These objects of everlasting silence in the infinitely shrinkable world ............
STEP ONTO THE STAGE YOU KNOW THE RULES
by Halla Þórlaug Óskarsdóttir
I once learned a card trick, in which you had to substitute a seven of spades and a two of diamonds for a seve of clubs and a two of hearts. The audience rarely noticed anything. The trick was constant motion and contrived chance – never stop and allow the mark to think. Make sure he thinks it’s all random. But in reality it’s all a neatlyorchestrated performance.
Eva and Eva
One is the primeval woman–said to have been created from the man’s rib. That Eve was headstrong wouldn’t obey simple instructions: not to touch the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And she was punished by being banished into the unknown. The other is an artist who lives in Greece. She went there of her own accord.
On the floor lie oversized white gloves. Those who are familiar with the museum environment will recognise that these are modelled on the gloves used by those who handle works of art. White gloves are clean hands. With white gloves, one handles the work of art. But with gloves on, one touches nothing. Art is untouchable.
White gloves give you a role, responsibility. You take part in a play. It is not enough to wash your hands what matters is that everyone else should be quite sure that you will not dirty the work of art. They have to know it without asking. See it at once. We know what white gloves signify. Clean hands.
White gloves are also the gloves of the mime artiste.
You can’t go peeping in at Gerðarsafn through the window, because it has been bricked up. Or so it seems. Indoors the approach is no better, for when you look towards the east gallery what you see is another brick wall. What is the meaning of this? Can’t one look at the works of art? Are visitors denied access to art?
But fear not, come closer look. The wall is a fake. You have been fooled. This is a stage set, and you can easily slip past the brick wall which is not even made of real bricks. Behind it another world appears. The visitor enters a crime scene.
The visitor is initially excluded from the art; but when he/she has seen through the deception and entered the stage, he/she is warmly welcomed as a participant.
Art is not longer untouchable, but all embracing.
Scene of deed and crime
Behind the fake brick wall is the scene of a fake crime. You are the investigating detective, with white gloves. Let’s see. A deed has taken place here. Behind closed doors a work was swept about the gallery. Gerður Helgadóttir’s Síhreyfing (Perpetual Motion) was swung about to find a place for it, until it stuck.
Here is a puzzle, and you are an investigating artshow visitor. Art is an investigation, constant investigation.
Perpetual Motion is a thing of stone in perpetual motion.
The clue is in the stone!
Gerður’s original Perpetual Motion is made of stone. It is heavy, and not made to be swung about all the time. It can’t be done.
The deed is an illusion. The work that was swung about the gallery was not Gerður Helgadóttir’s Perpetual Motion. It was a replica by Eva Ísleifsdóttir. The sculpture is remade, repeated. The copy is, however, lighter since it is cut out of expanded polystyrene, then coated in concrete.
But all is still not well. Familiar looking posts stand on the floor. On closer scrutiny we see that they are bent barriers. We are familiar with them from airports, banks and controlling queues outside nightclubs. We are accustomed to obeying these undefined pointers that direct us into queues. But what do bent barriers mean? Can we go through? Or have they been bent by someone disobedient?
Who rules? Who is in charge?
Every society has its own rules, written and unwritten, which have evolved over time. In every space are undefined routes, that are marked out by its infrastructure, like signposts along the way.
The concept of the desire line is more or less self-explanatory. It refers to the paths chosen informally by people on foot, in preference to a crossing or marked path for instance a route that has been trodden down across a lawn, or trodden paths in the snow. In Iceland such informal paths are known as kindagötur or “sheep paths.”
So much in our society has the objective of pointing us in some direction. Shopping centres, food stores, advertisements, fashion magazines, posts, barriers, signposts, cairns.
The art gallery has its rules too. Respect for the collections and the show is mandatory. Do not touch, do not taste. Do no damage! This is a sacred place, Eve. This is Eden. So long as you follow the rules, nothing bad can happen.
On the floor lie white gloves–the gloves of a member of gallery staff. With the gloves he strokes the works of art in front of everyone, touches them, fondles them, feels them. It is all right, since he is wearing gloves. Behind the gallery staff member walks a silent shadow, in a striped jumper and white gloves, imitating him. Pretends to touch, pretends to stroke, pretends to be surprised and pretends to enjoy.
Put a question mark to the rules, society, purpose, routes. Put a question mark to art–art does so too. Shove in a question mark, wherever you are. Maybe someone is controlling you. Maybe you’re imagining it.
Before the trick begins the seven of spades and the seven of clubs are placed at the top of the pack. The two of diamonds and the two of hearts are placed at the bottom. Invite the observer to take the top card, which is the seven of clubs, and the bottom card, which is the two of hearts, and to look at them. But don’t let him see them for too long. Do your best to distract him. Talk about something else, and pretend to be shuffling the pack as you do so – while always keeping the top and bottom cards where they are. Now ask the observer to place the cards anywhere in the pack. Anywhere. But make sure he doesn’t place them at the top or the bottom. Now recite a magic incantation, tap the pack, and cross your eyes. Babble in tongues and walk backwards like a spider. You have magical powers. Act like it.
Turn the pack forwards and hold it tight in your left hand. Place your right thumb on top and your index finger underneath. Now it happen: in one movement you take the top and bottom cards and fling them down on the table. The observer is thunderstruck. On the table are the seven of spades and the two of diamonds. The same two cards he drew originally.
Sculpture Sculpture two part solo show with the artist Sindri Leifsson.
Museum of Gerður Helgadóttir.
Photos are from the museum.