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Art at the airport

Isavia has invited artist and curator, Kristín Scheving, to curate a series of art exhibitions which utilize the lighting systems in juxtaposition with videoart at Keflavík International Airport. The exhibitions are unique in that the visitor is present in the installation upon walking into the customs checkpoint all the way upon entering the departure lounge. Scheving has worked for over a decade doing similar projects with light installations and video-art in public spaces.


Gaia Breathing Variation lll (2017) by Sigrún Harðardóttir
The project is a pilot series. Selected Icelandic artists will be exhibiting works throughout 2018. Their work comprises of many aspects of the capabilities of the moving image that are especially fitting in the non-place of in-between that is an international airport. They connect light and video in ways that bring an element of presence to the visitor’s experience of the location.

The cultural landscape of today is in many ways defined by the images presented to us on screens. In a variety of contexts, a screen can trace memory and imagination, as well as equally geographic layers of the physical landscape- it is on the screen in which they are folded into a projectionable entity. The screen, however, is an apparition in itself, made through the transmission of light. Emerging from a site of public consumption, this exhibition series expands notions of light and electronic images from the art museum and is mobilized into a new spatial recognition that is part of the experience of motion, transit, and spectatorial life.

Three Icelandic artists will be exhibiting works between January and October 2018. Besides presenting images of the Icelandic landscape, the works also traverse between imagination and sensibility in a layered movement that travels from the surface to the interior. Using the imagination to record sensory perceptions, the works are strung between two worlds, or perhaps three, like a secretary between the imagined world, physical reality, and our technological condition. These works provide an intersection between spirit and body in which technology is at the synaesthetic forefront.


 Misty Blue Rain (2015) by Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir
The series begins with Sigrún Harðardóttir’s Gaia Breathing Variation lll. In the work, an opening in the earth is shown and from there we make our journey inward. In a pulsing manipulation of the breathing already inherent in the body of the earth, it is further impressed on us how much this earth is also our body. With Gaia Breathing Variation lll, we see deconstruction and construction in the same miasmic breath. With the rhythms relayed as visual sequence, a tone is presented that is equally as penetrating as the vision. One can enter through the same porosity and open capacity for sensing with sound and vision in unison that only video can present with precise harmony.

From our entry into this opening in the earth’s skin, we go to a scene presented at the precipice of two worlds. Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir’s Misty Blue Rain captures a conversation between a man and a woman in an oneiric atmosphere filtered by a fractal lens as though laying bare the dimensions at our disposal. The artist seems to be waking up from a magical and transportive dream to a man’s voice who asks her critical questions about her existence that she answers with reflections from the dream. Ásdís uses the mirror, a device used for centuries to interrogate the nature of reality and especially that which predicates cinema. One of the first devices used in dioptics, the mirror is used as a trope for seeing through and understanding the projection of reality from device to image.

In the last exhibit we are taken to the inner spheres of the brain where our world is received through nerves and processed into knowledge and awareness. In Haraldur Karlson’s Brain (2014-2067), the beauty of modern technology enables a poetic choreographic voyage inside this intensely studied and remarkable organ. A variety of shapes, masses, lights and movements experiment with the viewer’s boundaries of this familiar yet unfamiliar phenomenal galaxy inside our heads.


Brain (2014-2067) by Haraldur Karlson
The power of the electronic image as a surface of mediation is shown in these works. As a surface, the screen mediates the inner and outer, both of which are a certain projection from ones own consciousness that regulates how we perceive and differentiate between internal and external stimuli. The screen becomes a place of transference, a glimpse of expansion from which to interpret the miasma of senses collecting information from your surroundings. However, the surface is also where connection and empathy takes place - where we touch, and are touched in turn by experience.

The way in which we experience images can help us find ways in which to read the world. The non-place of the airport is a multi-local site in which many events occur - taking journeys from one place to another, arriving, departing, flying and landing, accumulating sensations and experiences and being open for new ones. The works chosen for the exhibition series represent these transitions as well as represent some of the things you can find in Iceland to take with you on your journey - the intangible things. Inner and outer experiences convalesce into what one can process into memory. With the multitude of screens vying for our attention as we process our experiences, the image of a thing is presented to us as a surface tension of reality. The screen is presented to us as an entity itself, although one whose surface is projective, an omnipotent presence that can be refashioned like a cloth showing the surface tensions of the cultural impressions it absorbs. The screen is also a historically mnemonic place of encounter where recollections and reimaginings all take place within the same frame.

