Reykjavik Art Museum

Arnaldur Halldórsson
Vigfús Birgisson

The installation is a replica of the exhibition space, formed in a so called Ames Room. An Ames room is constructed so that from one standpoint it appears to be an ordinary cubic-shaped room. However this is a trick of perspective, since the true shape of the room is trapezoidal. As a result of the optical illusion, a person standing in one corner appears to the observer to be a giant while the person standing in the other corner appears to be a dwarf. A person walking

from one corner to the other appears to shrink and grow. The piece was installed in the wake of the collapse of Iceland´s banking system. Thousands of people demonstrated each day infront of the parliament, leading to the government´s resignation. The installation questions the role of public art institutions and underlines their potential for being a place for debate and re-evaluation of the systems that we live in.

Text by architect
Ólafur Mathiesen

Elín Hansdóttir’s installation is composed of several diverse elements, engineered structures, fabrics and technological equipment, fused into a conglomerate. Behind the scenes of the work, methodologies are borrowed from film, theatrical sets, storyboarding and interconnected narratives. The exposition of the work is influenced by canonic architectural laws; association with history and urban networks, the envelopment of space, covering surfaces of frames, doctrines of proportion and sequences in time and space. These elements and structures are innately connected or intersect, creating a cohesive order of events and recollections above and below a line; a narrative is braided. The theme has its roots in urban landscape, the museum itself, and last but not least in the expanses of the mind. Various material characteristics and the sense of the material emphasize weight or lightness, transparency or opacity, concealment or bareness. Visual experience is coaxed; it is distorted by means of an illusion. The installation inverts the traditional function of the museum; instead of a discrete object or image displayed, the museum becomes the subject, its urban features and purpose, in city society. The empoyment of the exhibition space in this fashion is a challenge to revise expectations about the work and its connection to external realities. The work can be experienced through the recesses of the mind: through our fragmented memories, memories which consequently are deformed by space and time. A sparkle within the mind can in this way rearrange significance and importance. Fragments of memories and allusions are reordered again. A replica of the memory is created; a new and different image of that which has passed and has been experienced. The work can be viewed from the exterior; the seed of the work can be called to mind, which was a conventional house in Hafnarfjörður with an uncanny facade. A facade which strived to participate in the modernism of the seventies, expressed a desire for greatness despite the nature of what lay behind. The Hafnarfjörður facade is a smaller duplicate of the glass exterior of an office building in Austurstræti 17 in Reykjavík. Looking down Austurstræti, towards the office building are the charred remains of Haraldarbúð behind, where shortly a refurbished rendition of old Reykjavík will be erected. One can walk westward down Austurstræti past the old Landsbanki, enter the foyer of the former Búnaðarbanki into Hafnarstræti swerve to and across Tryggvagata towards the south side of Hafnarhús. Past the exhibition hall’s windows bathed in light, into the reception area to the white theatrical gossamer, past the monitor (screen), between the drapes, into the box where all is not as it seems. And exit again. Out into the city. Perhaps straight up to the old cemetary at Hólavellir, threading its paths, between the tombstones over the caskets. And on westwards to Melar. Elín’s installation is complex and multifaceted. It is a stage set, it is a historical allusion to an architectural continuity, it is part of a cityscape and the city experience, it is a memory screen, it is a flash of light and a shielding. It is an opportunity to recalibrate.