Pussy Riot to Perform at National Theatre

The Russian protest and performance art group Pussy Riot will perform at Iceland’s National Theatre in November, RÚV reports.

Theatre director Magnús Geir Þórðarson said the piece will be part play, part art exhibition, and part concert, and is being staged in conjunction with the group’s first retrospective, which will also open in November at Reykjavík’s Kling & Bang exhibition space.

“This is, of course, a remarkable group that we all know and have followed in the media in recent years. This is a band and a performance art group, a political force, that came here in the spring and worked at the National Theatre to prepare a show that they’ve been touring around Europe this summer and which has been very well-received, with great reviews,” said Magnús Geir.

Co-founder disguised herself as a food courier to escape house arrest

Staunch critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin and feminists who have called for the liberation and equality of women and the LGBTQIA+ community, the members of Pussy Riot have endured significant political persecution. Three of the founding members served jail time for performing their “Punk Prayer” in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, in protest of the Russian Orthodox Church’s close ties to Putin.

Placed under house arrest, co-founder Maria (Masha) Alyokhina disguised herself as a food courier and fled both her home and the country in May of this year. Having had her passport confiscated and been placed on Russia’s “Wanted” list, Alyokhina initially had trouble crossing the Russian border, but Deutsche Welle reports that with the help of Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson, she was “able to obtain European documents, allowing her to enter Lithuania.”

Ragnar has been an effusive supporter of the group and their work. “Pussy Riot’s performances are, without a doubt, some of the most important political art works of the 21st century,” he said. “If ever there were artists who gave everything for their art, it’s these badasses. The exhibition is centered around Masha’s story and her description of the hell that is Putin’s Russia.”

Statues, Shows, Sand, and Street Theatre: Reykjavík Arts Festival Begins Today

taylor mac Reykjavík arts festival

An indoor, black sand beach, statues in Medieval suits of armour, drag shows, and street theatre are just a few examples of the many sights at this year’s Reykjavík Arts Festival, which kicks off today. Between June 1 and 19, visitors and residents of Reykjavík will be regaled with exhibitions, performances, concerts, and more, many of which are free.

The festival has already made itself visible in the city centre: in front of the iconic Hallgrímskirkja, a collection of six statues by Steinunn Þórarinsdóttir have been installed, three featuring reconstructions of Medieval armour from the Met collection. Musical highlights of the festival include performances by drag artist Taylor Mac and conductor and singer Barbara Hannigan, this Thursday to Saturday. On Saturday and Sunday, the Sun and Sea exhibition will take over Reykjavík Art Museum, filling the museum’s courtyard with black sand from Iceland’s beaches. The exhibition was awarded the Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Biennale.

The Arts Festival’s opening party will take place at Iðnó this Friday evening, featuring stand-up comedy by Madame Tourette, live music from Latin American music group Los Bomboneros, and DJ Kraftgalli. All Reykjavík Arts Festival events at Iðnó are free to attend.

The full festival program is available on the festival website.

Icelandic Artist Packs Up Exhibition in Russia

Ragnar Kjartansson

Contemporary Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson has put a stop to his exhibition Santa Barbara that was taking place in the newly-opened GEC-2 contemporary art museum in Moscow, Russia, RÚV reports. Kjartan says there was no question that packing up the exhibition was the right thing to do after Russia invaded Ukraine last Thursday. Ragnar is an internationally renowned artist, having exhibited at the Venice Biennale, the Tate Modern, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, among other places.

“It’s not possible to exhibit this piece when this horror has begun,” Ragnar stated. “The piece is about the beginning of the Russia that came to be after the Soviet Union. And that Russia ended [last Thursday]. Now it’s just become a full-blown fascist state.”

Ragnar’s piece Santa Barbara is named after the US soap opera that started being broadcast in Russia one week after the fall of the Soviet Union. The exhibition recreates the series one episode at a time under the direction of Ása Helga Hjörleifsdóttir. A team of crew and actors had recreated one episode from the show each day since the beginning of December, until the decision to stop was made last week. The exhibition was originally supposed to run for an additional two weeks.

Read More: Staging Reality

Ragnar says Russian artists have told him of being censored or imprisoned due to their art. “It’s just been an incredible experience to make art in this situation, where it’s almost like being in a thriller,” Ragnar stated. “You meet all kinds of people that have been put in prison, experienced bomb threats, censorship and I don’t know what else.”

A New York Times article from December describes Russian artist Maria V. Alyokhina’s criticism of the GEC-2 grand opening as “hosting a feast during a plague,” a reference to a play by Alexander Pushkin. “It’s really cool what they are doing, I really like it. It’s just, we have reality also, not only ‘Santa Barbara,’” Alyokhina said, implying the arts centre was ignoring Russia’s political reality. Ragnar is also quoted in the article as saying: “Many things can be criticized in this country, but we cannot look away from the fact that the Russian culture is completely awesome.”

Czech Artist Converts Ship’s Wheelhouse into ‘Cultural Kiosk’ in Seyðisfjörður

A ship’s wheelhouse dating back to 1969 is getting a new life as a piece of public art cum snack stand in the East Iceland village of Seyðisfjörður, RÚV reports. The project, dubbed KIOSK 108, is the brainchild of Czech artist Monika Fryčová, who decided to turn her attentions outward during lockdown and find a way to make a meaningful contribution to the local community. The plan? To take an abandoned ship’s wheelhouse and convert it into a ‘cultural kiosk.’

“When the COVID situation came, I thought it’s very useless for me to sit behind [my] computer and wait [to get] sick,” Monika explained. “So, I start[ed] to think about how I can make public art for outsiders and local people, to make something meaningful with this object.”

Screenshot, RÚV

Monika plans to serve light meals and drinks from the converted wheelhouse, including fish soup, hot dogs, coffee, and beer. She’s using old timber to build a small bar inside the cabin where people can sit and look out the window onto the fjord. She’s also plans to create a kid’s corner for children to play in and have a stage on the roof where musicians and artists can perform.

Monika is selling KIOSK 108 stickers and t-shirts to raise money for the project, which has also received a grant from Uppbyggingarsjóður Austurlands, the East Iceland Development Fund.

Watch Monika’s interview with RÚV (in English) here; and another video she made about KIOSK 108, here.