First we take manhattan, then we take berlin
Interview with the artist by Valur Brynjar Antonsson
To give the reader some sense of space, I am presently here in New York City, while you are in Berlin and between us is Iceland. In a way this discussion by proxy brings about a couple of themes you seem to be working with, e.g., separation.
Hulda: Yes, You are close to Coney island while I´m close to Kulturpark Plänterwald, aka Spreepark – similar products of different ideological systems. These ideological systems also create a separation that I experienced in a very emotional way as a child and teenager living in Iceland, the country in-between.
Valur: From what I gather, you are working on many levels simultaneously: on the one hand, there are general phenomenological considerations of space and time, and on the other, an analysis of ideological space and how the manipulation of the former produces different affections in the latter. Were you specifically interested in how theme parks, whether Spreepark in Berlin or Coney Island in New York a century ago, are literal testing ground for an ideological warfare?
H: During research in this project I was very inspired by Rem Koolhaas' theories of the Coney Island project as a testing ground for strategies ultimately intended for Manhattan. He saw the Coney Island theme park as a model for modern Manhattan and called it the Urbanism of Fantastic Technology. Manhattan is with its glorious architectural manifestations the capital of capitalism, of course. So you can see that both sides, New york City and the GDR, used the theme park in an instrumental way to control the masses, or rather, to create an illusion. In Manhattan it was private enterprise that invested in building the illusion, while with the GDR we are talking about the government, of course. Entertainment is an ideal way to get into people´s heads without them really noticing so much. People are entertained and relaxed – thus unguarded, and what goes on easily becomes the norm.
V: Which brings us to ta key concept in your exhibition, that of illusion. According to the Aristotelian formula of aesthetics, people are entertained because they suspend their disbelief, hence the Brechtian agenda to shake people out of their stupor. What I find interesting is how your exhibition brings together two different critical aspects that are all too often divided in the art world, in line with the theoretical framework of the curator, the art critic, etc. Each one has an apolitical approach towards a phenomenology of space and time, very much in vogue before the financial crash of 2008, (or maybe still today, as in the Venice Biennale of Daniel Birnbaum), or deals with an idealogical critique, often with psycho-social dimensions. By drawing our attention to a theme park you point out how these are intrinsically linked. A park is a supposedly apolitical place, an escape from daily life. In a recreational park the art of illusion is brought to a peak: funny mirrors, strange houses, disproportionally built animals, disfigured dinosaurs and even the Ferris Wheel brings us to heights where houses below seem so small and our daily worries are so far removed. So we are dealing with the manipulation of appearances when we are in the park. One wonders why park-goers would be even more vulnerable to ideological indoctrination in a theme park? In this regards, I wonder if you are influenced by the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, who has stated that ideology works like that on a fundamental level, whereby the best illusion is one which comes in the guise of another illusion. It is precisely in a space where our perceptions of space and time are literally being manipulated, a space in which we should be highly on guard, that we are the most susceptible to ideological suggestion; it is precisely because we know we are being fooled in the theme park that we suspend our disbelief.
H: I have read some of the Zizek's work and saw a lecture during his visit to Iceland. Zizek is brilliant mind, but I cannot say that I was directly thinking about his writing while researching the project. But as with everything else I read or experience with other senses, it influences me of course. Zizek is in my world. I concluded through practicing my artwork that the best way to reach the audience, the guest or whatever you call the people you are in dialogue with, is to approach them with play. That is play on the surface level. Create a moment where the audience doesn´t know how to interpret the work. Should they laugh or be serious? People thus let go of their guard, and then you can kick them. Kick them really hard. I don´t like political art that points a finger or is disgustingly shocking. I´m not trying to convert people to my belief or say that I´m right. Some art can become like mass media, or at least doesn´t reach audiences with the same potential as art. This is an indescribable level to which art is a gateway. Francis Bacon had a point when he said, 'If I could say it, I wouldn´t paint it.'
