Frontiers of Another Nature: Contemporary Photographic Art from Iceland at Frankfurt's Kunstverein

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Frontiers of Another Nature: Contemporary Photographic Art from Iceland at Frankfurt's Kunstverein
Pétur Thomsen, From the series "Imported Landscapes", 2003-2009. Giclée print, mounted on dibond, 112 x 140 cm. © Pétur Thomsen.

FRANKFURT.- “Frontiers of Another Nature” is a unique selection of Icelandic photographic and multimedia artists who address landscape and man-made environments in their work. The exhibition explores how the photographic arts are an essential means for examining the undeniably complex relationship of Icelanders to their natural environment. “Frontiers of Another Nature” introduces ambiguous environments in which the photographers investigate and build visual narratives around the expanse of land, or the loss of it. Here, the landscape often acts as metaphor for desire, alienation, magnificence and awe, tradition, irony or rebellion.

Some of the artists specifically work within the expansive borders of city life in regard to the extreme economic changes the country has seen in the last 10 years. The youngest artist, Ingvar Högni Ragnarsson (born 1981), for example, has photographed a fence built around a construction site in Reykjavik over a year’s time as if it were a wall dividing social, technological or even political worlds.

Irony and yearning are imbued in Hrafnkell Sigurðsson’s (born 1963) series of different snow mounds created from shoveled remains of snow in parking lots or street sides. A child might love to climb these urban landscapes but the more experienced passerby yearns for summer or a real mountain escape.

The photographer Bára Kristinsdóttir (born 1960) leads us to the remnants of what is a surreal world for non-Icelanders and a very essential phenomenon for Icelanders: the geothermal greenhouses.

Haraldur Jónsson’s (born 1961) ongoing series TSOYL (The Story of Your Life) is a constellation of man-made treasures in suburban landscapes or the discoveries made during uneventful journeys. In his photographs, he embraces the uncertainty of nature and casts doubt on the idyllic.

Vagueness plays a key role in the work of Katrin Elvarsdóttir’s (born 1964) images “Nowhere Land”. The uprooted decomposing trees are evidence of the extreme internal forces shaping the land but have been photographed in a mysterious atmosphere.

Between 2003 and 2009, Pétur Thomsen (born 1973) made his work “Imported Landscape” about the Kárahnjúkar Hydroelectric Project in eastern Iceland, which through its construction created an artificial lake that has spoiled the largest body of wild nature in Europe. The large color photographs are seductive with their patterns, the unexpected scale of objects and with textures that reveal the monumental and aggressive engineering involved in building the new power plant.

In “Mother Earth” the artist trio Icelandic Love Corporation (Sigrún Hrólfsdóttir, born 1973; Jóní Jónsdóttir, born 1972; and Eirún Sigurðardóttir, born 1971) created an outdoor sculpture in the form of a triangular “play” button. Over time and due to the natural circumstances, the sculpture changed appearance, which is documented from above with an automatic camera. This combination of Land Art and photography act as a signal of the creative and destructive powers of Nature and appears as a warning not only to earthlings but possibly even extraterrestrials.

The works of Einar Falur Ingólfsson (born 1966) are a selection of his landscape photographs, which he began in 2007 as a dialogue with artworks, made by the English painter William Gershom Collingwood, who travelled extensively through Iceland in 1897, painting locations which are depicted in well-known Icelandic sagas. Long inspired by the sagas for past projects, Einar Falur Ingólfsson has symbolically created a 21st-century visual guide to the sagas, painstakingly researched and photographed with a 4 x 5 inch view camera.

The photo artist and filmmaker Spessi (born 1956) contemplates specific places and documents them voraciously. He draws not only on aspects of environmental and landscape photography but analyzes places as a portrait of modern lifestyle. He seeks out how human nature changes the nature, uses it and defines environments.

Participating artists: Bára Kristinsdóttir, Einar Falur Ingólfsson, Haraldur Jónsson, Hrafnkell Sigurðsson, Icelandic Love Corporation, Ingvar Högni Ragnarsson, Katrin Elvarsdóttir, Pétur Thomsen, and Spessi.

Curators: Celina Lunsford, Artistic Director, Fotografie Forum Frankfurt and Dr. Christiane Stahl, Director, Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung, in collaboration with Inga Lára Baldvinsdóttir, Curator of Photography, National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavík, and María Karen Sigurðardóttir, Director, Museum of Photography, Reykjavík.

A bilingual catalogue accompanies the exhibition, edited by Celina Lunsford, Dr. Christiane Stahl, and Kristján B. Jónasson and with a text by Dr. Christiane Stahl. Published by Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg, August 2011. Price during exhibition: 30 € (for Members: 20 €), later: Euro 36.

The exhibition is a production of the Fotografie Forum Frankfurt in cooperation with the Frankfurter Kunstverein. It has been made possible with the support of the Kulturamt Frankfurt am Main and is part of the arts and culture program “Fabulous Iceland—Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2011”.

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