Harpa turns into a giant canvas

Harpa's facade is designed by artist Ólafur Elíasson. Next week, …

Harpa's facade is designed by artist Ólafur Elíasson. Next week, a new artwork will be premiered using the facade as a canvas. Photo: Courtesy of Harpa concert hall and conference centre

In November, Harpa, Studio Ólafur Elíasson and The City of Reykjavík called for proposals for an artwork utilizing the façade of Harpa Music Hall. The project aims to provide a platform for local and international artists to interact with Harpa in new and exciting ways through the means of digital and interactive arts. One artwork has been chosen and will be presented during the Reykjavík Winter Lights Festival, February 4-7, 2016.

The authors are Halldór Eldjárn and Þórður Hans Baldursson with the artwork Paint Splatter. "We intend to convert the Harpa façade into a giant interactive canvas. Participants will be able to illustrate the canvas by colliding it with virtual paint. Illustration takes place by opening a website on your phone, choosing the colors and where you want to splash paint on the façade. The effects will be seen immediately and the virtual paint obeys the same laws of nature as other viscous liquids as it begins to run downwards slowly. This will give a colorful spectacle and will be a gateway for those who want to explore the artistry of the façade."

The winners receive an award fee of 200,000 ISK and the implementation of the work has begun in cooperation with Harpa employees and the multimedia programmer Owen Hindley. In jury were artist Ólafur Elíasson, artist, producer and DJ Atli Bollason and Svanhildur Konráðsdóttir, director of the culture and tourism department at the City of Reykjavik. 

Atli had this to say about the winning proposal: "It was very interesting how the winning proposal interpreted the façade as a literal canvas that participants might paint to their liking. We also admired how it encourages collective creation. Participants can gather to paint on the façade and the piece can modulate depending on the weather. We are sure that the work will give an interesting twist to the Winter Festival."

About the winners

Halldór and Þórður have great ambition for creating interactive art. They work at their newly established company, Stafli, which among other things has worked interactive web projects along with other traditional websites. Halldór Eldjárn is a musician and computer specialist. He has released two albums with his band Sugar and has worked with a number of musicians over the years. Worth mentioning in this context, a interactive string quartet he worked in collaboration with composer Úlfur Eldjárn composer and graphic designer Sigurður Oddsson. Þórður Hans is a developer who has been making various interactive art as well as previously working for an Icelandic innovation company for some time. In their cooperation, they work to combine software, design and music to create an interesting and enjoyable experience.

The back story

On culture night 2014, Atli Bollason and Owen Hindley exhibited the interactive art piece PONG on the Harpa façade. The piece allowed the people of Reykjavík to connect their smartphones to a router installed on the hill overlooking the building. Once two phones had connected the users’ browsers were redirected to a website that read data from the phones’ accelerometer. The phones could then be used as joysticks in a two-player game of Pong rendered in real time on the façade using each of the LED tubes as pixels on a screen.

This was the first time the façade was set to other uses than playing videos. Six months later the game was restaged for Sónar Reykjavík but with the addition of visualisers that translated the main stage audio into lights between games.

Winter Festival will be set with the premiere of the artwork Paint Splatter, Thursday 4 February at 7:30 pm at Harpa.




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