Last month, when I was in Iceland, I went to see Magnús Sigurðarson’s Process & Pretense
at the Reykjavik Art Museum (Hafnarhús). The exhibition consisted of several parts: some large scale drawings of mountains made up from huge numbers of rectangles, impressive in the amount of work required and something I found appealing to the engineer in me (I used to do technical drawings). It was the video piece I found really captivating though.
Four large screens, tilted from the viewer, showed four different views of the same action sequence. Filmed in the Hallgrímskirkja church, home to a 25-ton pipe organ, the organ features in the piece, with one video stream being of the organist playing. Another two streams show a body-painted Sigurðarson rotating on a turntable located in the centre of the church, largely static and “harmonising”. The final stream is of a drone, flying around the church, one of Iceland’s tallest buildings.
The statement on the Hafnarhús website states:
Magnús Sigurðarson has made the analysis of the obvious the subject of his art. On this occasion he focuses on a number of fixed points in reality which are found both in nature and in culture. Various creations and works of art have acquired significance in the human quest for the sublime. They bring together apparently contrasting qualities: on the one hand they are spectacular, overwhelming, and affect us by their sheer scale; on the other hand they are modest and symmetrical and appeal to us by their simplicity. Magnús sets out to break these assumptions down into their component atoms, in a quest to find some kind of nucleus – while at the same time asking himself, and us, questions about the internal and external reality of the individual, and his/her attitude to a Higher Power.
Did I get this? Some of it from the symmetry and simplicity of the drawings, yes. From the video? No, I didn’t. The attitude to the “Higher Power” can be taken from the filming location within the church, of course there are religious connotations that can be drawn from that, together with the harmonising (sort of “monk-like” I imagine). And yes, there are different “components” (video streams), but do I get it? No. I don’t. I did really enjoy it though, away from the context of his artist statement it was captivating, and I watched it several times, looking through the different perspectives and video streams. Is the context where the “Pretense” of the title comes in?