• Bókfell


  • 18.5.2018 - 31.12.2018, Listasafn Íslands

In February 2014 Steina spent about a month in Iceland working on a concept for an electronic piece in collaboration with the National Gallery of Iceland and the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies. She was given access to Old Icelandic manuscripts in the Institute’s collection, and thus an entirely new side of her work is seen: the sagas, priceless treasures of Iceland’s cultural heritage, are presented in an innovative setting in the form of an electronic work of art. Steina selected a number of manuscripts for her work, and inventively spliced them together so that they flow onwards, twisting and turning and swelling like seaweed caught up in an ocean current. For the first time, literary art and ink-drawing become a theme for Steina, as blood-red capital letters and moth-eaten illuminations float by on a slow, constantly-flowing stream. 

Pergament marks an important departure in Steina’s art, as hitherto she has focussed on Icelandic nature and the nature of society – for instance in the Japanese works which went to form Tokyo Four (1991), in which she analysed the culture in the Land of the Rising Sun in a quite an importunate manner, accompanied by a rhythm reminiscent of the movements of a piece of chamber music. It has often been said of Steina’s work that music is never far away; but in Pergament she departs from that rule, and music gives way to the graphic impact of the manuscripts. There is, however, much in the flow of manuscript images that is reminiscent of music – recalling musical notation or, perhaps even more strongly, the tapered dynamic signs for crescendo and diminuendo leading left to right across the page.
It is as if an epic tale is being told, with its ups and downs – like the history of a nation in book form, that spans both thrilling peaks and uneventful interludes. The texture of the manuscripts and their writing resembles skin which has been wounded or scorched, rent with innumerable bleeding wounds. Steina succeeds in bringing out what lies beneath – strange and incomprehensible destinies, where the bad guy is often the winner. Like the matter-of-fact voice in which the Icelandic sagas are recounted, Pergament sheds light on the tragedies behind this great literature. There is no shouting or screaming, no weeping or wailing: the story is told in an even, steady tone. 

Thanks to Rob Shaw and Frederic Curien.
Duration of work: 12.31 minutes.