As in Walter Benjamin’s unfinished Arcades Project, begun in 1927, to chart the sometimes overwhelming visual cues in public, commercial spaces characterizes the history of modernity and its obsession with visual surfaces. The play of surface, in fact, is the history of modern visuality, ornamentation, and the very aesthetic roots from which we project the screen’s surface.

Text by Erin Honeycutt

8. February- 21. March
Gaia Breathing Variation lll (2017)

Sigrún Harðardóttir was born in 1954 in Reykjavik. She is a visual artist working in different mediums although technology continuously plays a running thread throughout her work. Culminating from an interest in working mainly with 2D art in the form of painting, her work has expanded into complex interactive environments. Sigrún studied in the postgraduate visual arts program at Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. She has an MA in Multimedia Communication, specializing in interactive installations from the University of Quebec in Montreal and a BFA from Iceland Academy of the Arts. Sigrún is currently based in Reykjavik

22. March - 3. May
Misty Blue Rain (2015)

Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir was born in Reykjavik in 1976 and works consistently with video. Her work revolves around themes of disguise, transformation, ritual, and play. Her works are performed both in-person and live via the internet, a medium which is well-suited to the temporal and spatial dimensions explored in her work. In her performances that often use poetry, Ásdís uses ornate motifs that have both mundane and metaphysical connotations. She has a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York and an MA in New Genres from UCLA. She has participated in numerous group shows in Iceland and abroad including the Tate Gallery, Centre Pompidou, Roma Film Festival, and TBA 21. She is currently based in Reykjavik.

30. August - 10. October
Brain (2014-2067)

Haraldur Karlsson (1967) has specialized in experimental video art for the last couple of decades. Karlsson holds a diploma in Mixed Media from the Icelandic Art School in Reykjavik and BA degree in Media Art from AKI (Academy of Arts and Industry) Enchede, The Netherlands. He studied Sonology at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. Between 1999-2009, Karlsson worked at the Icelandic Art Academy as head of Media Lab. Karlsson has had numerous exhibitions, performances and lectures both in Iceland and abroad. He is currently based in Oslo.


Directions (“Áttir”) is a sculptural installation by Steinunn Þórarinsdóttir (born in 1955). It features four human-like figures all cast in aluminium from the same mould. Standing on Icelandic basalt columns, each figure faces one of the four cardinal directions. The sculpture is about three metres high and stands within a three-metre diameter circle. If the circle is envisioned within a square, this gives the piece the dimensions 3m x 3m x 3m. Directions was unveiled at the inauguration of the Leifur Eiriksson Air Terminal in April 2007 following extensive renovations. Itoriginally stood in the terminal’s commercial area, but was relocated outside the arrivals hall in consultation with the artist in June 2017.

The sculptor has said of the work: “Of course, the piece strongly suggests travel by pointing in the four cardinal directions. It also refers to the fact that we can all lose direction in life, at which point it becomes necessary to find the right way.”

Artist’s website:



This work by Icelandic postmodern artist Erró (born in 1932) is a mural of hand-painted ceramic tiles. It is a replica of a painting of the same name dating from 1999, here enlarged to a ceramic version of 11 x 4.5 metres. The piece partly deals with the legends of the skies, the rootlessness of modern life and the air terminal as a place of adventurous possibilities.

It was installed in 2017 in the terminal’s commercial area.


The installation piece Rift (“Flekaskil”) is by Icelandic artist Kristján Guðmundsson (born in 1941). It symbolises the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, which runs across Iceland from the southwest to the northeast of the country. It is a floor installation consisting of a 15-metre long line made of stainless steel, which is inlaid into the oak floor on Level 1 of the terminal’s south building. The direction of the line marks the general orientation of the plate boundary. The line’s width of 2 cm is equal to the rate at which the gap between the North American and Eurasian landmasses is widening each year in Iceland.

Rift is one of a number of pieces selected in an artworks competition during the construction of the terminal’s south building.


