TIGHT - The Icelandic Love Corporation

by Ólöf K. Sigurðardóttir

The Icelandic Love Corporation (ILC) has been a force on the Icelandic art scene since the 1990s. From the outset they have used femininity and the feminine experience in framing and treating other subjects. The ILC’s focus has varied over the years but they have taken on social and environmental issues, globalization, and pop culture as well as other human behaviors. Although they are known in Iceland as ‘the Performance Club’, they have tried out almost every medium in which artists today realize their ideas. Early in their career they kissed people, wore loud dressy clothes, and used plenty of lip and feminine wiles. They delighted their audience, insisting that art could be serious without being solemn. This has not changed as, in recent years, their work has grown more pointed and taken a clearer feminist tone. At the same time as it has addressed more critical topics and become sharper-edged, its ties to feminine culture, broadly defined, have grown stronger.

The ILC has crocheted, sewed, and embroidered and used the yields in diverse works; for example, traditional women’s work may appear in a photographic series about something else entirely. From the outset their work has flirted with pop culture and even with what may be termed kitsch, sentimentality that moves the viewer in a superficial way. They have toyed with the fine line between fluffy joke and serious rebuke. They have also dealt doubly in choosing their material, working in craft methods associated with old ladies and using materials like candy or old stockings to create works that have become part of Icelandic art history. A blithe self-mockery comes across in their work, as they inject girlish giggles and old-lady crafts into the world of art-making.

The exhibition TIGHT was first mounted at the Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki, Finland, curated by Kaj Martin. For this exhibition the ILC’s primary medium is pantyhose. They build a large-scale sculpture from hose and encase their bodies in it as subjects for photographic works. Pantyhose even-out skin tone, fit snugly, and accent womanly curves, and they are used for these qualities by women all over the world. The ILC artists cover their entire bodies with nylon, thereby altering their own shape and texture. Their bodily contours certainly are accented; their flesh does look more compact when the softening of age is firmly contained. The artists have often used their bodies in a frank way before but, in highlighting the flaws and caprices of image and appearance, they are making an even closer pass at femininity. The snugness of the hose distorts their features in Faces, a photographic work that plays the artists’ faces distorted in nylon off against their faces beautified with makeup and photographic technique. The question remains: Does natural beauty exist, and is it worth anything?

The Wheel is in a certain sense the centerpiece of this exhibition, a large sculpture hanging from the museum ceiling, reminiscent of a rose-shaped or round window in a Gothic church. The segments of rose windows are formed of shapes; the stained glass makes a play of colour around a shining center which often contains an image of the Virgin Mary. The colour-play in the ILC’s disc is created with tights, and the colours, which represent women’s menstrual cycle, shine in segments formed from body parts associated with conception. Thus they are tied to the ecclesiastic symbol of the Virgin Mary, recalling the earthly and bodily origin of man; the cycle of life, the moon, sex, belief, and creation meet in this imposing wheel. The human history of ideas and creation lurks close to the surface in the artists’ recasting of a familiar image of the theory of evolution, with the twist of adding themselves to the image, which invariably depicts a white male as the apex of evolution. These works combine religious and feminist themes.

The Icelandic Love Corporation consists of Eirún Sigurðardóttir (b. 1971), Jóní Jónsdóttir (b. 1972), and Sigrún Hrólfsdóttir (b. 1973). They have worked together ever since graduating from the Icelandic College of Arts and Crafts in 1996. They went their separate ways for graduate art studies and though they have always worked closely each has had an independent career in art. The ILC has had a spectacular exhibition career, having participated in over two hundred shows at home and abroad