Real Life

Image: still form Cecilia Nygren, My Dreams Are Still About Flying, 2012. Video
Image: still from Cecilia Nygren, My Dreams Are Still About Flying, 2012. Video

April 11 June 21, 2015
Curated by Gavin Morrison

…as though literature, theater, deceit, infidelity, hypocrisy, infelicity, parasitism, and the simulation of real life were not part of real life!*

This exhibition is about the lives of real people, albeit people that are somewhat extraordinary: an Icelandic artist, a Swiss ski jumper, a Swedish polar explorer and a Norwegian philosopher. The work that the artists and filmmakers have made about these individuals may be biographical but they are not however conventional biographies. They tell the stories of these people from particular, and sometimes peculiar perspectives. Uncertainties often occur, at times through intentional fictionalization but also through the process of an individual becoming a subject. The fallibility of memory, the absence of facts, the reinterpretation of facts, and even the telling of a personal history makes evident that there are always other perspectives available. This accumulation of fractures and fallibility contributes to the creation of an open imaginative terrain; something between mythology and documentary.

The artists in the exhibition pry at the space between the subject and their attendant depictionsthe tangle of the subjective of the subject. The works have an added dimension in that the featured individuals have some level of existing public presence but are seen in these works in ways that are often divergent from that which would be expected. These divergences arise either through fictional extension or an attention, on the part of the artist, to little known details. While this may add to a sense of biographical instability, it also provides an opportunity to rethink what is known of them. The exhibition does not seek to document comprehensive biographies, but is rather more concerned with the intangible aspects of biographical narratives and, in particular, how these can unsettle perceptions that will reflect back upon the activity of trying to understand any another person and their actions.

Cecilia Nygren‘s 2012 video, My Dreams Are Still About Flying. Concerns Walter Steiner, the protagonist of Werner Herzog’s The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner (1974), a documentary about Steiner’s hobby of woodcarving while being the world’s pre-eminent ski jumper. Nygren’s film finds Steiner in northern Sweden where he works as a custodian in a church, and he relates his memories of his time as a ski jumper, the work exists, in a sense, as a codicil to Herzog’s. It is a recollection of a life seen in retrospect from a distanced point of view, and is reflective of the nature of the biographical documentary.

Lucia Simek has been creating a body of work, realised in various forms, concerning the ill-fated expedition by Salomon August Andre (1854-97) to fly by balloon to the North Pole. He and his team survived the initial crashing of the balloon onto the ice. However, they didn’t make it back to their take-off site on Svalbard but perished on another uninhabited island in the archipelago. Simek’s work relates to the mis-ascribing of Andre and this expedition, and the necessarily fragmented details of the disaster which create a porous narrative.

Arild Tveito‘s interest in the Norwegian philosopher, Peter Zapffe (1899-1990) an instrumental figure within a Norwegian pessimistic philosophic tradition and also a prolific mountaineer – concerns the intersection of Zapffe’s philosophical activities and his other creative activities of photography and drawing. Tveito has been working with the Zapffe archive at the National Library of Norway.

Ragnheiður Gestsdttir & Markús Þór Andrésson film Time and Time Again (2014) is a fictional work based upon the real artist, Hreinn Friðfinnsson. With surrealist and science fiction inflections, the film creates a story around twins, separated in infancy, where one is raised in the mountains of Iceland and the other by the sea in Holland. The film wraps fiction around truth – and vice versa and contemplates an instability of time and place, and their repercussions upon identity.

Hreinn Friðfinnsson work is generally in the idiom of conceptualism, and often is made from found objects with only slight modification. The work is infused with biography, that is not always his own, and a concern for the role which time plays within the construction and fragmentation of it. The work tells stories and uses stories to tell other stories.

Real Life is a part of the Sequences Real-Time Art festival off-venue program and is on display until June 21, 2015. The center is open daily and admission free.

Artists’ Biographical Details

Hreinn Friðfinnsson (b. 1943, IS) lives in Amsterdam. He was a founder of the Icelandic avant-garde group SM in 1965. He has exhibited widely and had solo exhibitions at the National Gallery of Iceland, 1993; 45th Venice Biennale, 1993; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Amsterdam, 1992; Serpentine Gallery, London, 2007; Malm Kunstahall, Sweden 2008; and at the The Living Art Museum, Reykjavik, Iceland (in conjunction with Ragnheiur Gestsdttir & Marks r Andrsson film) 2014.

Ragnheiður Gestsdóttir (b. 1975, IS) and Markús Þór Andrésson (b. 1975, IS) have collaborated on a variety of projects, under the name LoFi Productions since 2003. Their work together includes the films: As if We Existed, 2010 and Steypa, 2007, and has been shown at places such as: Gteborgs Konsthall, Sweden; The Living Art Museum, Iceland; The Reykjavik Art Museum, Iceland; Miami Museum of Contemporary Art, USA; and The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, USA, as well as various international film festivals. Ragnheiur Gestsdttir obtained her MFA from Bard College (2012) and an MA in visual anthropology from Goldsmiths College (2001) and is both a filmmaker and visual artist. Recent exhibitions include a solo exhibition at Kunstschlager Reykjavk, Iceland, and a group exhibition in Franklyn Street Works Connecticut, USA; Family Business New York, USA; and the Reykjavk Art Museum, Iceland; as well as Sequences VI in 2013. Marks r Andrsson holds a degree from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, 2007 and undertook undergraduate studies in studio arts at the Iceland Academy of The Arts. He curated Sequences Real-Time Art Festival and currently curating a new exhibition in the Museum House at Hverfisgata, Reykjavk, Iceland.

Cecilia Nygren (b. 1980, SWE) lives in Stockholm, Sweden where she attended Royal Institute of Art, and was awarded a MFA in 2012. Nygren also spent time at The Banff Centre, Visual Arts Studio Work Study Program 2009-10. Recent exhibitions include: a solo show at Salzburger Kunstverein, Austria 2013; and group exhibitions and screenings: Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden; Art Space, Helsinki, Finland; Ottawa Art Gallery, Canada; and 1-20 Gallery, New York, USA.

Lucia Simek (b. 1981, USA) is an artist, curator, and writer. She obtained her MFA in sculpture from Texas Christian University, USA in 2014. She recently had a two person exhibition (with Kristen Cochran) at the Dallas Contemporary, USA and has also shown at Field Projects, NYC, USA; Dallas Museum of Art, USA; Fort Worth Contemporary Arts, USA; 500x, Dallas, USA; Simek is also a founder of the Dallas collective, The Art Foundation.

Arild Tveito (b. 1976, NO) studied in Oslo, Kokkola, Vienna and Munich. He is a founding member of the artists group, Institutt for degenerert kunst. Recent exhibitions and projects include: CCA, Glasgow, UK; Reykjavik Arts Festival, Iceland; Northern Norwegian Art Centre, Svolvr; the Institute of Social Hypocrisy, Paris, France; Kunsthall Oslo, Norway; Galleri annen etage, Oslo, Norway; Secession, Wien, Austria; and WIELS project space, Brussels, Belgium.


The exhibition is supported by the Seydisfjordur Municipality, the East Iceland Regional Development program, the Office for Contemporary Art Norway and Arts Council Norway.

* Jacques Derrida, Limited Inc (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988) p. 90.