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Art and Nature


Welcome to the conference Art and Nature on 31st May 2024. The conference explores the relationship between art and nature within art education.

The conference is held in collaboration with Louisiana (DK), Moderna Museet (SE), Beyeler Foundation (CH) and Stiftung Kunst und Natur (DE) and provides valuable insight into the educational program of these leading art museums. The conference offers a glimpse into the work of artists, designers and theorists whose work investigates the boarder between art and nature.

The conference is held at Salurinn Concert Hall, Hamraborg 6, Kópavogur.
Participation is free of charge. The conference is held in English.

Registration is on Tix:

Conference program

8:30 – Conference opens

9:00 – Welcome
Cecilie Gaihede and Brynja Sveinsdóttir, on behalf of Gerðarsafn

9:15 – Keynote: On the Intra-actions of Nature, Art, Science and Philosophy
Dr. Ole Martin Sandberg, PhD philosophy, specialist at The Icelandic Museum of Natural History

Science, art and humanities are separated into different academic categories with distinct methodologies, subject matters and aims. In this talk, philosopher Ole Martin Sandberg argues that they have more in common with each other and that they can benefit from more explicit collaboration and communication. Artistic creativity is more than a tool to communicate scientific findings – it can also expand the imagination of the scientist and generate new ideas that lead to new approaches. Likewise, philosophy and humanities can put scientific discoveries into context but also aid the scientific process by generating concepts that lead to new thoughts and connections. And reversely, scientific discoveries inspire new movements in art and philosophy as they lead to new ideas about nature and human nature. Drawing on the transdisciplinary work of researching and communicating the nature and value of biodiversity at the Icelandic Museum of Natural History, Sandberg argues that art, philosophy and science can, and must, work together in a mutual relationship, to enable us to both understand and appreciate nature as well as think through our own role in nature.

The talk will give examples of epistemological similarities between the artistic and the scientific process which both involve the skill of seeing and sensing. This is a skill that requires practice and an ability to let go of preconceived mental categories in order to get closer to the perception of nature itself – not as a collection of static, mechanical objects, but as a dynamic process which we are part of. The talk will focus on Conrad H Waddington (1905-1975) who was not only a pioneering biologist who coined the terms epigenetics and canalization but also a philosopher who wrote about the implications of Whitehead’s metaphysics to biology and an art theorist who studied the relations between modernist painting and contemporary discoveries in natural science. His collaboration with artists on the iconic illustration of the “epigenetic landscape” is an example of the intra-action of art, philosophical ideas and scientific enquiry. Other more recent discoveries in biology, such as Lynn Margulis’ work on endosymbiosis, have affected art and philosophy as new scientific findings challenge our very ideas about life and what it means to be human.

10:30 – Nature through the lens of Art: workshop
Þorgerður Þórhallsdóttir, education at Gerðarsafn og Hulda Margrét Birkisdóttir, education at The Natural History Museum of Kopavogur

Presenting the collective project between Gerðarsafn and the Natural History Museum of Kópavogur looking into how using nature through art and education children are given the opportunity to discover and study nature on their own terms – they are the scientists and artists. Inspired by a real scientist teaching the children the magic of nature followed by an art-based workshop where they work with paint from with soil, sand, and other natural materials. The children create a joint artwork with the support of an art teacher who leads the workshop. After the presentation conference guests are invited to experience the workshop Painting with soil.

11:15 – Education on the Meeting Point of Art and Nature at Moderna Museet
Philippa Couch, Group Manager of Learning at Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Philippa Couch will present the emphasis on education within Moderna Museet in Sweden and elaborate on educational projects they have been working on and developing lately.

11:45 – Unstable Ground
Þorgerður Ólafsdóttir and Gunndís Ýr Finnbogadóttir, artists

Artists Þorgerður Ólafsdóttir and Gunndís Ýr Finnbogadóttir will present their collaborative project  Unstable Ground. Together, they have conducted several micro-phenomenological interviews with visitors to the protected island of Surtsey, located off the southern coast of Iceland, between 1966 to 2021. The participants have shared moments during their stay on the island that they remember well and consider important to them. Participants were also asked to draw the island and their movement through the landscape. Using the act of drawing to navigate the island again and sensing moments again in their bodies, now far away from Surtsey. Gunndís and Þorgerður will exhibit their work as a multi-screen installation for the Gerðarsafn Art Museum in October 2024.

Gunndís Ýr is an assistant professor at the Iceland University of the Arts, Department of Arts Education.

Þorgerður Ólafsdóttir is an artist with MA in Fine Arts from the Glasgow School of Art (2013). In her practice she considers various things that are connected to our understanding of and relation to the natural world as it meets, overlaps, and is interpreted within human environments. She is a part of the research project Relics of Nature and recently published the book Island Fiction in relation to her ongoing project about Surtsey island.

12:15 – Lunch break

13:00 – Keynote: Political Ecology in the Works of Women Artists in Iceland
Heiðar Kári Rannversson, art historian and curator

In the lecture, H.K.Rannversson will discuss the manifestations of political ecology in the works of women artists in Iceland from 1970 to the present day and will consider whether women, rather than men, can be considered pioneers when it comes to visual art that deals critically about nature. At the same time, the talk will look at how art can strengthen environmental awareness and help us face the causes, deal with the consequences, and explore the changing realm of “man” in the Anthropocene. Or, in the words of Donna J. Haraway: Staying with the trouble.

H.K. Rannversson (b. 1982) is a writer and independent curator based in Reykjavik. He was Curator and Head of Exhibitions at North Atlantic House in Copenhagen from 2018-2022, and Head of Public Programs at the Reykjavik Art Museum from 2013-16.

14:15 – Art and Nature in the works of Rúrí and performance of Vocal Minor
Rúrí, artist

Rúrí (b. 1956) is an multidisciplinary Icelandic visual artist working with installations, performances, objects, photography, video works, multimedia to name a few. Through her career she has focused on critically examining man’s relation to society and nature.  Rúri will present monumental works of art of hers from the past 50 years where nature has been a key component.

14:45 – ÞYKJÓ
Sigríður Sunna Reynisdóttir, artistic director of the design team ÞYKJÓ

Sigríður Sunna Reynisdóttir will present the concept behind ÞYKJÓ- an interdisciplinary design project for children and their families in the fields of experiential design, furnitecture and textiles. Þykjó (pronounced thickyo) is the Icelandic noun for make-believe which their design projects through conversations and collaboration between the designers with biologists, art historians, artists and others aim to stimulate the imagination and creativity of children during free play.

15:15 – The Importance of Nature: education at Foundation Beyeler and Stiftung Kunst und Natur
Janine Schmutz, Head of Education at Foundation Beyeler and Kristine Preuß, Head of Art Education at Stiftung Kunst und Natur

15:45 – Education on Art and Nature at Louisiana
Elisabeth Bodin, Head of Louisiana Learning

The department of education at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art will present their focus on art education in relation to nature and conduct a workshop.

16:30 – Conclusion and refreshments at Gerðarsafn

The conference is held with support from The Icelandic Museum Fund and Nordisk Kulturfond.

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