Two trolls are Iceland's contribution to the Venice Biennale

Out of Control - the installation by Egill Sæbjörnsson.

Out of Control - the installation by Egill Sæbjörnsson. Photo/Ivo Corda published with the artists permission and galleri i8

Tomorrow the prestigious Venice Biennale will commence. Iceland's representative this year is visual and performance artist Egill Sæbjörnsson. 

Egill Sæbjörnsson is a visual artist, performer, musician, and composer living and working in Berlin and Reykjavik. His work blurs the boundaries between the real and the illusory through exploring the “magic” of technology, playing with projected video and sound in surprising combinations that demand complex considerations from the audience. But while his work is experiential and prompts dense ontological questions, it frames them in a ways that render such themes accessible.

 At the last Venice Biennale, artist Christoph Büchel represented Iceland with his work, Mosque, but due to great controversy it was closed down by Italian authorities only a few days after it opened. 

Artist and musician Egill Sæbjörnsson.

Artist and musician Egill Sæbjörnsson. Mbl.is/ Valdís Þórðardóttir

Sæbjörnsson's work this year is titled Out of Control and refers to two "trolls", Ûgh og Bõögâr, said to have taken over the Iceland pavilion. 

Photo/Ivo Cordo published with the artists permission and galleri i8

Speaking to Morgunblaðið yesterday, Sæbjörnsson says he's experienced a lot of positive interested. "I'm just breathing deeply and trying to be calm while this wave of attention hits me. But the pavilion is almost ready." 

The Iceland Pavilion is a former factory and storage space. "It's perfect for us, and the ceiling is high enough for Ûgh and Bõögâr to enter." Explaining these two characters he says, "My imaginary friends have been a part of my world since 2008. But it was only in 2013 that we started making art together, mostly because of a Chilean friend of mine who lived in my studio for 6 months. Then they started to materialise a little and we started making stuff connected to the trolls."

Photo/Ivo Corda published with the artists permission and galleri i8

The trolls are making their own range of jewellery, and even a perfume called Out of Control and is part of the exhibition. Foreign press seem to be expecting another revolution against the art world, just as the Mosque was, looking at some of the writing that has appeared. Sæbjörnsson, however, denies this. "No, the trolls are just who they are and they broke their way into this project."

Inside the pavilion there will also be a coffeeshop. "I like coffee, so yes. And sparkling water. It lifts you up and puts you in a good mood. So it got to be in the concept, along with the trolls. You can enjoy coffee and soda water while you look at art."

Sæbjörnsson seeks inspiration from art, pop culture and children's culture. "I really connect with children's culture, it's so pure."  He's also a well known musician in Iceland so music will play a little part in the exhibition, music which  will later be published and distributed by Mengi in Iceland. 

But do the trolls make music? "No, they just play a few really old troll instruments. They have a huge stick which they make thudding noises with, and they made some sort of trumpet. And their friend from China, a really old troll, brought them some sort of bone instrument which he played on a couple of songs."

Visual and performance artist Egill Sæbjörnsson has been chosen to represent Iceland at next year’s prestigious Venice Biennale, the Icelandic Art Center, commissioning body of the Icelandic Pavilion, has announced.

Egill Sæbjörnsson is a visual artist, performer, musician, and composer living and working in Berlin and Reykjavik. His work blurs the boundaries between the real and the illusory through exploring the “magic” of technology, playing with projected video and sound in surprising combinations that demand complex considerations from the audience. But while his work is experiential and prompts dense ontological questions, it frames them in a ways that render such themes accessible.

Egill was nominated for the Carnegie Art Awards in 2010 and his works can be found in several private collections and museums around the world. Recent public works include Steinkugel, a permanent public art work for the Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, and Cascade, an extended light installation for the Kunstmuseum Ahlen.

The Icelandic Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale is overseen by Stefanie Böttcher. The art historian and curator, who has been the Artistic Director of the Kunsthalle Mainz since June 2015, has said of Sæbjörnsson’s selection, “I am convinced that the visitors will be totally captivated by experiencing Egill Sæbjörnsson’s work. Once they are in, they will become part of it.”

Photo/Ivo Cordo published with the artists permission and galleri i8

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