25.10.2018 - 06.01.2019

Cycle festival 2018 spreads across several venues in Iceland and abroad. The focus of the festival´s theme ‘Inclusive Nation’ is an enquiry into the contradiction of national identity as a liberating strategy for oppressed peoples on the one hand, and its tendency to perpetuate the oppressive ideologies of colonialism on the other. Can the latter be avoided? Can patriotism exist without a superiority complex? Can one balance the scale of tolerance and power, or is inclusion dependent on exclusivity? What is a nation without exclusion? Inclusive nation?

As part of this process, the exhibition ‘Exclusively Inclusive’ opens up toward a discussion on inclusiveness in Western society at large. Invited participants address questions of national identity, language, migration, freedom and displacement – from both contemporary and historical perspectives. The exhibition also stretches traditional boundaries between contemporary art, music, popular culture and poetry with contributions by visual artists, designers, musicians and poets. This results in a polyphonic display of several rhythms and languages that reach beyond the walls of the institution and the framework of the exhibition period. With the inaugural festival's intensive deep dive into notions of inclusive nationhood still ringing in our ears, the structure of the exhibition in Gerdarsafn is not organised in a traditional arrangement of chapters or interconnected environments. Rather it constitutes an intimate reverberation of sensorial associations and sentiments.

Iceland's 1849 protests against colonial control were inspired by uprisings in the Danish West-Indies the year before. As a consequence 2018 now marks the official centenary of Iceland’s sovereign status after Danish colonial rule. Identity processes rely on mutual confirmation, when this is called into question the balance can tip. Every centre needs to define a periphery in order to define itself. This can have conditional effects and outline perceived possibilities, affect how politics and economical relations play out and decide the types of fears or control mechanisms implemented in a society. To paraphrase the prolific Icelander writer Halldór Laxness, “believing is seeing… and men see what they believe”. Iceland has indeed played a role as the ‘other place’: a phantasm of both historical and contemporary ‘Norientalism’ with it´s explosive natural power and ‘a genuine language’. 

This historical colonial association with the natural state has in numerous contexts led to Icelanders being perceived as more original, authentic, creative, unspoiled or even uncivilised, crude and barbaric. The reactions to that perception vary from refusal to thorough identification. This image has been successfully exploited by both tourism and the creative industries and it is evident that these ‘cryptocolonial’ relations and their successive consequences continue to influence both those who are included and those who are not, also in an informed and globalised world. 

From this point of view, one could perhaps say that this exhibition responds to this predicament through language and voice. With the aid of various semantic transfigurations it asks what an inclusive language might be and who´s speech it might voice. For instance, the questions found in visa application forms, taken out of their usual context and presented as banners or posted on notice boards around town can take on an absurd, almost humorous tone while also pointing at the gravity of their original intention and thus expose the power of a language that administrates, controls and categorizes personhood. 

Even if linguistics is commonly understood as a rather dull academic enterprise, the sensorial element of rhythmic sounds being made with the body and the inherent eroticism of the mouth, should not be ignored in this exhibition. Indeed, language is critical to any attempt at building relationships and trust and speaking is more than producing and imitating noises. Talking birds that can mimic the speech of humans do not automatically speak our language. Sampling is not repeating. So rather than simply repeating familiar phrases, this exhibition confronts seemingly opposing or even incompatible concepts such as pop-culture and geopolitics, appropriation and authentic experience, familiar foreign food and the anthem of stateless state, metaphysics and humour – in an attempt to at least articulate a more inclusive dialect.

Jonatan Habib Engqvist, curator 

Artists at Gerðarsafn:

 Anna Júlía Friðbjörnsdóttir | Anna Rún Tryggvadóttir | Athena Farrokzhad | Bryndís Björnsdóttir | Childish Gambino | Erla S. Haraldsdóttir | Hulda Rós Guðnadóttir | Joseph Beuys | Julius von Bismarck + Julian Charrière | Lap-See Lam + Wingyee Wu | Libia Castro + Ólafur Ólafsson | Magnus Sigurdarson | Melanie Ubaldo | Meriç Algün | Pinar Öğrenci | Sara Kramer | Sarah Rosengarten & Hrefna Hörn Leifsdóttir | Slavs and Tatars | Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir | Unnar Örn J. Auðarsson | Þráinn Hjálmarsson + Brynjar Sigurðarson + Veronika Sedlmair

Performances by:

Adam Christensen

Bendik Giske

Bryndís Björnsdóttir

Þráinn Hjálmarsson, Brynjar Sigurðarson and Veronika Sedlmair

María Dalberg

Art in other spaces:

Anna Rún Tryggvadóttir – Þingvellir National Park

Björk Viggósdóttir - Kópavogur Public Library

Jeannette Castioni + Þuríður Jónsdóttir – Midpunkt, Hamraborg

Julie Edel Hardenberg - Kópavogur Swimming Pool, Kópavogur Offices

Libia Castro + Ólafur Ólafsson – Salurinn Concert Hall

Magnus Sigurdarson - Kópavogur Swimming Pool

Meric Algün - Kópavogur Swimming Pool and public space

Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir – The Pond in Reykjavik

Unnar Örn J. Auðarsson – public space

 Cycle webpage

Image: Slavs and Tatars

Mother Tongues and Father Throats, 2013

Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin