Örn Alexander Ámundasson
Örn Alexander Ámundason in conversation with Gertrud Sanqvist, professor at the Malmö Art Academy and co-curator of Pandemonium – Art in a Time of Creativity Fever.
Gertrud Sandqvist Tell me about Kreppa! To begin with, what does the word mean in Icelandic?
Örn Alexander Ámundasson Kreppa means to crunch something together, but it is also the name for big financial crises, such as the world depression in the 1930's, or the one on Iceland in 2008. Before I did the piece, I made some research on it. You can find the origins for it already in 1984, when the new neo-liberal Icelandic government introduced a fishing quota system, and spread the quotas to friends and relatives. It meant that certain people with big fishing boats suddenly became very rich. It also led to corruption. Some sold their quotas to in particular German companies, and made millions. The next step came when the banks were privatized in 2003, and, again, the bank holders were friends and relatives to the government, many of them with only high-school education, and completely inexperienced in banking. According to me, the period in Iceland between 1984 and 2009 was a major experiment in raw capitalism. It ended in 2009 with the resignation of the government after consistent leftist protests, in particular from outside the parliament. In the symphony I have used the ukulele to signify the entrance of our new prime minister from the green party, Jóhanna Sigurdadottir, as the one coming in with new hope.For depicting the crisis, I chose 13 individual voices, relevant for the story, such as the politician (as string instruments), the press (tuba), the banks (french horn), the investors (wood winds), and the protesters (marimba). Some specific politicians have their own instruments. The score is based on the sound of all the interviews made during the period. These voices have been processed through a music computer program. I began to work on this piece in the middle of the crisis, in 2009, when the icelandic crown was devalorized with 50 %.Rather soon I came up with the idea to use a musical, performative time-based element to describe what had happened. It’s a complicated story with several secret events which means that it's hard to understand the whole story, and I figured that a symphony would be a good format to display it in.
GS The transport or transformation of an idea can be seen at the very core of art. I know that this is something that interest you. öaa Yes, I’m interested in the act of transformation, which is so closely related to other phenomena such as trance, the idea of the genius, creativity – and the distress the artist feel about how to get access to all this. In Styrofoam,burlap, plaster from this year, I am setting up a situation which relates to this. The artist (myself) stands in a workshop space making a form of generic sculpture with the materials mentioned in the title, this whilst listening to a beautiful arias from Puccini’s La Bohème – performed live by rather overwhelming female opera singers present in the studio. At this point something is going a little bit awry. The models are becoming aggressive, and the artist is pressed further to be creative.
GS The situation became even more desperate in the following piece?
ÖAA You mean Samtöl? Yes, it is about a similar position – to somehow force inspiration to come. It was performed live in Reykjavik, and I was sitting on a pedestal working with clay, while I randomly phoned people from the phone book, surrounded by an audience. I talked with strangers I found through the phone book, while I was sculpting, waiting for them to hang up. As long as they talked, I continued to sculpt. The clay was shaped by the conversation.
GS It sounds as a desperate need for inspiration? öaa Yes, it’s like a drug addict trying to get a fix. There is no way out. Art becomes an addiction.
Biography Born 1984 on Iceland, lives and works in Sweden. Örn Alexander Ámundason received an MFA from Malmö Art Academy in 2011. He has been exhibited at Sudsudvestur, Reykjanesbær, KHM Gallery and Brandenburgischer Kunstverein, Potsdam.
Photo: Hendrik Zeitler