But sure, The illusion, Zizek was right. In the work I draw parallels between the illusion created by a totalitarian communist government and its breakdown and the illusions and subsequent breakdown from the power elite of neo-liberal capitalism now in a time of economic crisis. A broken down GDR amusement park was the best place to build a metaphor for this narrative. It is an illusion in itself, and now in its rundown state, where nature takes over the man-made structures and the facades reveal themselves as just that, the processes of illusion-building and the consequences of its breakdown become very clear. I think neo-liberal capitalism has been like a religion to the masses, and many people are still holding on.
V: Yes, there are many references embedded in the exhibition, some of which point to your own personal history, I believe? When you introduce a Cowboy character from an older work exhibited in Iceland 2007, you are playing with the special significance that number has in Iceland; '2007' has become a signifier in Iceland in a similar way to '9/11', and Iceland itself has taken a central role, even as a signifier, in the financial crisis.
H: Everything is personal. How can you create a narrative to which you have no personal connection? I think that the personal is the gateway to the universal. It is much more fruitful to tell the story from your personal point of view than from a macro level. The macro level just adds to the confusion or the illusion. You are always addressing another person and you can just assume that she or he is somewhat similar to you. Yes, 2007 has become a signifier in Iceland much as the word plasmascreen. But that is another story. Following the economic breakdown of Iceland some kind of re-evaluation of the values dominant in recent years has taken place and is still continuing. The numbers '2007' referring to that year have become a signifier for a certain kind of behaviour and thinking. The phrase 'It is so 2007' is now very common to refer to extreme consumerism, arrogance or naïve belief in financial investments and neo-liberal values such as the uncontrolled free market. It was not so much this number with which I was playing. It was more the intention to bring the character from Don´t stop me now. I´m having a good time into the current work because he is the embodiment of this neo-liberal dude, the money-man and the free cowboy. In the videos he has stepped down from the horse pedestal I built for him in 2007, and now he is suddenly here in the middle of this broken down GDR illusion. Perhaps after having been exposed, he has lost the appearance of the free cowboy winning over new lands, and is now revealed as an Illusionist. Still playing silly games, of course. In Iceland there was a religious cult created around those young men that dealt with investment. All the media was busy praising them. The gossip papers talked about the amazing parties, the stars they associated with and the glamorous lives they were leading, while the more serious press reserved the front page for corporate and stock market news. They were idolised, and I found the whole thing very silly. The situation as a while reminded me of the situations described in post-colonial African literature dealing with corruption and the new local elite. Iceland was a true banana republic with newly-rich boys at the control buttons. Everybody played along. There was little space for something else. The 2007 work was my critique or satire on the reality I encountered in my home country and was my graduation work. It was not very well received locally (apart from the grand size of the metal horse the rode that for a long time was kept in the beer garden of the now closed artist bar Sirkus), and the graduation projects that was thought to be the most successful that year was awarded a large grant from one of the banks. They had their fingers everywhere.
V: And references like that are tricky! They often take a life on their own. When you remove the money-cowboy from his initial place and introduce him in the rundown park, in my mind some highly ambiguous interpretations present themselves. Of course, the direct link is established between the crash in Iceland and the fall of communist GDR. But something else happens, too. A couple of distinct signifiers collide. Ever since Kennedy's 'Ich bin ein Berliner' speech in 1963, the Berlin Wall came to signify the Iron Curtain of the Cold War and the abstract concept of Freedom literally poured in concrete. In the minds of people living in America and capitalist Europe, the people in the GDR were living behind the wall. But then that wall was torn down in 1989, and since then, the global laissez-faire market was considered infallible. In the meantime, you have this park, Spreepark, That is run down and enclosed, and people are not allowed inside. It is almost as a reminder not only of the park itself, but a souvenir of how it is to have closed space in the city, as if the people in Berlin can´t let go of that past. From your exhibition one gets this sense of abandonment, as in a children´t playground from a horror movie, a dream that refuses to go away. It is very eerie. It is a place of zombies, of things that can´t die. And you bring this money-man of Iceland, whom so many desired during the financial boom, into this park. The result is ambiguous. Nobody desires him anymore. But he is still going strong. Don´t stop me now. A irrepressible drive, as if people can´t let go of him even now after the crash. People want to live in that dream. I wonder if this ambiguity was intended. Or did you have a more directly political message in mind?
