quietly arguing amongst themselves, as families do. While the switched on appliances exchange opinions about design principles, their darkened cousins dream of the offices, homes, and apartments they may someday inhabit. Someday, but not tonight, not in the still, electric night that Jonsson observes. Seen under plexiglass and separated from the viewer by a kind of virtual storefront, the possibility of ownership is deferred and held at bay. Some of the photographs in the group push this gambit further by including the reflective storefront glass, metal panes splitting the image in half, and locking the viewer out. Prodded via email about his lamp photographs, Jonsson confirms this tactic, and expands it: “I wanted to document them as light chapels, baroque temples of vanity but also as the temporally lost paradises of the closed light shop.” When viewed en masse these lamps threaten to drown the viewer in a tide of non-differentiation that is far from cozy, a paratactic plenitude of all styles ( . . . and . . . and . . . and . . . ) whose open-endedness leaks outwards and grows fuzzy as it recedes into the darkness at the back of these shops. Sidestepping the branded rationalism of Ikea or the aura of exclusivity proper to a dealer in antiques, Jonsson’s light shop teems with gloriously incompatible merchandise, and this dissonance is what makes the photographs so richly dense, and more than a little ridiculous: plastic wrapped lamp shades squatting above faux-Grecian urns recline next to sleekly phallic Art Nouveau trifles, basking under the glowing jellyfish of crystal chandeliers, beside would-be rustic columnar braziers, while amoeboid modernist art glass seems to swim beneath a dense foliage of electrified rococo candles. Jonsson’s reference to the baroque is telling: this overripe cornucopia of immaculate electrical commodities mirrors (ie. doubles and reverses) the shattered, fragmentary eloquence of Piranesi and Salvator Rosa’s penchant for artfully disintegrating classical bric-a-brac. If they pined for a lost golden age and registered their own historical absence from it by limning its decay, Jonsson locates such emotions squarely within a marketplace in which consumer choice promises the possibility of a customized regulation of the particulars of one’s designed environment, but remains haunted by the impossible superabundance of that marketplace as a totality. Choosing one lamp is no substitute for choosing ALL the lamps in the shop, and yet it is what we as consumers resign ourselves to, lest we succumb to the storefront’s interminable seductions. If, as Kierkegaard tells us, “the moment of decision is the moment of madness”, Haraldur Jonsson’s “Galaxy” series suspends us at the the brink of such a madness, hovering in the moment of flickering consumer indecision, basking in the imagined community of objects.

Drew Daniels

Eftir Evu Heisler

Eftir Evu Heisler

Haraldur Jónsson

Haraldur Jónsson (f. 1961) er mjög næmur á það sem hann kallar “landslag heyrnarinnar” og víxlverkun tungumáls og skynjunar. Í gjörningi í Þýskalandi árið 1989 sem nefndist Hallisch (umbreyting á gælunafni listamannsins í orð sem líkist heiti tungumáls, til dæmis “Deutsch”), gekk hann inn á dimmt svið og talaði íslensku. Líkami Haraldar var ósýnilegur bakvið bláa súlu ljóskastara sem varpaðist ofan á hendur hans. Þær fálmuðu um loftið til þess að reyna að draga fram það sem hann var að segja. Í fyrstu voru handahreyfingarnar hægar og reyndu að setja fram útskýringar en síðan jókst hraðinn og spennan. Þær báru smám saman röddina ofurliði og urðu að lokum gegnsær birtuhjúpur. Í blálokin rofnuðu öll rökræn tengsl milli handanna og raddarinnar og mikið misræmi myndaðist milli máttlausrar raddarinnar og ágengra handanna.

Þó nokkur verk listamannsins hafa fjallað um íslenska tungu. Til dæmis sýna Fontur (Þ) og Fontur (ð) (1996) þessa tvo íslensku stafi sem skírnarfonta gerða úr sama texefninu og gjarnan er notað í hljóðeinangruðum upptökuverum. Áhorfendur geta smeygt sér í huganum inn í báða fontana en trauðla hreyft sig þegar inn er komið. Eins og listamaðurinn orðaði það: “Íslenska orðið þjóð byrjar og endar á stöfum sem ekki eru til í neinu öðru tungumáli (nema færeysku).”[1]

