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Photo: Þorgerður Ólafsdóttir & Becky Forsythe

Icelandic refraction
Cover Story, March–April 2019

“It has been speculated that Icelandic spar was at one time used for navigational purposes,” reflects curator Becky Forsythe. Her account of a short Reykjavík day spent with artist Þorgerður Ólafsdóttir is the latest episode of Incidents (of Travel), the series edited by Latitudes and produced by Kadist.
               Also known as sólarsteinn (sunstone) or silfurberg (silver rock), this transparent calcite crystal, “with its cloudy gem-like quality, could be used to locate the sun in the sky even when it was overcast or snowing.” Spar’s optical property of double refraction becomes a leitmotif for Becky and Þorgerður’s curatorial and artistic foraging, which encompasses a series of sites in and around Reykjavík marked by a similarly disconcerting double vision. The mineral’s ability to polarise and facilitate orientation in the landscape might suggest a simple lens through which to parse Iceland’s “geology, weather systems, symbols, and literature,” to split the natural from the man-made, the past from the present. Yet as the reportage travels in a race against the fading winter daylight — from the seaside remains of an ancient forest, to the red crater-like forms of a lava field, and the video-spectre of a now dormant geyser — this expanded studio visit deliberately looses itself in the complex tangle of human nature and natural history that can be encountered on such an otherworldly island.
               The previous eight editions of Incidents (of Travel) have featured Buenos Aires, Argentina (Alejandra Aguado and Diego Bianchi); Hobart, Tasmania (Camila Marambio and Lucy Bleach); Yerevan, Armenia (Marianna Hovhannisyan and students of the Studio College, National Center of Aesthetics); Terengganu, Malaysia (Simon Soon and chi too); Lisbon, Portugal (Pedro de Llano and Luisa Cunha); Suzhou, China (Yu Ji and Xiao Kaiyu); Jinja, Uganda (Moses Serubi and Moshen Taha); and Chicago, United States (Yesomi Umolu and Harold Mendez).

Founded in 2005 by Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna, Latitudes is a curatorial office based in Barcelona, Spain, that works internationally across contemporary art practices.

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