H: That is a very interesting reading of the work. What is special about Berlin is that history is so strongly felt here. While the rest of Europe has gone clean, Berlin hasn´t covered its wounds; the bullet holes are still there in the walls and many of the buildings are still in ruins. The past hovers over an art scene that is otherwise very contemporary. Perhaps this breathing presence of a painful history facilitates the possibility for a thriving contemporary art scene. It is a place for contemplation, meeting and production but not necessarily for the market. My experience of former 'Easterners', not only Germans, is that many have nostalgia about the Communist era. They ad jobs and security and didn´t really feel the control breathing down their necks. As you say, there has been very little re-evaluation of history. The story is still about people rescued from life behind the Wall, bringing their economic problems with them in the time of hard adjustments to the Western model. There has never been any thought of looking at what could be of value in the culture that was created during those decades. I remember that as a young girl I thought of Eastern Europe as being greyscale. I couldn´t imagine nature or colours behind the Wall. Now I consider myself to have been brainwashed as a young child. I would never have imagined an amusement park behind the Wall, and neither would West Berliners. Of course they atmosphere of the work is very eerie. It has a playful surface with a serious undertone, like wanting to hide under a blanket. It is a very scary thought to be living in an illusion, to be played with by those who might benefit from it. The horror movie motif is a cliché and a very easy touchpoint to use with this material. I really tried to avoid it. We didn´t use the obvious sounds of fun rides or merry-go-rounds that are already too closely connected to horror films. Instead, there was a unique soundscape with some hints to computer game music. Those are still relatively free of fixed meaning.
Last year the 20t anniversary of the fall of the Wall was celebrated all over the world. This is a time of crisis. I agree with philosopher and historian John Gray when he says that we are experiencing a historical geopolitical shift in which the era of American global leadership is over. Today the crisis can perhaps be felt most strongly in Iceland and even Spain and Greece, but it obviously has a global impact. Somebody once said that given its small, unconventional but still demographically homogeneous population of 320.000, Iceland is perfect testing ground for trends and new products. It is so easy to get everybody on the wagon. This quality was used by those young investors. Iceland became a testing ground for hyper neo-liberal capitalism at its most extreme. Therefore the crash has been very hard. Of course, people that have lost their security and jobs want to believe that this is not permanent, that the boat will keep rocking with the next aluminium factory being built. And of course there is a whole generation born after 1980 that doesn´t know much else. But the important point, as John Gray has mentioned, is that with the nationalisation of crucial parts of the financial system, the American free-market model has destroyed itself. It is an entire model of government and economy that has collapsed similarly to the fall of the Soviet Union. We live in awkward times, just like the whole enterprise of the money-man in an abandoned theme park. He can´t let go of the game despite the world crumpling down around him. He finds himself being displaced. I think many people today feel this displacement.
V: Yes, and to come back to the eerie atmosphere that you mentioned, it is poignant how readily the horror motif comes to mind in a theme park, a cliché to such a degree that you had to disassemble our preconceptions with a different soundscape in order for us to see past it. Beware the self-evident, as Brecht would have us learn! Because there are some pertinent ideological reasons for these perceptions. First, as you mentioned, our sense of displacement. It is a tragedy of every human endeavour that our idealised world view changes much slower than the symbolic order. Our desired role models, or our ideal ego, if you like, are transfixed even as the socio-economic horizon under which they were born comes to an end. In the case of the money cowboy, the displacement between our ideal ego and the social criteria by which we judge ourselves is far more disconcerting than a simple case of thwarted expectations. In a usual case of personal angst we become depressed because we don´t live up to our dreams; however, in this case, it is desire itself – the mirror image – which is displaced because the social order has been reconfigured. It is desire without a place. This is perhaps the hidden kernel of so many horror movies and therefore springs to mind immediately. Old desires come and haunt us. So even if you avoid any cliché in substance, there is something in the very form itself that is nightmarish.
On the other hand, there are other familiar themes that come to mind. While you were conscious of the horror motif and worked around it, did you also take into account the post-apocalyptic theme with which our generation born under the horizon of laissez-faire capitalism seems to be obsessed? There is and has been for some time an infatuation with the 'beauty' of a post-industrial and dystopic future: the overgrown city after a nuclear attack, now reclaimed by nature, rusty and weathered iron structures, abandoned factories, etc. This anaesthetisation of rust and weed represents some kind of an endpoint to what was possible to imagine. Why do we – or did we – find this 'beautiful'? And were you conscious of these background tropes when you were working in Spreepark?
H: The first time I visited the park I snuck in by climbing the fence and hiding from the guards by ducking behind bushes when the guards came around. My veins were pumping with adrenaline, but I couldn´t stop myself. I was absolutely captivated by the beauty of this abandoned place. I felt like I was in a secret world far away from the hustle and bustle, like I had discovered some treasure. I also love abandoned factories, villages and fjords. My fascination with these aesthetics is certainly the reason why I started working on this project in the first place. It is a very good question to ask why we find this beautiful. Personally I have always been infatuated with imperfection of an object or a human being. I find it romantic, exciting and intriguing. I think the answer lies partly in my psychological condition and partly in my socio-economic background and life status. Many people do not have this infatuation with the imperfect or the overgrown and abandoned, but value places, objects or humans that are clearly under control: orderly, straight, clearcut and predictable. For me coming from a typical Icelandic middle-class background in the west side of Reykjavik, my firsthand experience of anything outside of clean cut was when I came hitchhiking to Berlin in the 90s. Before that I had never seen a building that was not in the perfect state as intended by its architect. It is very complex how one develops an aesthetic for the post-industrial state of being. Perhaps it is reactionary – the longing to return back to nature, to the disorderly, the non-middle-class. When I was a child I lived very much in my own imaginary world, and I made many drawings of the circus. Each character in the circus got his own spread, his own profile picture. Perhaps it was that circus show the national television broadcasted on Christmas every year that influenced me. Life was pretty simple back then. A lot of state control. I have a lot of nostalgia for the 70s.
V: And you are not alone. To paraphrase your statement from a little earlier, the personal is the gateway to the universal. Therefore it is interesting that Spreeepark which represented for you a secret garden of hidden delights, was a garden that had escaped the meticulous and clean cut pruning of suburban life as you experienced in your childhood. In the garden you found imperfections. The irony is that the Spreepark is a remnant of the even tighter controlled environment in the GDR! And now that you have opened up this garden for a character that used to be the idealised hero of a petty-bourgeoise society, would you even say that he could be considered as a romantic figure now that he has been displaced, a candidate for the imaginary circus? Does he represent a certain kind of relief, a sense of immortality? Or does his presence there, rather, represent something of the order Leonard Cohen sung about, quoting an old jewish proverb, 'In every wall there is a crack...'?
H: I guess the work is some kind of satire after all. I´m not the only Icelandic artist that uses irony as a tool. I don´t really feel romantic about my money-man. He is too silly to me to be a romantic figure. But my works are very open to interpretation, and I don´t want to fix one single reading of it. I´m sure someone else with a different relationship to that era will feel romantic and nostalgic. In a way, they were the first generation of Icelandic businessmen that appreciated and supported the visual arts in general. They even sneakily stole the nation´s collection of Old Icelandic Masters, as the politicians that were busy giving away the banks during privatisation couldn´t see the value in them (I hope). Visual artists in Iceland are traditionally considered something like beggars asking for charity, so I can understand that many welcomed the positive attention and support. As you say, I do not swear that I might not rethink my relationship and paint the money-man in a romantic light at a later date, but at this moment I find it very unlikely. All this said, Leonard Cohen as a young man is on the other hand someone I would gladly accept a date with in my secret life at any time. Like he says in that song, the dealers want us to think that it is either black or white, but as artists I fell it is important to resist and open up more colourful areas of discussion.