Reference Point (“Tilvísunarpunktur”) is also by Kristján Guðmundsson. This piece refers to the location where Keflavik Airport’s runways intersect, expressed in latitude and longitude. At the centre of the piece is an inscription of geographic coordinates made of stainless steel, which is inlaid into the oak floor on Level 2 of the terminal’s south building. The inscription is enclosed in a stainless-steel circle with a diameter of 250 cm and a line width of 5 cm. Notches in the circle represent the four cardinal directions.

Rift is one of a number of pieces selected in an artworks competition during the construction of the terminal’s south building.


Rainbow (“Regnbogi”) is by Icelandic artist Rúrí (born in 1951). The sculpture stands in front of the terminal’s northern facade. Extending 24 metres into the sky, Rainbow is the tallest work of art in Iceland. It is made of square-shaped, stainless-steel tubes and stained glass. The rainbow’s colours are composed of 313 yellow, red, green and blue stained glass units. The sculpture rises from a base of Icelandic dolerite rock and is lit up at night. The artist has said of the piece: “The rainbow is an unfinished construction – I like to imagine that perhaps one day, in a hundred or a thousand years, somebody will pick up where I left off and continue the work. It will then climb skywards higher and higher before starting its descent, until at last touching the earth and thereby completing the rainbow.”

Rainbow is one of two pieces to win first prize in a competition to select outdoor sculptures at the Leifur Eiriksson Air Terminal held shortly after its inauguration. The sculpture was constructed in 1991.

Artist’s website:


The Jet Nest (“Þotuhreiður”) is by Icelandic artist Magnús Tómasson (born in 1943). The sculpture shows a large egg from which a “new-born” jet aircraft is hatching like a bird’s young. The steel egg is perched on a nest of rocks. The artist, Magnús Tómasson, says the idea for the piece was born many years ago: “I was working on a series on the history of birds, which included a small hen’s egg with a beak poking out. I developed this idea further and the result is The Jet Nest, my largest piece.” The sculpture stands at a total height of about 9 metres in the centre of a lit-up pond at the terminal’s north side. The stainless-steel egg is 5.6 metres tall, 4.2 metres wide and weighs more than five tonnes. The nest of rocks on which the egg is positioned is 14 metres in diameter and the pond covers an area of 1,800 square metres.

The Jet Nest is one of two pieces to win first prize in a competition to select outdoor sculptures at the Leifur Eiriksson Air Terminal held shortly after its inauguration.


Yearning for Flight (“Flugþrá”) is one of two stained glass works at the terminal by Icelandic artist Leifur Breiðfjörð (born in 1945). The two pieces are kite-shaped and designed to harmonise with the building’s architecture. The opal, yellow and opaque glass embedded in the framework comes alive when lit up at night.

Sized at 720 x 970 cm, Yearning for Flight hangs in the departure hall at the north window.

Artist’s website:


Icarus (“Íkarus”) is the second of the two stained glass works by Leifur Breiðfjörð at the terminal. The central theme of both pieces is the human desire to fly, explored here through the myth of Icarus, modern-day astronauts and the birds of the sky. The piece is lit up at night.

The dimensions of Icarus are 490 x 970 cm. It hangs in the departure hall at the south window.

Artist’s website:


This piece is by Icelandic artist Ívar Valgarðsson (born in 1954). It is a bas-relief version of Alexander Calder’s memorial statue of Viking explorer Leifur Eiríksson that stands in front of Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík’s city centre. The image is fixed on a 2.8-metre tall triangular pillar of dolerite rock.

The world’s first democratically elected female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, unveiled the piece at the terminal’s inauguration on 14 April 1987. The terminal draws its name from the piece’s subject, Leifur Eiríksson, who was the first European known to have discovered the Americas.


The title of this piece by Icelandic sculptor Sigurjón Ólafsson (1908-1982) refers to a poem of the same name by one of Iceland’s best loved poets, Jónas Hallgrímsson (1807-1845). Although abstract in form, the sculpture alludes to lines in Hallgrímsson’s poetry such as the “faithful thrush, who flies fathomless heaven to reach our valleys” and the girl back home in Iceland to whom the poet sends his greetings. These allusions, in turn, reflect the comings and goings at the terminal, including the welcome and goodbye greetings exchanged.

Acquired by the terminal in 1988, the piece is one of three bronze casts made from the original. I send greetings is located in the terminal’s concourse.

The Sigurjón Ólafsson Museum’s website: