Rethink - contemporary art and climate change

Interview published in the exhibition catalogue 2009.

By Karin Englund

-What is the Icelandic Love Corporation?

The Icelandic Love Corporation is a group of three artists. Eirún Sigurðardóttir, Jóní Jónsdóttir and Sigrún Hrólfsdóttir. We have worked together since 1996 creating performances, installations, videos, photographs and other nice things. We believe in the power of collaboration.

-You all graduated from the Icelandic College of Arts and Crafts in 1996. Why did you form

the ILC back then, and are the motives for working as a group still the same?

We formed the group because we saw the potential of collaboration all around and in ourselves. Back then we did not foresee that we would still be working together thirteen years later, but the motives are still the same. Even though we ourselves have hopefully grown and changed in many ways.

-When did you realize you wanted to become artists? Was it always a dream?

We have talked about this among us and all of us realized this around the age of 6 or 7.  More like destiny than a dream.

-Could you tell us a little about your work process? What does a typical path from idea to

finished work look like? If it even starts with an idea…

Some ideas seem to jump out like a lightbulb above all of our heads. Some ideas and projects need a lot of time and nurturing.  Some ideas linger around and appear again and again in many different ways. Some are fun for a while and then just vanish. It is never the same. 

-What is the difference between working collectively and as solo artists?

There is a big difference. Working together demands a lot of talking and explaining. Negotiations and compromises.  It can also make ideas grow fast and we feel that it is in someways addicting. 

We have also practiced trust and "gut feeling" kind of work, to try to eliminate too much discussion and allow the sub-conscious to take over.  This is maybe easier when you are working as a solo artist.

-What are your influences and inspirations?

Us ourselves and life around us.  It is very hard to pin point.  Our latest performance piece took place at a lighthouse, where we collaborated with a marching band.  The influences and inspirations were political and historical, we drew inspiration from sailors, navigation, fashion, fascism, trash, birds, and emotions to name just a few of the ingredients. 

-Are there any particular things that disrupt your creativity and work process?

We don't like to force things and we don't like workaholism.  It happens very seldom, but when we witness arguments, negativity and disrespect, we get a little puzzled. 

-Nature often seems to play an important role in your works. For example, in the video

“Where do we go from here” from 2001, that takes place in the spectacular Icelandic

landscape, a poem is being sung, in which the line “never reason with nature” stands out.

What does this mean to you?

It means that it is dangerous to think that humans are above nature and are able to control it.  Humans can collaborate with nature as they are a part of the system but they cannot take over.

-What do you think happens with our perception of, and relationship with, nature in the wake

of the growing awareness of environmental problems and climate change? How do these

qeustions affect your work?

Like you say it will result in growing awereness.  Which then hopefully results in more respect for nature and less exploitation by faceless corporations.  In our piece Dynasty (2007) we addressed the climate change.  Rich housewives escape to the mountains to enjoy one of the last places on earth, cold and barren. They go back to basics in their own way.  In our work we sometimes like to see things in such a way that it inspires people to think of themselves within the bigger picture. Maybe we like to look at serious matters in a comical way.  In case of environmental problems it is maybe hard to see how these growing problems hit each and everyone personally... tomorrow.  It is also hard to look at these doomsday, propagandaish films and websites and not feel helpless.  But still it seems obvious that everybody must ask themselves what they can do and how they can contribute and change themselves.

-Do you think the awareness of global climate change affects the Icelandic people in a

particular way, compared to other parts of the world?

People here perhaps live in closer proximity to nature and its forces, than most other citizens of the western world.  I guess that there is certain respect for these forces in our psyche and that we will be able to adopt somehow. But it is also leaving people baffled and many are choosing to avoid the truth. Thinking that this is just something that will blow over somehow....

-What’s the art world like in Iceland? How is it affected by the recent economic crisis?

The art world in Iceland is used to doing things without much money. People help each other and do things because they feel creative, not because they can sell their product. The last ten years were abnormal.  Now it's back to normal again.  The country is facing major cuts in its economy and culture is a luxury that maybe goes first. 

But this economic crisis has also damaged our self image.  The work of a few people have left the rest of us with insane debt, anger and a feeling of being abused.  Already artworks are being made from this frustration or as an attempt to come to terms with this.  It can be said that it was  Icelandic artists who put Iceland on the map in recent years and these business men used this image in a distorted way to enhance their profit and have now made us all look like greedy, arrogant, pompous fools.  This is a confusing situation, but hopefully we will get back on our feet soon and learn from the mistakes.

-Do you think that art can make a difference in the world? And, is it problematic, or just

positive way to look at art, to assume that it might?

Yes absolutely.  It is more positive than problematic.  How people react is usually more

problematic than the artwork itself.

-In general, how do you see the artist’s role in society?

They should infiltrate on every level.