For the last few days I have been in Reykjavik with Andy and busy pretty much the whole time, so I’ve not been able to write until now, on the plane flying home again. I have 2 workshops coming up in the next few days when I get home as well, so with the prep for those and driving back to Hull for Andy’s Grandma’s 80th Birthday party, there’s not going much time for writing and so this will be my final Iceland post.
During my little stay in Djupivogur, spending time with the other artists and people involved with the Rolling Snowball/6 exhibition, it became increasingly more apparent that I had been lucky enough to be part of something really special. I would say that every single other artist involved in the exhibition was much more established than me. I mentioned this to Ineke and she very sweetly said, “That’s not why we pick the artists’. It’s been great spending time with all those interesting people. It was exciting to leave my three Tree Socks paintings in China and be reunited with them again Iceland. I would never have imagined that when I was working on them in my little studio in Xiamen.
I heard some great stories over those few days. They all think it’s very funny that Ineke always used to be known as ‘The wife of Sigi’ and now they hear people refer to Sigi as ‘The husband of Ineke”. I was talking to Annelie about how there are too many artists wanting to show their own art and not enough people like her and Ineke who want to make artistic projects happen, but who are not actually artists themselves. It’s very commendable that they do this I think, as it’s no coincidence that there are more artists than organisers. We self obsessed artists generally fail at making such great things happen, as ultimately our main concern is our own work and under pressure, we all start to behave badly and become stubborn and testy. We rely on people who are the opposite, who are interested in the work of other people and who bring a group together to make something happen which is much bigger than individuals.
Ineke and Sigi looked after everyone really well, without expecting recognition nor payment. Ineke almost disappears into the background at times when you’d expect her to take the cue and revel in the glory. It was May who stood up and made the CEAC speech alongside the Icelandic Cultural Minister and the Chinese Ambassador and who jointly cut the ribbon to officially open the show. But May works so hard, I am sure Ineke feels she has more right to take on this role than anyone.
Here are more pictures of the show which I took on my proper camera. Highlights for me were a performance by Danish Artist Bjorn Noorgard, a sculpture by Icelandic artist Por Vigfusson, (a line of rectangular perspex boxes, which looked clear from one angle and blue or yellow from another) and a film by a very nice Dutch artist called Guido van der Werve. The film was called ‘Nummer Twee, Just because I am standing here it doesn’t mean I want to’ The film starts with him walking backwards into the road and getting knocked over by a car. I asked him how he managed that and he said they just did it (!!!!) with some practice but basically he got his mate to run him over.
I met a Chinese artist called Kan Xuan who was incredibly sweet and had just flown in from exhibiting in Milan. Ineke told me how she met Xuan. She said she saw her in a film (I didn’t quite get this bit, whether the film was made by Xuan or by someone else, but I like the bits of Ineke’s stories that I don’t quite understand so let’s just go with it). Ineke decided she wanted to meet her so she got someone to locate her and they were due to meet in Beijing. There was some more of a kerfuffle and finally when they met Ineke couldn’t speak Madarin (she still can’t) and Xuan couldn’t speak any English. Anyway they kept in touch and Ineke helped her to apply to art school in Holland. Xuan had to learn English to have her interview but she still wasn’t very good so when they did the telephone interview she read a letter she had written out loud on the phone, then she said can’t speak any English and asked them to let her in and put the phone down! But she got in, and now she is one of China’s most important video artists.
I spoke with Xuan more when we were waiting for the exhibition opening to start. She was sat on her own on the rocks, looking out to sea, eating dried fish which she shared with me (it was surprisingly nice) and she told me about her life as a video artist. She lives in Beijing and then travels to all sorts of other places to make art and exhibit, but she still has to get work doing more commercial film related stuff as there aren’t really many opportunities to earn money making video art in China. She did a project for the Italian car manufacturer Maserati when it was their 100 year anniversary. They wanted to sent a team to drive one of their cars from China to Italy and she was asked to go along and film it. It sounds like an incredible journey. She said she would often go off early and drive in front of the rest of the team so she can get to the stopping places first and be on her own for a bit. It sounds like Xuan likes being on her own. She’s staying in Iceland for 3 weeks now and she says she’s not going to do anything, including making any art. I kept questioning her about exactly what it was she did intend to do and in the end I pinned her down to thinking. She wanted to stay for 3 months but it’s her Dad’s 80th birthday and her mum said she had to come back for it.
The day after the exhibition opening I drove all the way back to Reykjavik and met Andy there for 3 days of tourist fun. Reykjavik is a fantastic place. I won’t bore you with the holiday stories but I would really recommend it. We saw some great art including work by Richard Serra, who, when interviewed, commented on the fact that there aren’t many uprights in Iceland and I thought, yes that’s exactly it! Here’s another of Sigi’s sculptures on the seafront in Reykjavik. Like the eggs but stones.