Haraldur hefur áhuga á því sem hann kallar “hljóðmúra eða heyrnartakmörk íslenskumælandi fólks”. Um miðbik tíunda áratugarins varð Haraldur til þess, fyrstur íslenskra listamanna, að skapa verk sem fjallaði um tilraunir innflytjenda til að takast á við þessi heyrnartakmörk. Íslenskt málver (1996) samanstendur af tólf ljósmyndum af útlendingum að læra að bera fram íslensku í básum í málveri. Hljóðverkið Hreimur var gert fyrir Gallerí Hlust og snerist um uppspunna persónu leikna af finnskri konu sem ræðir hversu erfitt það hafi verið að hafa fæðst á Íslandi en hún hafi flutt til Finnlands á unga aldri og síðan aftur til baka. Hún hafi smám saman lært að tala íslensku en einlægt með finnskum hreim. Persónan veltir fyrir sér viðbrögðum íslenskumælandi fólks við hreimnum: “Þegar Íslendingar heyra hreiminn, þá verður maður óraunverulegur; þú ert alltaf innilokuð í hreimnum hérna á Íslandi.” Verkinu lýkur með tilboði á kynferðislegum nótum sem gefur til kynna löngun til þess að losna úr helsi hreimsins: “En það væri gaman að hittast og spjalla nánar saman.”

Haraldur kemur hljóðverkum oft fyrir á tilkomulitlum stöðum. Innsetningin Moment of Truth (2008) útvarpaði frösum sem innflytjendur skynja sem séríslenska. Frá brunarústum í miðborg Reykjavíkur, bannsvæði sem margir ganga framhjá, gaf hljóðverk Haraldar við og við frá sér klisjur sem eru límið í félagslegum samskiptum. Á göngu um stíg við Gróttu mátti heyra undarlegan harmagrát, hljóð sem var mitt á milli væls í vindi, gaggs í tófu eða snökts í barni. Hljóðverkið Útburður (2006) vísar til gamallrar vögguvísu sem á rætur að rekja til leikrits Jóhanns Sigurjónssonar, Fjalla-Eyvindur, frá 1911. Það vísar líka til dæmigerðs íslensks svars við umkvörtunarefnum annarra: “Hvaða útburðarvæl er þetta?” Eins og önnur verk Haraldar leikur þetta verk sér að fáorðu æðruleysinu sem kennt er við íslenska þjóðarsál og kallar fram litróf tilfinninga.

Verk Haraldar spanna allt frá teikningum og skúlptúrum til gjörninga, hljóðinnsetninga og ljósmynda. Þau kanna margbrotin tengslin milli tilfinninga, skynjunar og líkamans. Innsetningin Herbergi (2006) á sér stað í geymslurými og þaðan berst rödd sjö ára drengs sem les upp lista af tilfinningum í stafrófsröð. Þegar hlustað er tekur maður eftir tengslaleysinu á milli tilfinningar sem orðs og tilfinningar sem reynslu. Það eru engin tengsl milli tilfinninganna, sem sumar hverjar eru flóknar og tilheyra heimi fullorðinna, og sakleysislegrar raddarinnar sem mælir orðin fram, en flestum þeirra er barnið greinilega að kynnast í fyrsta sinn. Eins og mörg önnur verk Haraldar kannar Herbergi að hvaða marki tungumálið kemur á undan raunverulegri reynslu og mótar huglæg viðhorf.

Fyrir innsetninguna Glætan árið 2008 voru gluggar gallerísins klæddir álpappír. Byrgðir gluggarnir voru í Keflavík, samastað bandarísku herstöðvarinnar til ársins 2006,  og kallast á við bernskuminningu listamannsins um herstöðvarbyggingar þar sem starfsmenn bandaríska hersins reyndu að verjast miðnætursólinni á Íslandi. Göt á álpappírnum á gluggum gallerísins eru gægjugöt; þau líkjast einnig stjörnumerkjum eða punktum á herkorti. Endurkast af bílljósum utan við galleríið bregður flöktandi birtu á myrkvað rýmið. Innsetningin kallaði fram fortíð bæjarins sem viðkomustaðar milli Bandaríkjanna og Evrópu, en var líka lítið herbergi fullt af krumpuðum pappír. Pappírinn er í stærðinni A1 og er mattur og hálfgegnsær, eins og pappír sem notaður er í teikningum arkitekta. Innan úr hvítri krumpaðri hrúgunni berst rödd ungs barns sem er að telja upp að hundrað: ánægja hennar og stolt yfir að nefna hverja tölu gefur til kynna að hún sé nýbúin að læra að telja. Þetta er talnagleði sem hefur ekki enn verið njörvuð niður við peninga eða hlutföll eða tímann. Upptalning og endurtekning barnsraddarinnar sem telur glaðlega í sífellu eru í algjörri mótsögn við vitnisburð handa listamannsins sem krumpuðu aftur og aftur auðan hvítan flöt, hvítu sem kallar fram bæði yfirborð til að skrifa á og krumpaðan hvítan lit handklæða og sárabinda.