Tackling the Fourth Wall and the Fourth Dimension by Markús Thór Andrésson.
Upon entering Program´s exhibition space through the entrance on Invalidenstrasse you find yourself in what appears to be a narrow backstage area. There are the unfinished backsides of three provisional walls, one of which reveals the rear ends of a couple of television sets embedded into the walls. The television boxes and their wiring are visible, not their images. From above the scenic construction you hear the sounds of the exhibition you came to see, so you should be at the right place. However, the walls stand so close to one another that there is no apparent way around them. If you don´t look carefully, you will be one of the numerous visitors who return out to the street, puzzled by this austere enterprise. But with sufficient curiosity you will notice a black curtain through which you can enter between two of the walls and be rewarded with the full experience of Hulda Rós Guðnadóttir's exhibition, Hops Hopsi.
Different art forms have to a lesser or greater extent put into practice what the world of theatre has coined 'breaking the Fourth Wall', i.e., disrupting the invisible wall between the actors on stage and the viewers in the auditorium. Performance art in particular has throughout its history been preoccupied with this exploration. As the tactic goes, during a moment of uncertainty an alert audience is provided with a platform to actively engage in a work. Guðnadóttir's double entry is a cunning gesture that catches the visitor to her video installation off guard. He or she enters as an actor would, from a side wing onto a stage, thus becoming a participant – a performer even – in the exhibition. Drawing on the themes of staging and manipulated experience embedded in the work, the artist´s strategy furthermore responds to the particularities of Program´s project space and its ambition to 'challenge traditional, domesticated modes of architectural practice and representation'.
Expanding on the notion of the Fourth Wall, a similar breach has occurred in the separation between the real (the viewer) and the fictional (the actor). One of the most fertile grounds for experimentation and development in this field has been the documentary film form. Thought some might make a point of denying that there ever was any distinction between documentary and fiction, the general comprehension has been that the former is closer to reality, as it is brought into being outside the grip of scripted intention through interviews, found footage, the observing camera, etc. Rather than only changing the essential features of the medium at hand, the nature of audience´s reception is challenged. Conscious of the fact that the material which is being presented is influence and directed from the standpoint of someone other than the subject, the viewer is provided with elements to engage with the work differently.
In this way, Hulda Rós Guðnadóttir explores, the theatrical and the performative on one hand and documentary filmmaking on the other. Her academic background in anthropology motivates her position as artist-cum-director. Recent works include videos, installations and live action where she plays with ideas related to identity. She regards identity in a broad sense, studying it from a personal or social perspective as well as in terms of locations and situation. The 2008 documentary, The Cornershop, which Guðnadóttir co-directed with Helga Rakel Rafnsdóttir, considers the nature of the relationship between the owners of a grocery store and their customers. Questions about the connection between fact and fiction, presentation and participation, media and mediation are all intrinsic to her practice. In Hops Hopsi, she continues her investigation, now drawing on the identity of a particular place. A character from her previous work reappears, the invented caricature of the modern day business hero, a spawn of the free market. The ten-screen video installation is an attempt to deconstruct the abandoned Spreepark theme park in Berlin and create a new environment in the gallery. Build in the former GDR under the title Kulturpark Pläntewald, this once popular park encountered hard times after the reunification of Germany when it was outshined by more elaborate theme parks in the West. Still standing are the defunct rides and derelict constructions overwhelmed b wild vegetation – a remarkable situation of timelessness irresistible to curious passersby. The playful title of the project is borrowed from Spreepark´s history and pays tribute to two clowns that used to entertain there. For a long time after the park closed, the open-air stage of the children´s theatre stood intact with the names of the clowns painted on its marquee: Hops and Hopsi.
