Highland of Iceland. Sigurdsson organised a performance of forty-nine men, dressed in orange work overalls with hoods on, standing in a grid in the winter landscape. A simple synchronized choreography with the group shifting the body weight from one foot to the next is sustained by a rhythmical soundtrack by Steingrimur E. Gudmundsson.
It progresses from the ambient sound of stamping in the snow to a digital beat. For the most part the camera is positioned in the midst of the group, displaying close-ups of the backs of the moving men. The orange attire fills the screen so that there is little or no figurative image to hold on to.
Occasionally there is a wide crane shot displaying the whole scene. Still, the viewer never sees the individual performers; this anonymous mass of men is only seen from behind.
The work emerges out of a local discourse on the largest single construction project in the history of Iceland, a hydro electric power plant that required hundreds of foreign guest workers to stay in the barren highlands for extended periods of time.
The overtly futile, yet strictly organised ritual reflects a shift in man’s relationship to nature. The solitary experience of the romantic individual, a classic subject in art history, is replaced by the impassiveness of the homogeneous group. The work has been displayed in different ways, always as a large-scale projection but with different mirroring devices in the space, so that the image is multiplied.
About The Artist
Using a wide range of media, including photographs, installation, and performance, Hrafnkell Sigurðsson creates works that explore the human relationship with nature. As the artist notes, retreating into nature provides him with a sense of balance, an experience he wants to share with his viewers: “I want to bring you there, to make you feel what I feel.” His work has encompassed minimalist images of empty tents in snow, houses under construction, garbage bags in the streets, and portraits of trash (which also took the form of large-scale suspended sculptures.) In his 2006 Crew Series photographs, the artist captures the symbolic presence of the timeless Icelandic fisherman, portraying fragmented, magnified portraits of the fishermen’s rubber suits in intensified color and texture. The fishermen’s ritualistic labor is linked to the artist’s recurring theme of transcending the body. Sigurðsson’s work has been exhibited internationally, including shows at the National Gallery of Iceland, the Louvre, and the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels.