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Katrín Elvarsdóttir
Reykjavík
August 2008

We are inside looking out. We are outside looking in. A woman in a red coat, a mobile home after midnight, yellow curtains – these are all clues in a fragmented narrative that raises questions rather than provides answers. In the photography series “Equivocal” we witness enigmatic events that we inadvertently have taken part in. Like uninvited guests in a scenario that refuses to reveal whether it is fact or fiction. The fragments combine in multiple ways and force upon us incomplete story lines of an ambiguous nature. Whether we like it or not.


Við erum stödd innandyra og horfum út. Við erum stödd utandyra og horfum inn. Kona í rauðri kápu, hjólhýsi eftir miðnætti, gul gluggatjöld – allt eru þetta vísbendingar í brotakenndri frásögn sem vekja upp spurningar frekar en að gefa svör. Í myndaröðinni Margsaga verð&um við vitni að óljósum atburðum sem við höfum óvart ratað inní. Eins og óboðnir gestir í sviðsmynd sem neitar að uppljóstra hvort hún sé raunveruleg eða skálduð. Brotin raðast saman og þröngva upp á okkur margræðri atburðarrás. Hvort sem okkur líkar betur eða verr.

Sigrún Sigurðardóttir
Reykjavík
May 2007

Parma ham, salami, red wine, laughter, jalapeno, bread, crying, pesto, mozzarella, chatter, Pellegrino, pasta, olives, demand, attention, happiness, discussion, dog, tiredness, chaos, and finally a child that gets up and runs away.

Dream, nightmare, narrative or reality. Katrín Elvarsdóttir’s photographs from a family dinner, on a hilly landscape (that appears as by change in one of the photographs), present all this to us at once. A family gathering that is ordinary but at the same time seems somewhat alarming. The photographs are a representation of the longing that every one of us carries within about a perfect world, a perfect moment, one that slips between our fingers when we least expect it and our life’s elaborate exterior stands like an empty shell unable to support the life within the circle. The dinner party contained within the circle that the photographs form is full of chaos and unexpected moments. The children create tension at the table, they shout out loud, demand more, not those greens, take a dance step between courses, spill and run away unexpectedly. The adults persist in carrying on with the conversation and enjoying their food. Keeping up the spirit and reminding themselves of the structure that creates a frame around chaos itself.

The photographs confirm what once took place. They also remove the moments from their original context and create a new narrative. With her photographs Katrin Elvarsdóttir creates a narrative based on moments in the life of her family. This is not the story of her family, however. These are not their memories, not their evening. They are only contributors to the story that the photographs bring us. We have to be content with that. We cannot penetrate inside the circle, into their minds and feelings – we don’t know locations, facts, names, dates. We are outside the circle. The narrative that the photographs present to us are fragmented, like in a dream or a memory that we don’t recognize but know that we partake in. It is in our hands to form a complete picture from this—or to let it be and allow the photographs to form a fragmented whole, a circle that doesn’t close.

Circular forms lead us from circular plates, bread baskets, sausages and tattoos into a world seen through other circular forms – a hole in a wall and a half-open window. Katrin’s photographs of landscape that appears through window panes and wall openings emphasize further the emotions that her images awaken, whether in dream, fiction or in reality itself. Our viewpoint is always limited and fragmented. Every day we try to give our life and memories a complete picture. Create a framework, a circle that we incessantly persist in closing even tough we know that if we succeed we can’t let anything else inside. That’s how it ends.

 


 

Parmaskinka, salami, rauðvín, hlátur, jalapeño, brauð, grátur, pestó, mozzarella, skvaldur, pellegrino, pasta, ólívur, heimtufrekja, athygli, hamingja, samræða, hundur, þreyta, ringulreið og að lokum barn sem stendur á fætur og hleypur burt.

Draumur, martröð, frásögn eða veruleiki. Ljósmyndir Katrínar Elvarsdóttur af fjölskyldukvöldverði í hæðóttu landslagi (sem birtist eins og fyrir tilviljun á einni myndinni) birta okkur þetta allt í senn. Fjölskylduboð sem er í senn hversdagslegt en um leið örlítið ógnvekjandi. Ljósmyndirnar eru eins konar birtingarmynd þeirrar þrár sem hver maður ber með sér um fullkominn heim, fullkomið augnablik, sem smýgur burt úr greipum okkar þegar minnst varir og úthugsuð umgjörðin um líf okkar stendur eftir eins og illa gerður hlutur sem hefur enga burði til að móta það líf sem er innan hringsins. Borðhaldið sem á sér stað innan þess hrings sem ljósmyndin skapar umgjörð um er uppfullt af ringulreið og óvæntum augnablikum. Börnin skapa spennu við borðið, þau hrópa upp yfir sig, heimta meira að drekka, vilja ekki svona grænt, taka dansspor milli rétta, hella niður og hlaupa burt þegar minnst varir. Þeir fullorðnu þrjóskast við að halda uppi samræðum og njóta matarins. Halda sínu striki og minna sig á þá umgjörð sem skapar ramma utan um sjálfa ringulreiðina.

Ljósmyndirnar staðfesta það sem eitt sinn átti sér stað. Þær rífa augnablikið jafnframt úr samhengi og skapa þannig nýja frásögn. Með ljósmyndum sínum skapar Katrín Elvarsdóttir frásögn sem hún byggir á raunverulegum augnablikum í lífi fjölskyldu sinnar. Þetta er þó ekki saga fjölskyldu hennar. Þetta eru ekki þeirra minningar, ekki þeirra kvöldstund. Þau leggja aðeins til efni í þá sögu sem ljósmyndirnar færa okkur. Við verðum að láta okkur það nægja. Getum ekki þröngvað okkur inn fyrir, inn í hugarheim þeirra og tilfinningar, þekkjum ekki staðhætti, staðreyndir, nöfn og dagsetningar. Við erum utan hringsins. Sú frásögn sem ljósmyndirnar birta okkur er brotakennd, líkt og í draumi eða minningu sem við könnumst ekki almennilega við en vitum að við eigum hlutdeild í. Það er í okkar valdi að skapa úr þessu heildstæða mynd – eða láta það vera og leyfa ljósmyndunum að mynda brotakennda heild, hring sem ekki lokast.

Hringlaga form leiða okkur frá hringlaga diskum, brauðkörfum, pylsum og húðflúri yfir í veröld sem við virðum fyrir okkur í gegnum önnur hringlaga form, gat í vegg og hálfopinn glugga. Ljósmyndir Katrínar af landslagi sem birtist okkur í gegnum gluggarúður og gluggaop undirstrika enn frekar þá tilfinningu sem ljósmyndir hennar vekja, að heimurinn birtist okkur ætíð á brotakenndan og afmarkaðan hátt, hvort heldur í draumi, skáldskap eða í veruleikanum sjálfum. Sjónarhorn okkar er ætíð takmarkað og brotakennt. Alla daga leitumst við þó við að gefa lífi okkar og minningum heildsteypta mynd. Skapa umgjörð, hring sem við þrjóskumst í sífellu við að loka jafnvel þó að við vitum að ef það tekst getum við ekki hleypt neinu öðru inn. Þannig endar þetta.

 


 

 

 

Æsa Sigurjónsdóttir
París
febrúar 2007

Katrín Elvarsdóttir creates a setting for a little story wherein we observe a group of children that seem to be wandering alone in the woods. “The idea came from a painting I had in my room when I was a little girl, it was a painting of Hansel and Gretel walking down a forest path,” Katrín says of the series she has chosen to call Without a Trace.

Katrín is not photographing reality so to speak, she is not taking photographs of any certain phenomenon. She is not taking photos of children out in the woods, even though the children certainly are of flesh and blood and the story staged in nature, amongst real trees and forest paths. She is not illustrating a story or staging “live pictures” even; she is rather positioning herself askew to reality, and creating a private, parallel world, more like a film director than a photographer.

Katrín employs film aesthetics; the ambient, omniscient, transparent angle of the lens to create a fictional world, but at the same time she lets the viewer sense the physical presence of the lens through effects of light and shadow, which emphasise the centrifugal structure of the picture.

What is correct focus? asked the British photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815 – 1879) when she was criticised for lacking skills when she staged allegorical scenes in which children were often the main subject. Cameron used soft focus to break down the inherent temporality of the photograph, because she wanted to place her photographs in fictional timelessness. Katrín has adopted these pictorialistic methods; soft focus and chiaroscuro; the contrasts of light and shadow create a mysterious texture and a dreamlike atmosphere that severs the viewers’ ties to reality.

We are back in childhood, looking at images that Katrín creates from a memory of a picture that she gazed at as a child. The children seem oblivious to the photographer’s presence; they do not stare into the lens. They are not being photographed as individuals, but rather as anonymous, traceless shadows , doubles, standing in as symbols for children, and the wood for a world outside reality where the summer green evokes the eeriness of the beyond, rather than memories of a pleasant picnic. In this way Katrín ties her subject both in the fairy-tale of the nineteenth century, and the surreal cinematography of the twentieth. The photographs bear foreboding of “unexpected incidents”, of uncanny circumstances, to refer to Freud’s concept of the aesthetic feeling that awakens when the ordinary evokes apprehension and anxiety, such as an insect in the palm of the hand or a scorched patch in the grass.

The sequence Without a Trace reminds us of what happens when we step away from objective description towards subjective interpretation. Katrín shows the reality of unreality, creates new images that the viewer entwines with his/her own vague memories of a picture on a wall or in a book. The pictures suggest multiple contexts, without referring to the particular, and the methods that Katrín uses, the atmosphere she creates, emphasises the feeling of estrangement.

Katrín shares her fractions of memory with the viewer in a post-modern recycling related to the experience often called déjà vu. The children seem neither lost nor hungry, but rather captivated by their own childhood fantasies. The theme itself – children out in the woods – refers to the narrative, the text, and the text cruises around the illustrations of the fairy-tale books of childhood: “Tomorrow morning we shall take them into the woods where they are most dense. There we shall light a fire, give them each a bit of bread and then we shall go to work and leave them behind. They will not find the way home on their own and so we are rid of them … “ [1]. In this way Katrín feeds the viewers imaginary with unbridled stream of imagery and texts, and studies how different media (painting, photography, print, film and fantasy) coverge in the imagination. Of course, this method is not exclusive to the narrative of photography, but adheres to all lyrical and aesthetic experiences. Each and everyone must then find his/her way back by his/her own personal routes and travel the long and winding roads that the individual must trek to make his/her own story. and context, and has to do with what has been called the narrative aspect of the self.

One characteristic of the photograph has been said to come from the photographs condition of being a copy without an original, both figuratively speaking and in fact. A photograph is reprinted and reproduced over and over again, in different sizes and variations. Photographs are projected onto walls, printed in books, arranged into albums or framed. The size and hanging of a photograph affects the viewers understanding and experience of it. In this exhibition Katrín has printed the photographs in different formats in order to break up the grid, which was established by modernist visual standards of the 20th Century, and the sequential nature of film frames. The irregular size of the photographs brings the viewer closer to the private, the chamber, the album, and the book of fairy-tales, and thereby plays down the temporal distance of the photographs.

The title of the exhibition, Without a Trace, refers to the subject, the story of the children abandoned in the woods, but first and foremost to Katrín’s attitude towards photography as a phenomenon. Her images are a study of the fluctuating relationship between photography and reality, and its transparency as an art medium. The invisibility of the photograph creates a certain volatile condition with regard to the viewer’s experience of the photograph’s realness, at the same time this quality also distinguishes it from other art forms, aligning it with cinematography as being the most immediate, way of contemporary image making.

Katrín rejects the conventional definition of photography as a tool to document and study reality, rejects the widespread belief that the photograph shows “this has been”, that the photograph is a mirror, a trace, or a shadow touching time. With the title Katrín exposes her own understanding and use of photography as a way of creating images and as a form of expression. Her photographs are subjective, cosa mentale, fiction; they are a place where stories come to life, to quote the American art critic Clément Greenberg who rightly predicted that the photograph had conquered the narrative that painting had deserted.

[1] Grimmsævintýri. Fimmtíu úrvals-æfintyri úr safni Grimms-bræðranna með fjölda mynda eftir þýzka listmálara, Theodór Árnason íslenskaði, Reykjavík: Bókaverzlun Sigurjóns Jónssonar 1922-1926.

 


 

Katrín Elvarsdóttir setur hér á svið litla sögu þar sem við fylgjumst með nokkrum börnum sem virðast ein á ferð úti í skógi. «Hugmyndin kom frá málverki sem ég var með í herberginu mínu þegar ég var lítil en það var málverk af Hans og Grétu að ganga eftir skógarstíg,» segir Katrín um myndirnar sem hún hefur gefið nafnið Sporlaust.

Katrín er ekki að mynda raunveruleikann í þeirri merkingu að hún sé að taka myndir af einhverju ákveðnu fyrirbæri. Hún er ekki að taka myndir af börnum úti í skógi, jafnvel þótt börnin séu vissulega af holdi og blóði og sagan sviðsett úti í náttúrunni innan um raunveruleg tré og skógarstíga. Hún er heldur ekki að myndskreyta sögu eða setja á svið «lifandi myndir», heldur er hún að setja sig á skjön við raunveruleikann, og býr til einkaheim eða handanveröld, fremur eins og kvikmyndaleikstjóri en ljósmyndari.

Katrín nýtir sér fagurfræði kvikmyndanna, altumlykjandi, alviturt, gagnsætt sjónarhorn linsunnar til að búa til skáldskaparheim, en lætur áhorfandann um leið finna fyrir efnislegri nálægð linsunnar með því að beita áhrifamætti ljósi og skugga sem undirstrika hringsæja byggingu myndarinnar. Hvað er réttur fókus spurði breski ljósmyndarinn Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), þegar hún var ásökuð um að kunna ekki á tækin þegar hún setti á svið allegórískar senur þar sem börn léku oftast aðalhlutverkin. Cameron notaði mjúka skerpu til að brjóta niður eðlislæga tímafestu ljósmyndarinnar, því hún vildi staðsetja myndir sínar í tímaleysi skáldskaparins. Þessar piktoríalísku aðferðir hefur Katrín tileinkað sér, mjúk skerpa og chiaroscuro, andstæður ljóss og skugga, mynda dulúðuga áferð og skapa draumkennt andrúmloft sem skera á öll raunveruleikatengsl áhorfandans.

Við erum á berskuslóðum, horfum á myndir sem Katrín endurgerir eftir minningu um mynd sem hún horfði á sem barn. Börnin virðast ómeðvituð um návist ljósmyndarans, þau horfa ekki í linsuna. Það er ekki verið að mynda þau sem einstaklinga, heldur eru þau nafnlausar, sporlausar skuggaverur, tvífarar, en um leið tákn fyrir börn, og skógurinn heimur utan veruleikans þar sem grænka sumarsins vekur frekar óhug handanheimsins en minningu um farsæla lautarferð. Þannig kjölfestir Katrín myndefnið jafnt í ævintýraveröld nítjándu aldarinnar sem í súrrealískum kvikmyndaheimi þeirrar tuttugustu. Myndirnar fela í sér hugboð um «óvænta atburði», um «óheimilislegar» aðstæður, svo vísað sé til hugtaks Freuds um þá fagurfræðilegu tilfinningu sem vaknar þegar hið hversdagslega vekur óhug og kvíða, eins og skordýri í lófa eða brunablettur á grasi.

Myndröðin Sporlaust minnir á það sem gerist þegar við tökum skrefið frá hlutlausri lýsingu yfir í hugræna túlkun. Katrín sýnir raunveruleika óraunveruleikans, býr til nýjar myndir sem áhorfandinn fléttir saman við sína eigin óljósu minningu um mynd á vegg eða í bók. Myndirnar kalla fram margvísandi samhengi, án þess að vísa til hins sértæka, og aðferðirnar sem Katrín notar, andrúmsloftið sem hún skapar, undirstrikar vissuna um að áhorfandinn sé staddur handan raunveruleikans.

Katrín deilir minningarbrotum sínum með áhorfandanum í póstmódernískri endurvinnslu sem tengjast þeirri upplifun sem stundum er kennd við déjà vu. Börnin virðast hvorki villt né svöng, heldur niðursokking í eigin hugarheim, draumóra bernskunnar. Myndefnið sjálft, börn í skógi, leiðir hugann að sögunni, að textanum, og textinn hringsólar að myndskreytingum ævintýrabóka bernskunnar: «Snemma í fyrramálið skulum við fara með þau inn í skóginn, þar sem hann er þéttastur. þar kveikjum við upp bál, fáum þeim sinn brauðbitann hvoru og förum síðan til vinnu okkar og skiljum þau eftir. þau rata ekki heim, og þar með erum við laus við þau…». Þannig innlimar hún sífellu myndmáls og texta í hugskot áhorfanda og rannsakar hvernig óheft flæði ólíkra miðla ; málverks, ljósmyndar, prentmyndar, kvikmyndar, og hugarheima, renna saman í farvegi ímyndunaraflsins. Aðferð sem að sjálfsögðu er ekki bundin við frásögu ljósmyndarinnar eingöngu, heldur við allar ljóðrænar og fagurfræðilegar upplifanir. Hver og einn verður síðan að rekja sig eftir sínum eigin persónulega þræði og rata þær löngu krókaleiðir sem einstaklingurinn fer til að búa sér til sína eigin sögu, sitt eigið samhengi og tengist því sem kallað hefur verið frásögulegur þáttur sjálfsins.

Eitt einkenni ljósmynda er það sem kennt hefur verið við það ástand ljósmyndarinnar að vera eftirmynd án frummyndar og á það við bæði í eiginlegri og óeiginlegri merkingu. Mynd er endurgerð og endurprentuð í hið óendanlega, í mismunandi stærðum og gerðum. Myndum er varpað á vegg, þær eru prentaðar í bókum, settar í albúm eða rammaðar inn. Stærð og uppsetning myndar hefur merkingu og áhrif á hvernig áhorfandinn skilur og upplifir þær. Á þessari sýningu hefur Katrín prentað myndirnar í ólíkum stærðum í þeim tilgangi að brjóta upp hefðbundið upphengiform sem mótaðist af módernískri sjónhefð 20. aldarinnar og raðbundnum eiginleikum kvikmyndarammanns. Óregluleg stærð myndanna færir áhorfandann nær einkaheiminum, herberginu, myndaalbúminu eða ævintýrabókinni og dregur á þann hátt úr tímalausri fjarlægð myndanna.

Titillinn Sporlaust er margvísandi. Hann vísar til myndefnisin, frásögunnar um börnin á hrakningi í skóginum, en fyrst og fremst til afstöðu Katrínar til ljósmyndarinnar sem fyrirbæris. Myndir hennar eru athugun á ótryggum tengslum ljósmyndarinnar við raunveruleikann og gegnsæi hennar sem listmiðils. Gegnsæi ljósmyndarinnar skapar ákveðið óvissuástand hvað varðar upplifun áhorfandans á raunveruleika myndarinnar, um leið og þessi eiginleiki ljósmyndarinnar aðgreinir hana frá öðrum listmiðlum og setur hana á bekk með kvikmyndalistinni sem nærtækasta aðferð samtímans til myndsköpunar.

Katrín hafnar viðteknum skilningi á ljósmyndinni sem tæki til að skrá og rannsaka raunveruleikann, á þeirri útbreiddu skoðun að ljósmynd sýni « það sem hafi verið», að ljósmyndin sé spegill, spor í sandi eða skuggi í snertingu við tímann. Með titlinum afhjúpar Katrín skilning sinn og notkun á ljósmyndinni sem myndsköpunaraðferð og tjáningarleið. Myndir hennar eru hugrænar, þær eru cosa mentale, skáldskapur, staður þar sem sögur verða til, svo vísað sé til orða bandaríska listgagnrýnandinn Clément Greenberg sem sannspár taldi ljósmyndina hafa náð valdi á þeim frásagnarheimi sem málaralistin hefði yfirgefið.

 


 


Directions
Bragi Ólafsson
Reykjavík
2004

The two of them walk on the potholed road, away from here, towards the bottom of the image that appears to us. It has been raining and the rain has left us a different image of this area than the one we had before; we are located in the present. We don’t see where the two of them are coming from, we can only see what lays in front of us. They become smaller with each step, and when they disappear behind the hill that spreads out at the top of the frame the next picture takes over - but we can't see that picture; at the moment our eyes are occupied by the past.

Here is a mountain and the mountain is sheltering a house. But no one lives in this house and therefore we don't know what the inside looks like. It gazes upon the lawn outside through its hollow sockets; it gazes its own space, but nothing that it sees changes by being seen - everything continues to stay the same as always. At first I feel like time has erased all life that once was to be found here, but after a short contemplation I realize that it happened the other way around.

By looking around, the following questions emerge. What is the color of the grass reaching down towards the edge of the lake - and what is the color of the water? Is it possible to say that the mountain – when one looks in the other direction - displays a specific color, or that the dead eyes of an abandoned house are the same color as death? Is the rock lying on the ground somehow differently colored then the next rock? And what is the color of the sun? Does its color change when it disappears below the horizon? I don't know the answers to these questions - first I need to see the grass, the water, the mountain, the abandoned house, the rock lying on the ground and the rock next to it, and the sun on the other side of the horizon.

The only purpose of the road is to point us in the direction that it is leading. The road doesn't have any other purpose. And I'm not on the way that it suggests; I'm on my way here. For I recognize this place - here everything is as if it had been created from my own ideas: the mountain, the house, the water and the expanse, all of it small enough to easily fit in the eyes.

 


Sigrún Sigurðardóttir
Reykjavík
júlí 2005

Það er kaldur sumardagur í íslenskri sveit. Ég finn lykt af gömlum blúndugardínum. Rykkorn kitlar mig í nefið. Ég halla mér upp að kaldri rúðunn og fæ ofbirtu í augun. Samt er ekki sól. Þetta er kaldur sumardagur í íslenskri sveit. Þetta er ljósmynd af veruleikanum eins og ég man hann. Ég var barn. Ég var fullorðin.

Ljósmyndir Katrínar Elvarsdóttur eru ögrun við hinn línulega tíma og hið skipulagða minni. Þegar við virðum fyrir okkur hvít blóm á skógarbotni, hafflötinn sem er í senn tælandi og fráhrindandi eða skugga trjágreina á hvítum vegg er sem hið hefðbundna tímaskyn fari á flot. Löngu liðnir atburðir, augnablik sem við geymum innra með okkur, minna fyrirvaralaust á sig. Augnablikið heltekur okkur. Minningin er líkamleg. Við finnum fyrir henni með öllum líkamanum. Rifjum upp lyktina, áferðina og óljósa sýn sem birtist okkur eitt afmarkað augnablik líkt og í draumi. Þessi minning á sér ekki stað innan hins hefðbundna krónólógíska tíma. Hún er ekki hluti af endurminningum okkar.

Katrín Elvarsdóttir hefur fest óljósar endurminningar sínar á filmu og þar með gert okkur áhorfendunum mögulegt að framkalla minningar sem búið hafa um sig djúpt í undirmeðvitund okkar. Katrín deilir minningarbrotum úr lífi sínum með okkur og þau fléttast saman við okkar eigin óljósu minningar um blúndugardínur í íslenskri sveit og hlykkjóttan veg á fjarlægum slóðum.

Ljósmyndir Katrínar kalla fram tilfinningar sem skapa minningar. Tíminn er ekki tekinn með í reikninginn. Hann leysist upp og líf okkar skreppur saman. Skyldi það vera svona á dauðastundinni? Skyldu óljós minningabrot, sem við komum ekki fullkomlega fyrir okkur, en hafa okkur algjörlega á valdi sínu, brjótast fram? það er einhver drungi í ljósmyndum Katrínar. Einhver háski sem Þrátt fyrir fegurðina er við það að skella á. Hin fullkomna kyrrð felur í sér einhverja óljósa hreyfingu. Frásögn sem við getum ekki rifjað upp. Er þetta augnablik fegurðarinnar, augnablikið sem festist í minni okkar, rétt áður en áfallið dynur yfir, rétt áður en allt breytist, veruleikinn gerir vart við sig og ekkert verður eins og áður?

Góður ljósmyndari opnar leið fyrir veruleikann inn í hinn tilbúna efnislega heim sem við sífellt byggjum í kringum líf okkar. Í ljósmyndum Katrínar minnir veruleikinn á tilvist sína. Háskinn er handan við hornið, óendanleiki hafsins verður áþreifanlegur og tíminn leysist upp. Er ég barn sem leitar skjóls á skandinavískum skógarbotni? Er ég unglingur í tilboðspakkanum flug og bíll í Evrópu? Eða er ég fullorðin kona í íslenskri sveit? Ef til vill er ég þetta allt á einu og sama augnablikinu. Ef ég horfi nógu lengi á ljósmyndina, leyfi hverju smáatriði að búa um sig í mér og hrifsa mig á brott á vit löngu liðins tíma, já, þá er sem veruleikinn sjálfur geri vart við sig. Og það rifjast smám saman upp fyrir mér hver það er sem er þessi ég.

 


Gyða Margrét Pétursdóttir
Reykjavík
febrúar 2005

Formáli.
Einu sinni átti maður nokkur heima við mýri eina langt úti í löndum. Maður þessi var ákaflega smávaxinn. Hann bjó einn síns liðs í mjög litlum og níðurníddum kumbalda og skammaðist sín óskaplega fyrir hvað hann var lítill. „Ég er orðinn dauðleiður á því að vera svona smávaxinn,“ sagði hann við sjálfan sig. „Ég ætla að komast því hvort ég geti ekki stækkað.“[1]

Meginmálið
Að vandlega íhuguðu máli tók ríkisstjórnin þá ákvörðun að lýsa yfir stuðningi við innrás Bandaríkjanna og Bretlands í Írak. // Það er ekki eins og þetta hafi verið gert í skyndingu. // þetta eru staðreyndir málsins // við veitum slíkan móralskan stuðning // Var það ekki skylda okkar að gera það? // Grunur um gereyðingarvopn írakskra stjórnvalda réð auðvitað miklu. // Það sem liggur hins vegar ekki fyrir er hvað varð um þessi vopn. Það er enn ekki upplýst.

Íraksstríðið er umdeilt um allan heim. Það hefur verið umdeilt og það er það enn þann dag í dag. Það er líka umdeilt á Íslandi. // Þeir sem gagnrýna mest innrás Bandaríkjanna og Breta voru líka miklir andstæðingar viðskiptabannsins. Þeir vildu trúa því, sem er mjög gott að trúa, að þetta leysist allt af sjálfu sér. Trú þeirra er mikil. // Hvað sem því líður getum við ekki snúið til baka. Við hljótum að vinna út frá þeirri stöðu sem er í dag. Það er kominn tími uppbyggingar. Sá tími er kominn að hernámsliðið fari frá Írak og Írakar taki sjálfir stjórn í sínar hendur. // Það er alveg klárt að við verðum að sæta ábyrgð á gjörðum okkar. // það er það sem skiptir meginmáli.

Íslensk stjórnvöld studdu aðgerðir til að koma Saddam Hussein frá völdum. Það hefur nú tekist. Hann ríkti yfir þjóð sinni sem grimmur harðstjóri og miskunnarlaus böðull. // Við skulum vona að slíkir harðstjórar komist þar ekki aftur til valda.[2]

Eftirmáli. „Lengi lifi hermaðurinn!“ hrópaði mannfjöldinn sem hataði feita kónginn og drottninguna. Kóngurinn hafði reist margar fínar hallir fyrir peningana sem fólkið átti. Og meðan allir unnu baki brotnu myrkranna á milli sat kóngurinn í höll sinni og vann ekki handtak. Já, fólkið var ánægt með að þessu ástandi linnti. Nú mundi það að minnsta kosti fá kóng sem bæri hag þegnanna fyrir brjósti. „Lengi lifi nýi kóngurinn!“ hrópaði fólkið. „Húrra!“ Hermaðurinn var krýndur kóngur og hann gekk að eiga prinsessuna. Þau eignuðust þrjú falleg börn sem aldrei þurftu að óttast neitt því hundarnir þrír með ógnarstóru augun gættu þeirra hverja stund.[3]

Bútasaum annaðist Gyða Margrét Pétursdóttir
Mynstrið sem hún studdist við kallast „Kostnaður karlmennskunnar“



1. Hartman, B. (1998). Ævintýri frá ýmsum löndum. Sögur og sígild ævintýri (Hreinn S. Hákonarson þýddi). Reykjavík: Skálholtsútgáfan. [Bls. 64].
2. Bútar úr ræðum fyrrverandi utanríkisráðherra (núverandi forsætisráðherra) á Alþingi dagana 5.11.2003, 28.1.2004 og 19.5.2004. www.althingi.is
3. Andersen, H.C. (1998). Ævintýri H.C. Andersen (Sigrún Árnadóttir þýddi). Reykjavík: Vaka-Helgafell hf. [Bls. 134].

 


Sigrún Sigurðardóttir
Reykjavík
júlí 2004

Wet pavement. I lose my sense of balance. The world recedes from underneath my feet. All that was is no more, but still is. Buried somewhere deep inside myself.

The photographs of Katrín Elvarsdóttir speak to that which lies in hiding. Yet they do not tell a story. They only contain experiences. Moments that do not find their place among other memories. Moments that live outside the language sphere and are awakened through pure coincidence, capturing the viewer. Elvarsdóttir’s photographs do not speak to common sense. Language, with all its subliminal authority, is not their subject. Elvarsdóttir’s photographs speak first and foremost to the senses. They belong with those memories that the French author Marcel Proust called mémoire involuntaire – involuntary memories. Our involuntary memory system lies out of linguistic reach and its contents will thus never become part of the public narrative that we tell others and that we come to believe about ourselves – that which we call our recollections. Such memories, nonetheless, constitute a true connection to that which has come to pass. To that which was – yet actually wasn’t. The senses awaken the subdued from a deep sleep. The past appears to us without warning, caused by an object, smell, touch, taste, sound or sight, arousing feelings that we have safeguarded within us.

And so it is with our own past. It is a labor in vain to attempt to recapture it: All the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of the intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) of which we have no inkling. And it depends on chance whether or not we come upon this object before we ourselves must die.
- Marcel Proust

Elvarsdóttir’s photographs evoke memories that we don't know are part of us until they appear before us, without warning or preparation, awakening feelings of times long gone. A child’s foot submerged in water, momentarily distorted. A foot that used to have a familiar shape takes on a foreign and frightening form. An instance turns into momentary terror. Repeated motion. A foot touches the water surface. Distortion becomes play. The terror fades. The play fades. The memory goes dormant. Until this moment, formerly a part of me, appears to me again in a different disguise, calling forth emotions that have laid submerged, until this moment.

The voluntary memories that have formed our self-image, along with the stories which we constantly repeat about ourselves, are molded by language and thus by rhetoric and common views held by society. The picture that our voluntary memory holds is therefore always distorted, influenced by our own views towards society and by society's views on that which is and that which was. Our voluntary memory doesn't hand us the past as it really was but, rather, as we have come to represent it. Involuntary memory is hidden in the senses. It is independent of language and thus the idea about linear time where the present turns into the past and the future turns into the present. In our involuntary memory the present and the past interact. A past becomes, for a moment, part of the here and now, and we are unable to tell that which happened from that which is happening.

In the photograph the past and the present meet. What once was in front of the photographer acquires a second life in the mind of the viewer. Fractions of memories – which don't belong to ourselves – acquire new life when they awaken trapped emotions deep within. Emotions that we may even be incapable of relating to particular events but yet evoke streams of consciousness that give the present a new meaning. The terror of a scantily clad child, a lonely back yard, red swings slowly moving. Dream or reality. I don't know. Yet I only know that the feeling is real. Familiar. But nondescript. Involuntary memories. Moments buried deep inside.

 


Jóhanna Guðrun Árnadóttir
Reykjavík
Feburary 2003

The subject of this seires compromises mannequins of various kinds which appear to be on the fringes of life and lifelessness. The obeserver is shown indistinct images of bodyparts and the unclear distinction leads to doubt as to whether the images are of real people or models.

Katrín achieves this unclear effect using a cheap and primitive 120 mm camera, where the results depend upon the fixed apperature, and the depth of field in the phototographs is mysty yet clear. The technique underlines the dreamlike ambience of the picture plane, where the boundary between the real and the unreal has been obliterated.

Laden with mystery and uncertainty about what is happening Katrín's Breathless implies that things are not what they seem. The intention with the work appears to be rather to bring out the reality we perceive between dreaming and wakefulness than to focus on stone-cold reality.

 

 

 


Doc Crane,
Massachusetts
December 2001

The phantoms suggested by the title of Katrín Elvarsdóttir's series, Revenants, are of a different variety than the spectres that might float through a keyhole. The ghosts glimpsed in her photographs have more to do with things left behind to memory — earthly things, perhaps, but just as haunting. The items or places are inert, yet it is as if they radiate with some last vestige of emotion — a last gasp of imparted spirit.

The landscapes, originated on archaic equipment barely more advanced than a pinhole camera, hark back to the earliest era of photography. The territory is of a rural Iceland whose inhabitants have died out or moved on to better prospects, a condition not uncommon to many parts of the world, the cause being anything from industrialization, to climate change. The result is that the environments depicted could be of any high latitude, whether the post-Soviet Union, Labrador, or Patagonia. But because it is Iceland, the ghosts implied within the title are specific to their own culture. The Icelanders themselves may be re-established in Reykjavík or on extended trips around the world. But the folklore remains among the ruins, as if the previous generations left behind a sediment of emotion that has been absorbed into the soil, rendering each outcrop a sentient being. And if the Icelandic interpretation of their mythology is more literal than in other parts of Northern Europe, this would seem a logical enough proposition. Mythology has always fermented in the opaque regions just beyond sight of the campfire, or in the modern era, the zone beyond certifiable evidence. In the effort to maintain an authentic identity within the larger western industrial civilization, a link to superstition has carried over, allowing for a good amount of leeway in retaining a sense of the elves.

The land is nameless, the titles of the images not so much documenting specific locations in Iceland as denoting realms no more accessible than the ether of memory. It is in this way that the parallels exist between Katrín Elvarsdóttir's own origins and her work, as she was born in Ísafjördur in 1964, but her family relocated to Reykjavík. After a period spent abroad during her teens in Sweden, she attended the University of Iceland studying French literature, followed by an extended stay in the U.S., where her inclination shifted to photography. Out of such an environment with so many disparate instincts, Katrín's own personal sensibility resonates with an unflappable integrity. An individual artist with a distinctive body of work, she has functioned and survived within a larger, prevailing global culture, as evident in her shows during the late 1990s in Reykjavík, Florida, Denmark, and New England. Whether in photographs or collage assemblies, her imagery strikes a balance between narrative and a strong graphic instinct.

In Revenants, her attention shifts back towards the territory of her origins. She has pared down her technology to the most rudimentary of 120 format cameras, reducing her choices to the essential exposure, the rudimentary optics dictating a unity within the images, with concentric degrees of illumination emphasizing innate distances as palpable and yet indescribable as any glimpse of Elysium or Beulah Land. The result is not unlike an alchemist's camera obscura capturing evidence of a place that is at once just beyond the lens but as inaccessible as the netherworld.

It is indeed an ethereal heritage that Katrín has returned home to. Yet for all the prevailing themes that unify the series, there are as many elements that distinguish each individual photograph.

In photograph "Suðurland II" (2001) the exposure evokes not so much Iceland, but a Soviet Union of secret numbered cities or forgotten gulags. As if in a surreptitious snap taken by an exile, or by remote sensing, the northern sun illuminates what could be either launching gantries or oil wells, the technology reduced by the environment to its most primitive form. And for all the light shining downward, the cold is all encompassing, even while the chimera of the spires would suggest radiation passing through them, rendering everything within the frame lifeless, the dark swath at the bottom of the image not so much earth as inert sediment.

"Norðurland III" (2001) is, of course, more blatant in suggesting a Soviet/post-Soviet venue, as the Cyrillic lettering on the ship's superstructure leaves little doubt as to its origin. The connection between the two worlds would seem logical enough, the shore being on the edge of the abyss, the Arctic beginning just beyond view. Whatever comes from over the horizon, whether Russian freighters, Siberian driftwood, Maersk containers, crates of oranges, or Algerian corsairs, their influences are deposited with the currents, forgotten a month later, but remembered for generations.

"Snæfellsnes" (2001) with its emptied house and connected outbuildings sitting at the foot of a glaciated mountain, the disposition of the sky and the line of the mountain carries a homely trace. As if harking back to the idyll of a silent film epic, the site resembles an archaic redoubt, however the substance, structure, and size of the ruin would indicate a fairly recent past. With its asymmetrical lines and lopsided cavities, the decrepitude is all pervasive — the former occupants having either perished or moved on to a more sustainable existence, as if the region as been formally deincorporated and declared an empty quarter, abandoned to the hinterlands.

In "Strandir II" (2000) the wreckage of the grounded ship, devoid of any masts or deck structure, righted only by an external framework, has merged with the land and the harbor, forming an inadvertent promontory. The hull, although still solid, would appear to have been picked clean by salvagers, its crew having disembarked more or less in safety to the shore. It is a sight reminiscent of the Falklands Islands and other high-latitude outposts, with generations of working ships beached and written off rather than venture further into treacherous seas. Any sense of memorializing seems happenstance, no plaques being necessary, the long, sculptural lines of the hulk itself serving as enough of a monument.

"Norðurland II" (2001) with its surplus Quonset Hut and mid-sixties Oldsmobile carries over to what now seems as much a mythic era in that it could be called "Middle Cold War." The iconography of both the hut and car scream of a shabby American nostalgia, and unlike the previous images, it is not an abandoned site. The light above the car is on, glowing faintly, and there are no uneven traces of debris in the foreground, just a sparse functionality of the environs. But at most, there would seem to be only a skeleton shift in a workshop, the machinery idling during a summer dusk, the American influences counting as a decorative layer already settling back into the earth.

In "Strandir I" (2000) it is not clear if the factory overlooking the span of water, like the previous image, is a derelict or is functioning on some basic level, as a faint wisp of vapor emanating from the chimney appears to mimic the low-hanging cloud in the harbor. But it is the barest sign of life, as the right angles of the building settle into a foreground that is as opaque as volcanic ash – a parked car rendered a faint, half-submerged shape, lost among the murk. With its smudged cement surfaces, worn by time and the elements, it is hard to image the factory ever having supported itself so far on the periphery of any larger economy. Its only apparent link is the water and the narrow causeway and winding road on the right, and yet it might be purely illusionary, as if faces could be glimpsed in the detail as well. All that remains amidst the composition and the interplay of light is that the structure remains, the smokestack still reaching upward, almost a monument, a rust-belt obelisk.

"Að Norðan" (2000) sits under a shroud of overcast, the solitary stucco cottage reflected in a mudpuddle. It could be Ireland or straight out of the remembered potato fields of Günter Grass's Kashubia, and somehow, as if by virtue of its placement within the frame, the cottage evokes a grandmotherly presence, left behind to a hardscrabble existence. It is a sentimental premise, or at least a projected sentiment, as the gulf between the comfortable, reflective present and the earlier generations who tried to make a viable living off such a landscape and often failed continues to haunt as much as any specter.

That "Suðurland I" (2001) should follow "Að Norðan" makes perfect sense, for beyond the link in the weather and the rain-filled puddles, the road winding towards the horizon is no doubt escaping the isolated world of the previous image. There is no sense of arrival, only departure, as if setting off and severing ties is an inevitable fact, but the loss is undeniable. For as much as the landscape is comprehended, having been measured, divided, and worked to exhaustion, it is only upon return that the final aesthetic transformation is apparent.

If arrival is to be had, it is in "Suðurnes" (1999) the overcast of the earlier images having broken, the road having deposited the perspective — in what may belie the title — to the edge of true North, Ultima Thule, the rough-hewn shrine serving as a marker. As much as it would seem morning, the lateness of the hour – or indeed the epoch – has been reached. It is the fact of the high latitude, the very sense of impossibility that buffets the place with a roar, and that there is indeed a palpable glory cast upon this knoll. It is a glory not dependent on the cross pushed up against the sky; the cross is simply another mythic application, another level of iconography, another visitor's interpretation. The glory is that the patch of windblown high grass and distant mountain frame a rarefied pocket where the transcendent is to be glimpsed, a point where geography and the sublime converge.

Katrín Elvarsdóttir©2006