Krumpun sem merki um bæði tíma og yfirborð kemur líka fram í verkinu Krumpað myrkur sem var fyrst sýnt árið 2005. Krumpað myrkur er hrúga af krumpuðum svörtum pappír. Í sumum innsetningum ræður pappírinn ríkjum í rýminu; ekki sést í kringum hraukinn af krumpuðum svörtum pappír. Í öðrum innsetningum eru ekki nema 150 blöð og krumpaður pappírinn minnir á efni sem hefur bráðnað. Áþreifanleg margræðnin er Haraldi mikilvæg: að krumpa er hugarástand  og krumpaður pappírinn er sýnileg verksummerki um tilfinningar. Eins og listamaðurinn segir: “Þegar höndin grípur og krumpar eitthvað, þá myndast um leið afsteypa snertingarinnar við efnið”.

Sýnileiki þess sem byrgt er inni er iðulega til skoðunar hjá Haraldi, einkanlega í syrpunni Blindnur frá 2008 sem samanstendur af lófastórum leirmunum sem listamaðurinn formaði í höndum sér með lokuð augun. Hann mótar og setur ósjálfrátt merki sitt á leirinn án þess að hugsa um útlitið. Útkoman er nokkrir tugir leirmuna sem líta út eins og beinflísar eða úrelt verkfæri með íhvolfum flötum, dældum og framskotum sem gefa breytilegt hugarástand til kynna.

 Eva Heisler

Text by Jón Proppé

Text by Jón Proppé

The Subtle Art of Haraldur Jónsson

Haraldur Jónsson has exhibited widely in the last two decades and developed a highly personal imagery and approach. His works are visual and engaging despite the fact that he often deals with presenting intangible and immaterial ideas: Silence or darkness or some vague intuition or thought. This contradiction makes his exhibitions all the more exciting. In an exhibition in ASÍ Museum in Reykjavík many of the themes that Haraldur has explored in recent years were brought together. His explorations of how we perceive and conceive our world includes no only the visual but branches easily into the world of sound or tactile sensations: Shapes reflect sound, objects suggest darkness, lines map thoughts. Haraldur Jónsson is an artist with a delicate touch and his works sometimes seem to have been made from nothing at all. His pieces and installations seem to map intangible webs and fleeting thoughts that hover at the edge of consciousness, the emotions that form the intangible accompaniment to our lives, sometimes fleeting, sometimes overwhelming, sometimes restrained, sometimes out of our control. Many of his sculptural pieces describe silence or darkness in one way or another: A large black rectangle of sound-absorbing material fixed onto a gallery wall; large shapes that seem calculated to channel, emit or cancel sounds but that remain obstinately quiet; a sealed box full of Icelandic darkness that was his contribution to a travelling exhibition in the United States; a pair of boxes that, if one stands between them, eliminate the sounds of the environment so one can hear one’s own heartbeat. Haraldur’s silences are pregnant with energy and ideas, things we don’t normally notice beneath the soundscapes of our life. His approach to conceptual art is unusual in that his concepts are always elusive, they shift under our gaze and can never quite be defined. In this his work may be compared to that of Hreinn Friðfinnsson, to name an older Icelandic artist, but Haraldur’s sculptures, installations and photographs also have a strange and sometimes almost uncomfortable physical association, insistent and demanding. This was particularly clear in his contribution to the exhibition In the Flesh in the Reykjavík Art Festival of 1998. Haraldur had curtained off a corner of the hall where a doctor in attendance drew blood from the visitor that he could then take home in a small clear vial. In effect, the visitor was himself the work of art, framed in the transparent plastic container. While Haraldur’s works are quite diverse – including sculptural objects, photographs, drawings and sound installations – they share a common concern to make visible our primordial, pre-conceptual response to our environment. This is very much reflected in installations such as his Crumpled Darkness pieces where he will fill a space with crumpled sheets of black paper, or in the actions where he plays on the audience’s own bodily presence, or when he uses lights and sound to transform our experience of a space, as in his exhibition at the European Kunsthalle in Cologne where he exhibited in an underground railway station. But he also creates works that respond more immediately to local situations or cultural tropes, often in surprising ways. His exhibition Glætan in Gallery South-South-West is a case in point, held in a town near the now-defunct NATO base at Iceland’s international airport. Here he covered the windows of the gallery with aluminium foil, blocking out the daylight in a move that recalled the time when American servicemen used to lodge in the town and used to same trick to block out the light of the midnight sun so they could sleep in summer. Tearing small holes in the foil, Haraldur then transformed the interior by letting flecks of sunlight play on the walls.

His sound installations also reflect a concern with local or even historical subjects, though their presentation is characteristically sparse. Visitors to an exhibition on the outskirts of Reykjavík a few years ago were suddenly surprised by the sound of a child crying, apparently coming from the rocks piled up along the coast. This was Haraldur’s haunting reference to the fact that in former times unwanted children were sometimes left out in lonely places to die of exposure – a complicate and painful part of the Icelanders’ tragic history. Other sound installations have explored the terms we sue to refer to our feelings or the words in Icelandic that immigrants from abroad find most characteristically Icelandic.

In his drawings, photographs and sculptures, Haraldur seeks out the vague thoughts and associations that escape our taxonomies, the lines that never quite meet and the thoughts that have no obvious expression. Sometimes the result conveys a wry humour, for example in the Arctic Fruits series of photographs which shows Icelandic gardens in winter, the trees laden with Christmas lights in lieu of the fruit that people enjoy in warmer climes. Haraldur works in many media but his artwork always has the look of having grown from the germ of an idea, almost without any intervention on the artist’s part. There is nothing there that is extraneous to the idea of the work but, in contrast to most minimalist art, the ideas remain free to meander and branch into new thoughts in the viewer’s mind.

Jón Proppé

Eftir Kristínu Ómarsdóttur

Eftir Kristínu Ómarsdóttur


Um sýningu Haraldar Jónssonar í Skaftfelli

Eilífðin hefur löngum auglýst sjálfa sig með myndmálinu. Og frá því spekingar byrjuðu að tala hefur þeim verið tíðrætt um löngun manneskjunnar til að skilja eitthvað eftir á jörðinni eftir hennar dag. Minnisvarða. Fjársjóð sem hún felur gjarnan blaðlaust kortalaust ofan í jörðu. Og litríkan ættboga. Nú, þrælar, faróar og verkstjórar mynduðust við að reisa píramída í Egyptalandi. Menningarverðmæti Íslands eru falin, og ekki falin, í grjóti, sem stundum er lánað úr landinu og skilað aftur. Í handritum, sóleyjum og fíflum og feitu bústnu ánamöðkunum sem gert hafa garða Þingholtanna fræga að ógleymdum risakóngulónum.

Eilífðin bankaði upp á vinnustofu Haraldar Jónssonar og raðaði sér upp í líki litríkra plastbala, eða skúringarfatna, og myndaði úr þeim myndarlega súlu sem gnæfir hátt í herberginu og krýnir sig með titlinum Pípa. Ekki þarf að snúa höfðinu til að skynja óravíddir nafngiftarinnar. Þá krumpaði hún sig saman, eilífðin, skrapp saman, hnipraði sig og lagðist hringandi sig einsog syfjaður hundur, í gólfið: Krumpað myrkur. Á meðan fiðrildin leggjast á gluggann í kalklituðum bókstöfum sem munu fá að veðrast undir áhrifum frá samlituðum vindinum og hverfa, einsog eilífðin, en ekki útum dyrnar, einsog gestir yfirleitt, heldur eitthvert sem mannsandinn veit ekki hvert.

Því Haraldur hleypur ekki á eftir henni með gulan eða rauðan eða bleikan eða grænan bláan háf á lofti.


Kristín Ómarsdóttir