The artist´s commitment to the social implications of the work is plain to see. In a general sense you could say that the theme park is symbolic for genuine entertainment, a place for a social 'holding among', as in the Latin origin of the term. A deserted theme park, however, is symptomatic of how entertainment and spectacle have escaped their controlled frameworks and infiltrated the social realm, the urban environment and mass media. Entertainment is no longer a communal experience but an individual one, not contained but all-embracing. The amusement park also suggests a political metaphor, the strictly regulated and controlled environment based on facades and diversion. Guðnadóttir deliberately has her capitalist persona appear in a site emblematic for post war socialism; the failed objectives of both character and site are illustrated in her work. The compelling exposure to the work within the exhibition space is set against the backdrop of these social and political motifs. Here, the viewer is invited to discover a new place and a new paradigm.
The space on the other side of the wooden walls inside Program´s entrance, i.e. the stage, is activated to its utmost by way of Guðnadóttir's interventions. A single pillar in the centre of the room, a genuine part of the architecture, is used as an axis to support a huge red and yellow circus tent that is stretched to the surrounding walls. As the space is irregular, this fake ceiling is limpin in places, dropping down and hindering the walkway. The light reflecting from this structure gives the whole scene an orange shade, as does the light from the only visible window, because it has been covered with a composition of gummy bears suggestive of stained glass. The candy-pixelated image can also be seen from the street side of the window, showing the previously mentioned business hero posing with dinosaurs in the park. Videos are resourcefully projected onto the walls and displayed on monitors of different sizes. Stacks of colourful chairs here and there serve as plinths for TVs and projectors, and others are free to sit on. Particular attention has been paid to the cables of the screening equipment, wrapped in multicoloured tape to match the chairs. Spatially, the installation choreographs the viewer's experience, constantly diverting the visual focus points and never allowing for a complete overview. You have to move through and look all around to catch the fragments presented down by the floor, up under the ceiling around a corner or in a closed off room. The magic ingredient that binds all this together is the omnipresent sound-scape designed in collaboration with Magnús B. Skarphéðinsson. More than any physical or visual element in the space, the sustained and subltelaudio cacophony defines this textural matrix. Suspense in the air is maintained by an undetermined drone interrupted by stuttering and twitching sounds. It is as if breaking away from the linearity of time and entering a condition of stasis.
Following the sequence of the ten videos as they are installed from the entrance and onwards into the space, a recurring composition becomes clear. Each consists of a relatively short loop where a fixed camera reveals different locations in the deserted Spreepark. Sometimes you observe a short sequence of events, while other footage has been manipulated by editing. References to the history of the theme park appear in the videos, for example through the use of fruits. One of the rare pleasures of visiting the place in GDR times was that you could buy exotic fruits not available to the general public in stores. The first video, projected ons wall down by the floor, contains further allusion to the topic of groceries. In the high grass under a metal grid of one of the rides, some shopping bags from twenty years ago are juxtaposed with a bag from a contemporary supermarket. This sequence introduces the character that appears in many of the videos – a man dressed in a black suit with a huge smiling puppet head. He flickers on and off in the still frame, leaning against the metal grid. A double television display installed into one of the false walls shows the same guy at the red counter of disused bar. With a magic wand in his hand, he makes decorative tarts and drinks appear out of the blue to the sound of a delightful chime. On the twin monitors, the camera is pointed upwards, and above the bar through a glass ceiling the gigantic motionless Ferris wheel can be seen. The next video projected on the central pillar of the space shows a foot (in a cowboy boot) and hand (in a white glove) of someone crouching by a pond, and you can only guess that this is the same character again. He holds a spray bottle with which he spatters water on a couple of floating plastic ducks. In one of the corners