Reykjavik, Iceland and London via email–I am obsessed with BBC World Service radio. It’s on in my car all the time and I have it also often in the background at home when I am writing or cleaning. One of my favorite programs is The Cultural Frontline and on one program in the spring, they did a story about the Icelandic Love Corporation (ILC), a performance artistic collective based in the Icelandic capital that have been collaborating since art school back in 1995. Their work has focused on social taboos, the over sexualization of women, ageing and the female body and their recent work has been inspired by nature and how we must make steps now to save the planet for future generations.
Jóní Jónsdóttir and Eirún Sigurðardóttir are the current members of the art collective and have use nearly all possible media—including performance, video, photography and installation. Their work confronts the seriousness of the world but blended with playfulness, humor and a genuineness and subtle social critique that, as they say, “often incorporates ideas of traditional femininity, with feministic approach.” Their works have been shown internationally at spaces including ARoS Kunstmuseum Denmark, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) New York, Kunsthalle Wien and the Amos Anderson Art Museum Helsinki. Over email ILC answered my questions about their work, the motivations and upcoming projects.
Ginanne Brownell Mitic: Tell me about how ILC got together? I know you were all in school together but why did you decide you wanted to work as a collective?
We got to know each other when we spent time on behalf of our Art Academy in Helsinki for the ARS 1995 art exhibition, followed by a conference between all the Nordic Art Academies. It had a deep impact on us and is one of the reasons for us working together. In Helsinki we met an art group from Denmark called Superflex and we immediately felt the energy of being a collective. Through our last year of studying there was also a sparkling interest in performance art. We took part in a performance with another student and then made our own group and have been working ever since, first doing performance art but it quickly developed into using all other medium in art.
How would you describe your aesthetic? What things drive your art?
We want to change how people can see the world, have impact on how it can be seen in more than one way. We are interested in people, how people behave and how the society works and makes us think, like blue is for boys, pink is for girls, etc. We are always driven by what is happening in the here and now, how humans are, for example, ruining nature, why there has to be so much hurt in the world and how we can address that, and hopefully change things with our art and our voice. We use humor and feministic approach and blend all together with different materials like handcrafted objects, participatory performances with themed costumes and objects, video installations, drawings and what ever medium and material comes to mind that fits the idea. We like to be playful, use colorful materials, feminine touches and twist things around. Our family tree (body of works) is big beautiful and strong.
How do you decide on projects and themes you want to work on? I know every collective works in different ways–some will compromise on ideas, others throw out any ideas that the group does not 100% get behind. How do you brainstorm and decide what projects you all are keen to do?
Our projects are usually very site specific mixed with what is on our mind in the moment and what theme we are working on and in which context. We sometimes develop ideas from the past with new ideas or we go into something totally new, it always depends on where we are exhibiting or performing. We have no specific rules: We don’t say who does what and who got the idea. We work in a state of flow where we can say anything and throw all unedited in the ring. Then through conversation we shape the ideas until we are satisfied and have agreed upon what to make or do. We have a big white board at our studio where we draw and write down in the flow, make a mind map, time line and make our brainstorm visual. Brainstorming is also good when on a plane, driving or walking. Many ideas have been born in the air.///A lot of this answer feels superfluous. I might cut the first two sentences.
Tell me a bit more about the project, Aqua Maria, you are doing now with water.
Aqua Maria came to us here, at our workshop. It was an incredible moment. We were looking out the window and suddenly the traffic seemed to stop. Rain started pouring down, followed by an immense brightness and a rainbow where the blue color dominated all others and spoke to us. The water brought with it great energy, which we accepted with open arms. At the same time women all over the world are rising up, with #metoo. Aqua Maria is the rebel in us all, saying enough is enough. Her persistence will lead us to change. We are all ambassadors of water, we are the voice of water, for water, and Aqua Maria is the protector. By following our hearts and adjust our frequency, the water in us, we can make change in how we think about nature and our fellow neighbors. Aqua Maria has been with ILC for almost a year now, in performances and other works. We had the honor of being chosen as Reykjavík art group 2018 by the Culture and Tourism Council and she helped us to unite people in “Baby Shower For Mary” a performance in Malmö and she is still helping us and will appear in numerous performances and exhibitions in the future.
What is the contemporary art scene like in Iceland? Is it quite small? Is there a lot of cross-pollination with other Scandinavian countries?
The Icelandic contemporary art scene is quite small with good artists who show their work here and abroad, Scandinavia or otherwise.
As women, what role does gender play in your art? Does it bother you when people say “a female collective”? Why not just a collective?
In a perfect world gender, color, nationality etc. would not be so important. But the matter is that we are always defined by these categories. We are aware of our privilege as white heterosexual Scandinavian woman. We are proud of who we are and what we have accomplished, we are proud to be a female collective.
What projects are you currently working on and what shows/exhibitions do you have coming up?
We are working on a solo show for The National Gallery of Iceland opening autumn 2019 and working as visual composers in collaboration with music collective Ensemble Adapter and composer Juliana Hodkinson, with a premiere performance at Borealis Festival í Bergen in March 2019.
What exhibitions/shows/fairs are you excited about this year? And what artists would you say have helped influence your art?
We are not big fans of art fairs. We would love to go to Helsinki to see the new art museum Amos Rex, a new private art museum with unique architecture that opened in central Helsinki at the end of August 2018. Last year we saw a great exhibition that we are still talking about, The Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s, works from the Verbund Collection at the Photographers’ Gallery London. We would love to see Hilma af Klint at Guggenheim Museum New York and Senga Nengudi at Henry Moore Institute in Leeds. We have used tights in our work like Senga and find her to be a big inspiration. Pipilotti Rist is a huge influence, as is our grandfathers in art: Joseph Beuys, Matthew Barney with his “Cremaster” series, Cindy Sherman , Lawrence Weiner and so many more. Icelandic artists who have inspired us people including Þorvaldur Þorsteinsson, Anna Líndal and the 1970s performance artists SÚM to name just a few.