Kissing the Whole Nation

Interview by Francis McKee, Suomenlinna, Helsinki. August 2001. Excerpt from the book The Icelandic Love Corporation, published by Nifca and Diamond Hears Projects.

Eirún Sigurðardóttir, Sigrún Hrólfsdóttir, Jóní Jónsdóttir of the Icelandic Love Corporation are on a three month residency at Nifca's studios on the island. Before any book was planned they agree to an interview with Francis McKee on their work up to this point.

Francis: Can I ask you how you all got together?

Eirún: Well, we were all in the same school in Iceland, The Icelandic College of Arts and Crafts, which is now the Icelandic Academy of the Arts.

Francis: In the same year?

Eirún: Yes. And then we were all selected from our departments in the school, to go to Finland, because of Ars '95 - to take part in workshops for students there. We can say that we were conceived there but we weren't born until February 1996. And then the three of us did a performance together in Iceland - myself,

Jóní, and Sigrún.

Francis: So what happened between being conceived and born?

Jóní: We were just in school, thinking about our own things.

Sigrún: Talking a lot.

Jóní: Becoming friends.

Francis: Was it just the fact that you all got together and partied here or was it that you all got together and saw art and thought we have to get together and do this?

All: Both.

Jóní: First, it was like we connected in the Olympic stadium where we were staying in Helsinki. We were in the same room and doing these seminars here because of Ars '95 and then we stayed in contact when we got back to Iceland. We all got very interested in performing or performance art when we were in the school. Other people were doing performance art....

Francis: That was my next question! Why performance?

Eirún: We got an opportunity to do some performances in the basement of the national theatre in Iceland.  There we did the Angel performance and other people were doing performances as well.

Eirún: And about doing performances - I guess we decided to do it because we thought this was the silliest way of doing art ever and the most boring and most pretentious thing.

Sigrún: Because we hated it - we thought people doing performances was so embarrassing. We could hardly sit through it.

Jóní: I think that we began doing performance art in a way to make fun of performance art.

Sigrún: Even though we don't think about it very much I think we poke fun at art and like to -

Jóní: - definitely -

Sigrún: - and we do a lot of art about art even though we say we don't.

Sigrún: And making the most embarrassing work - because it can be very good for you to make the worst artwork or the worst painting you can imagine. 

Eirún: So that's how it began really. And then they wanted to advertise this evening and they said 'Well, does somebody want to go on TV?'

Sigrún: It was like a spot on this magazine show - a daily hour long show before the eight o'clock news.

Eirún: People were somehow shy to do it, so we just grabbed this opportunity and said 'Yes we'll do this - we'll do it'

Because when I heard it I somehow got an idea straight into my head.

Jóní: And then someone said 'What will you do?' and you said we will do a kiss performance and I was like 'Yes?' -

Eirún: But I think I originally just said yes because I was sure that we could do it.

So our first performance was before the eight o' clock news on prime time live on national television.

Francis: Is this the one where they kept ringing you up saying 'Can you do this and that - ?

Sigrún: Well, when we explained our thing to the TV people they were like 'Oh, ok, that's nice but we're not sure.' But then this guy called us the day after and said 'We have a better idea. Why don't you - it would be so much fun -

Eirún: - if you would just kiss everybody-

Jóní: - on the show.'

Eirún: We just said no.

Jóní: And then they phoned us back and said 'Ok, we are ready to do it your way.'

Francis: And what happened when you did it?

Sigrún: It was very short and very nice.

It goes like this. The three of us are standing close together, right in front of the camera and then we kiss, and it is a little bit longer than a friends' kiss and a little bit shorter than a lover's kiss and then I kissed a glass plate, right in front of the camera.

Jóní: It was like kissing the whole nation.

Francis: So by that stage you were definitely a group and when did Dóra turn up - because there's still only three of you in this story. Where did she come from?

Sigrún: She was with us here in Helsinki. We were here in Helsinki in the spring of '95 and then the next fall - the final year of school - her and Jóní went together to Denmark as exchange students and they lived together. Jóní was in the academy and Dóra was in the Danmarks design school.

Francis: So did she join by the time you did the kissing on telly?

Jóní: No. We did the kissing and then The Angel performance. - And then we did...t he autopsy on the mayonnaise cake? At a birthday party.

Sigrún: And that was in august and then me and Eirún left.

Francis: You didn't leave the Icelandic Love Corporation?

Jóní: No, they just left for America and Germany.

Sigrún: Back then, we didn't have the Icelandic Love Corporation name.

Eirún: No, but we had an Icelandic name.

Francis: What was that?

All: Gjörningaklúbburinn.

Francis: What does that mean?

Sigrún: Performance club.

Jóní: - like a sewing club.

Sigrún: It's more like a sewing circle in Icelandic - this saumaklúbbur - so we are performance-klúbbur. It's not like a club - it has hints towards...

Jóní: We also thought it was kind of funny that we were clubbers like these huge clubhouses where people get together.

Francis: So, then, how did Dóra join?

Jóní: She kind of just mixed in - after The Autopsy. I don't even remember exactly why or how? Was it because -

Eirún: I think she just asked...

Jóní: Me?

Sigrún: Or you asked us if she could be with us... I remember where it happened and we said 'Yeah, that's fine, that's a good idea.'

Eirún: 'Yeah, why not?'

Jóní: It was all very casual. Both the beginning of ILC and her joining.