Þingvellir with Citrus and Other Art Play for Grown-Ups


Þingvellir with Citrus and Other Art Play for Grown-Ups

Michael Joaquin Grey’s One Thousand Citrus Trees @ Thingvellir. Photo: courtesy of Reykjavík Art Museum.Photo: Courtesy of Reykjavík Art Museum.

Any exhibition with the word “sandbox” in its title promises to be a lot of fun—even if the subtitle includes the rather more dreary word “pedagogy.” Currently on view at the Hafnarhús branch of the Reykjavík Art Museum, Jaroslav Andĕl’s “Back to the Sandbox: Art and Radical Pedagogy,” does not disappoint. However, the show, which includes work from twelve international artists or artist collectives, and examines education, play, art and the relationship between them, may take a while to get into.

Free People.

Screen shot from Ane Hjort Guttu’s video Freedom Requires Free People.

One strand of the exhibition, which includes a multiplicity of themes and viewpoints, concerns the role of organized education in today’s world. In some works, education is portrayed in a positive light. Jim Duignan’s installation, for instance, casts an admiring eye on Jane Addams’ Hull House, with its continuing education classes for adults. Other works see contemporary education as a negative influence. For Jens, an elementary school rebel profiled in Ane Hjort Guttu’s video Freedom Requires Free People, school is a nothing but set of arbitrary rules, the antithesis of independent thought (and fun).


Screen shot from Ane Hjort Guttu’s video How to Become a Non-Artist.

A number of works are concerned with alternate forms of education, especially those that use play. A video shows Michael Joaquin Grey excitedly, but coherently, discussing his invention of ZOOB, a new modeling system, as a way to help explain cell-type specialization. (Not to be outdone by its own rhetoric, the show includes multiple hands-on opportunities. Piles of ZOOB plastic parts are available, and one can draw in sand on a mirrored surface, viewing the results projected onto the wall.)

Mollison Playground.

He-Huang-Yu.jpg: e Huang Yu Xiang Middle School, Qingyuan, China. Photo: James Mollison.

More enjoyable for this viewer were a group of works going literally to the sandbox, or at least to the beach. These include a poster by Renzo Piano, starchitect, providing instructions on sand castle building. A suite of works by Michael Joaquin Grey includes photographs of citrus trees growing in Þingvellir, as well as a room-sized sandbox supplied with one of those same citrus trees (five people maximum, in the sandbox at once). Then it turns out that a sandbox can be used to make a political point, as in Each in His Own Corner, a video by The Society for a Merrier Present.

Sand castle.

Screen shot from Calvin Siebert’s video My Sand Castles.

Another theme in the show is the relationship between play and creation. Sand castles are usually play, but when they become as elaborate as those in Calvin Seibert’s slide show My Sand Castles, they must also be architecture. Similarly, in Markus Kayser ’s Solar Sinter, the giant sandbox of the Sahara desert is used, along with a sophisticated light-catching machine, to create glass sculptures.

Class Divider

Screen shot from Calvin Siebert’s video My Sand Castles.

The nature of creativity is yet another question under consideration. Priscila Fernades’ video, Product of Play, demonstrates two possible approaches: an orderly one, in which a child sorts blocks by color and builds simple structures, and a wilder one, involving spilled blocks, crazed laughter and, finally, elegant singing. In How to Become a Non-artist, Ane Hjort Guttu looks at her son’s early experiments with form, and asks: are they art? And what does this mean for her experience of the world around her?

The reinstatement of the Gallery D series, a group of solo shows by emerging artists, allows local experiments in art-making to be examined. Currently on view is Class Divider, an installation by Berglind Jóna Hlynsdóttir investigating the barriers that divide the economy and first-class sections of airplanes. It’s an interesting premise, but under-developed. More play, perhaps?

“Back to the Sandbox: Art and Radical Pedagogy” and “Class Divider” run through April 10 at the Reykjavík Art Museum, Hafnarhús.

S. Anne Steinberg – [email protected] S. Anne Steinberg has been looking at art around Reykjavík for a few years now. Her cryptic notes on this activity can be found on @myndlist_list on Twitter.​

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