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Coral_lyng Trinity_birta_5 Unity_birta 4 My_air Breath Meridians_of_nature Tyrol__italy_2008 Luzern__swiss_1994
'rak'rüm (noun);
the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
Coral Lyng, Coral Lyng, 2008, c-print, 60 x 80cm
Trinityofme, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Trinityofme,
2003, C-print
© Birta Gudjonsdottir
Unityofme, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Unityofme,
2003, C-print
© Birta Gudjonsdottir
Untitled (Owl), Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Untitled (Owl),
2004, C-print
© Birta Gudjonsdottir
My Air, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, My Air,
2008, c-print, 50x70cm
Breath, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Breath,
2005, c-print, 60x80cm
Meridians of Nature, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Meridians of Nature,
2008, c-print, 50x70cm
Tyrol, Italy 2008, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Tyrol, Italy 2008,
2008, c-print, 50x70cm
Luzern, Swiss 1994, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Luzern, Swiss 1994,
2008, c-print, 50x70cm
Our(moss), Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Our(moss),
2007, c-print, 50x70cm
Our(mountain milk), Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Our(mountain milk),
2007, c-print, 50x70cm
Our(fool´s gold), Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Our(fool´s gold),
2007, c-print, 50x70cm
Our(obsidian), Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Our(obsidian),
2007, c-print, 50x70cm
Tattoo Moebius, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Tattoo Moebius,
2006, c-print, 50x70cm
Seashell(soundpiece with techno artist Exos), Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir,
Seashell(soundpiece with techno artist Exos),
2005, shell, cd-player, 40x40cm
Hokusai, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Hokusai,
2005, pvc, 200x80cm
Jain, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Jain,
2004, c-print, 70x90cm
My Panorama, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, My Panorama,
2008, c-print, 20x200cm
Healing, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Healing,
2006, c-print, 50x50cm
Hoping, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Hoping,
2004, c-print, 60x80cm
Diptych(I, II, III), Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Diptych(I, II, III),
2008, c-print, 30x40cm
Meridians of the City, My Air, Two Worlds, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir,
Meridians of the City, My Air, Two Worlds,
2008, C-print, 50 x 70cm
Home and Away, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Home and Away,
2008, Lasercut mirrored plexiglass and Icelandic birch, 270 x 15cm
Home and Away, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Home and Away,
2008, Lasercut mirrored plexiglass and Icelandic birch, 270 x 22 x 15cm
Travel journals(bookwork), Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Travel journals(bookwork),
2008, Japaneese paper, mirrored silver mylar pvc and Icelandic birch, 130 x 80cm, over a hundred sheets of paper & mylar
Europe, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Europe,
2008, Photographs c-prints, each 40 x 26cm
Meridians of the city, Birta GudjonsdottirBirta Gudjonsdottir, Meridians of the city,
2008, Video work with sound from Chinese Baoding balls, loop; 7min. dvd with sound
Birta Gudjonsdottir is a Reykjavik-based artist and curator working throughout Europe and the US.  She has exhibited and produced projects in many mediums, including photography and mixed-media performance and installation, in Iceland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Scotland, Italy, Norway, Greenland.  Along with her artistic practice, Gudjonsdottir has run Dwarf Gallery, an independent exhibition space in...[more]

Interview with Birta Gudjonsdottir

New York City Artslant editor Trong G. Nguyen catches up with the busy life of Reykjavik-based international curator and artist Birta Gudjonsdottir.

Trong G. Nguyen: You are equally accomplished as a curator and artist, and recently a boardmember of The Living Art Museum and Sequences Art Festival as well as an editor of the Icelandic art magazine Sjonauki.  How are you maintaining balance these days?

Birta Gudjonsdottir:  Well, a brutally-honest answer might be that I don´t!! My biggest challenge with balancing my art and curatorial practice is creating time. I am constantly doing conceptual preparation-work as an artist but I usually work intensively for 2-3 months before a show of my own works, putting other things more aside. As a curator, I see it as my role to be on the job 24/7, which means that it becomes the biggest priority in my everyday. Regarding my other activities, I am just very chaotically organized. I am super-motivated for all the things I am working on and I am constantly working.

TGN: Tell us a little bit about your Scandinavian/Baltic curatorial collective and its current projects.

Trinityofme, 2003; Courtesy of the artist

BG:  I was invited to join four other young Nordic/Baltic curators of contemporary art in a one-year pilot of a curatorial platform at FRAME in Finland in January 2007 with the aim to share professional experiences and make connections to various colleagues, through lectures, informal talks and visits. We have since been meeting, with the same purpose. We are interested in establishing a net between curators, artists and art institutions in the Nordic and Baltic region. This year, we have organized a few public talks in the region, for which we have invited other colleagues. We have not been working on art projects in the form of shows or publications, but we are planning two such projects at the moment.

TGN: You direct two galleries in Reykjavik (Dwarf and 101).  What are the differences in your approach for each space?

BG:  Dwarf Gallery is my home gallery, in my basement, for which I invite artists but I don´t select works. 101 Rymi Projects is an exhibition space owned by another person, for which I program larger exhibitions with more of a professional approach. For Dwarf Gallery my activity evolves mainly around inviting artists to show, who have been occupied with performative and/or time-related art. I then step out of the process and just organize practicalities like writing texts, arranging for equipment and dealing with the media. Then I just show up at the opening. So, at Dwarf Gallery, I don´t see myself as curating, merely facilitating. At 101 Rymi Projects, however, I am totally involved with all decisions, collaborating closely with artists and other creative people. I curate all shows and events there, consciously constructing a direction/criteria. At 101 Rymi Projects, I mostly work with international artists and a few Icelandic ones. My aim is for it to be a mini-Kunsthalle, focusing on shows that deal with nationalism and personal identity issues.

TGN: The New York art season starts this week. What are you looking forward to this fall, art-wise?

Fountain, 2001; Courtesy of the artist

BG:  Well, as I live in Europe and I will probably not visit New York until next year again, I can only speak of this fall within my reach. I am looking forward to a blast of performance-related stuff, in Iceland, Berlin and Scandinavia. Personally, I am most excited now about visiting Oslo, Norway for art. I am curious about visiting Copenhagen in September for the U-TURN Quadrennial for Contemporary Art, and I am always on my way to visit galleries in Leipzig, Germany. If I would visit New York this fall, I would look forward to visiting galleries in the Bowery and the New Museum. As for the rest in New York, I would need to seek advice from Artslant for other interesting shows to see…

TGN: What's your take on the "globalization" of the art world? Is too much of the art world tied in with economics?

BG:  I happen to be partly educated and professionally active in a country (Iceland) which until 5-10 years ago didn´t have a local art market or participate in the international one, economy-wise, which means that I can actually still imagine the art world as one without much economic ties. I have, in my art-political involvement, been most occupied with the dilemma of public and private funding, since in Iceland, private funding just recently entered the arts and thus public funding systems expect the private sector to support the arts, but it is not nearly sufficient or consistent enough to. I think the world of economics is interesting for the art world to explore and play with, especially now where it is indeed becoming a vast playground, involving all continents. It is like exploring new territories –one needs to develop a survival kit and follow the instinct.

TGN: There was an e-flux project called "The Next Documenta Should be Curated by an Artist," in which curator Jens Hoffmann asked a number of artists for their takes on this exact premise.  You're both, so if you were starting and curating a biennial, what and where would it be? What would it consist of conceptually?

BG:  I think that Hoffmann´s project is influencial for artist/curators because it raises questions about which elements an artist brings into such a process and how it is a different one from his/her own artistic process. If I would start and/or curate a biennial, I would definitely gather around me a handful of great people, based on how much fire they could rub between themselves as a temporary collective. I would find it most interesting for a concept, methodology etc. to be formed and defined in an active dialogue, starting with reading the newspapers together, sometimes in many different languages at the same time, watching a lot of tv, doing Butoh-exercises together. A think-tank camp basically. A place for it could perhaps be close to active archaeological sites in Europe.

TGN: How do these same ideas and mechanisms manifest themselves in your own work as an artist, or do they? What are you making now and what informs/inspires the work?

BG:  My art practice is almost a completely introverted one, me arranging something in a space, photographing or filming it, whereas my curatorial practice is a collaborative one and requires feedback. I guess I try to be the kind of curator that I would want to work with as an artist, and I try, as an artist, to work on things that would inspire me as a viewer. As an artist, I am busy with reflections, time-elements, parallels. I mostly work with photographs and video as mediums, usually very home-made, a non-production. I also work with industrial materials, which I ask craftsmen to handle. Although I draw quite a bit, I never show my drawings. I guess it is because I like this zone of the personal/detached. I might not even be able to be self-critical enough with works that have much of my “touch” or “fingerprint” in them. Speaking of self-criticism, I always expect very much from art, to save the day, change your life…

TGN: Speaking of changing lives... McCain or Obama?

BG:  Obama Obama Obama.

ArtSlant would like to thank Birta Gudjonsdottir for her assistance in making this interview possible.

- Trong Gia Nguyen



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