of the space there is a large two-screen projection showing the tracks of a roller coaster half engulfed in lush vegetation. In one of the frames, the protagonist sits on the tracks leading into the open mouth of a haunted house ride, idly throwing bananas into it. The other shows a row of bananas appearing and disappearing on the tracks, accompanied by the lively sounds of something similar to a slot machine or a video game. The smallest monitor, placed on one of the stacks of chairs shows the large interior of a tent with a stage and auditorium There are rows of colourful chairs, the very same as in the space itself, and they seem to jump from one place to the next in sudden jerks. A repetitive clicking sound, not unlike a broken CD, reflects the shift of the chairs. Over the edges of a double corner in the gallery space, a distorted projection reveals train tracks on the ground. Watermelons come rolling from out of the frame along the tracks, followed by the ascending scales of plucked strings. The humming noise of what sounds like an organ comes from a video projected on a wall near the ceiling, and here the ever-smiling fellow is centred, sitting with a melon in front of him. He leans his arms over either side of the small wagon of a spinning teacup ride, the camera fixed on him as the environment blurs in the background. The final and most elaborate video is found behind a curtain in a separate room, an original part of the Program architecture. As if the small space were the control station of the whole installation, here the character can be seen working in the engine room of one of the rides. Abstract scenes from the theme park are edited in a disorderly manner together with the main footage, and the sounds come across as semi-musical gestures, offset in time. They echo throughout the whole space and merge with the audio loops from the other videos in a perpetual atmosphere of anticipation.
Time is the key medium of both performance and film, defining these art forms from two-and three-dimensional work. Yet Hulda Rós Guðnadóttir contests the fourth-dimension, playing with the pathology of the loop and the aesthetics of duration. This is reiterated in details, such as the image of the ferris wheel, the Sisyphean circulation of the pond water through the pump and the spinning funfair ride. Within the frame of a process, the end of mysteriously rolled into a hallway of the hotel in The Shining.
Within the frame of contemporary art, the project brings to mind several other associations, for example with the use of puppetry. Paul McCarthy notoriously lampooned the political situation of the year 2003 in his work Piccadilly Circus, where actors with giant puppet heads representing Bush, Bin Laden and the Queen went berserk in an abandoned bank. At one point the Bush character makes a deposit of tarts and cookies at a teller window, parallel to the banker´s magical catering in Spreepark's red bar. In Steve McQueen´s Giardini, contribution to the British pavilion at the 2009 Venice Biennial, the specific sense for time and place is comparable to Hops Hopsi. McQueen's two-channel film was shot in the exhibition gardens of the Biennial during the off-season when hardly anyone is present except for dogs and a few men seeking occasional encounters. This site, know to most only when bursting with the Biennial´s art and life, is rendered uncanny by the extended focus on the passive period of waiting. Similarly, Carsten Höller thwarted the familiar in Amusement Park (2006), examining the effects of spatial and temporal disorientation. He had several actual rides from a theme park installed in a museum setting and manipulated the mechanism of each so that they would turn and blink ever so slowly, the changes almost imperceivable.
By looking towards other productions in art and film, the basic elements woven into the fabric of Guðnadóttir's project manifest themselves. A further reading might be undertaken in light of the history and development in minimalist music, but hinting at it will suffice for now. Hops Hopsi reflects an interesting documentation of an odd place and a prolific research into ideological illusions. Both seem secondary, however, to the formalist concerns at stake. In light of the architecture of Program´s projects space, the piece is placed in a context that emphasizes the notion of structure, questioning the functioning of time through the problem of space. The careful installation work is an experiment in the art experience providing a compelling quandary for viewers. The audience plays a vital part as editor in a new narrative that evades the linearity of time. Detached from habitual perceptions of time and space your mind can take you in unimaginable directions. That and that alone is the work´s commitment to reality.