Josie Gaitens

Picture by

Margrét Seema Takyar

Daniel Starrason

Polar bear encounters in Iceland are inclined to just take a predictable type: a bear, often weak and emaciated, is spotted by a regional. Worry ensues the law enforcement are referred to as, the media incites a short hysteria. The bear is shot.

This chaotic cycle, doomed to repeat itself just about every few yrs, is partly the topic of ‘Visitations’, an exhibition by Icelandic/British inventive partnership Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson—a show that attained them the prestigious Icelandic Visible Arts Award.

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“I’ve been instructed by lots of men and women not to say it was a shock,” confides Mark Wilson. “I did essentially think we could possibly be shortlisted, but Bryndís didn’t at all.”

“I wasn’t even considering about it,” confirms his husband or wife, Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir. “I really don’t make art to get accolades. But at the identical time, I never deny how fantastic it was to receive it.”

“I didn’t consider the art scene in Iceland had fairly arrived at this point,” she carries on. “I felt so happy that they could award the Art Prize to one thing that goes past this plan of the Intimate artist.”

Picture by Daniel Starrason

“Conflict and paradox”

Mark and Bryndís’s perform is about as considerably eliminated from conventional notions of visible artwork as could be imagined. Shown at the Artwork Museum in Akureyri from September 2021 to January 2022, Visitations was the end result of a 3-12 months multidisciplinary investigate undertaking, funded by Rannís, the Icelandic Exploration Fund. Presented making use of a broad assortment of media—with video clip, pictures, collage, drawings and zoological continues to be generating up just some of the distinct exhibits—the undertaking exemplifies the creative observe of Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson, which they have been producing around the past 20 decades.

“Sometimes persons assume we make do the job about animals, but we don’t—we make perform about odd human behaviour,” clarifies Mark. “We use a particular animal and the interface that humans have with that animal to investigate distinctive pursuits, and usually to expose a absence of consensus conflict and paradox.”

A personalized relationship

Mark and Bryndís have been making operate jointly since 1999, and polar bears—or rather, the weird human behaviours connected with them—have regularly been the concentrate of their creative exploration.

“It started out from a incredibly own perspective,” suggests Bryndís. “It had to do with my name—Snæbjörnsdóttir [‘snow bear’s daughter’, in English]. I lived in Scotland for lots of decades, and I was quite persistent that individuals would be ready to say my surname. I don’t know why, but it became hugely important for me.”

A transformational minute arrived when Bryndís frequented a museum shop home in Scotland, and was confronted by the sight of hundreds of stuffed animals of each and every type. The expertise, she claims, “activated this deep sensation of some form of decline. You know—what have we carried out? What are we accomplishing?”

The unsettling incident delivered surprising momentum and served to crystallise the tactic Bryndís wanted to acquire with her observe. The few quickly finished their to start with job, ‘nanoq: flat out and bluesome’: an artists’ survey of taxidermy polar bears in Scotland.

Creating connections

This very first collaborative do the job verified not only the pair’s enduring interest in polar bear encounters, but also their wish to require companions from outdoors the inventive sphere, an factor of their practice that has remained a steady thread all over their different initiatives. From historians, folklorists and zoologists, to farmers, pet homeowners and hunters, Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson see collaboration as an essential part of their function.

“This matter about ‘the artist, the genius’… I always felt like this was overall nonsense—and I continue to do, in essence,” Bryndís says, waving her arms dismissively. “Art is about bringing persons with each other.”

“It’s about building unlikely connections on each and every degree,” agrees Mark. “We operate a great deal with other disciplines, and we converse a whole lot about the great importance of that.”

Photo by Daniel Starrason

Ill-fated readers

For Visitations, the artists focussed their get the job done close to two polar bear arrivals to Iceland in 2008. The two ‘vagrants’—as non-indigenous visitors are known—both came ashore on the North coast of Iceland, inside of weeks of just about every other. The two were being shot and killed, although there was significant discussion of making an attempt to tranquillise the 2nd 1.

“How do you offer with a stranger, when the stranger constitutes a threat?”

In a macabre twist of destiny, Bryndís had the odd working experience of encountering this certain bear two times: at the time residing, and once again soon after its death. She was capable to accompany the press to see it, working hungry and terrified, throughout the wild expanses of Skagafjördur. The 2nd experience arrived when she and Mark have been conducting investigation at The Icelandic Institute of Normal Historical past. It was right here that they found out that many of the skeletons of bears killed in Iceland are saved for scientific uses.

Image by Daniel Starrason

“On one of our very first visits there, they just lent us the bones of that unique bear.” Bryndís states, just about incredulously, as if she still can’t quite consider such a issue took spot.

“Again, you have these sort of times,” she continues. “You’re driving your vehicle and in the back of the vehicle are the bones of the bear that you observed dwelling. It’s difficult to allow it go it haunts you.”

The notion of the stranger

This complicated concept of a haunting, of a marriage with a species that is mediated by a heady blend of folklore and anxiety, kinds the basis of Visitations. The bones that Bryndís and Mark drove home that day were being also an exhibit in the present not wired with each other and exhibited as in museums, as if they continue to inhabited the ghostly type of an absent animal, but in a stacked heap in a box. An indisputable container of proof of what occurred when a bear achieved a man.

“More abstractly, we’re searching at the strategy of the stranger, and the strategy of hospitality” claims Mark. “How do you offer with a stranger, when the stranger constitutes a menace? Simply because of course, historically, there is only been one particular solution to that dilemma.”

‘Visitations: Polar Bears out of Place’ took area at Akureyri Art Museum from 25.09.2021 – 09.01.2022, and was curated by Æsa Sigurjónsdóttir. Learn far more at

By Indana