“Wind Harp” Sculpture Unveiled at Harpa Concert Hall

Elín Hansdóttir Harpa sculpture Himinglæva

Himinglæva is the name of a new stainless-steel sculpture by Elín Hansdóttir that will be officially unveiled outside of Harpa Concert Hall tomorrow. It’s a work of art that is not only meant to be seen, but also heard. An “Aeolian harp,” the sculpture is designed to produce sonic overtones as the wind travels through it. Its name comes from Norse mythology, and means “transparent, shining, and small wave.”

In Norse mythology, sailors who sensed the power of the wind and waves around them assumed that the mythical figure Himinglæva was embodying the water and propelling their vessels across the ocean. Alluding metaphorically to this legend, the harp is designed to attune the viewer to the natural forces around them. The shape is based on a Lissajous figure, representing the shape of light beams reflected through vibrating tuning forks. The sounds it produces change based on the force of the wind travelling through it.

A long time in the making

The sculpture has been a long time in the making: back in 2008, before Harpa was completed, a design competition was held for public art in the environs of the concert hall. Himinglæva was the winning entry. Funding priorities shifted following the banking collapse, but thanks to a monetary gift from the City of Reykjavík and the state given to Harpa last year, the concert hall could finally fund the construction of Elín’s design.

Elín’s work often involves visual distortions that heighten the viewer’s awareness of their own presence in relation to the artwork. Himinglæva plays with sonic distortions instead, exploring how a sculpture can filter the natural environment around it.

Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Mayor of Reykjavík Dagur B. Eggertsson will be present at the sculpture’s unveiling in front of Harpa at 4:00 PM tomorrow. Elín is currently completing a residency in Berlin, but will travel to Iceland for the unveiling of Himinglæva.

Where can I find the sculpture of a man with a big rock on his body?

Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat by Magnús Tómasson Reykjavík

The sculpture you’re looking for is the “Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat.” The sculpture, which combines the lower half of a person in a suit carrying a briefcase and a massive unhewn rock where the upper torso and head should be, was created by Icelandic sculptor Magnús Tómasson in 1994.

The sculpture used to be located in an alleyway off Lækjargata, perhaps a nod to the obscurity of the character it represents. But today it stands prominently at the northern end of Reykjavík’s central pond, Tjörnin, at the end of the long footbridge leading into city hall.

The statue is an ode to the faceless member of government, toiling away without much thanks or praise – hence the figure being reduced to a generic body of a business person, with any distinguishing features obscured by a large boulder.

Magnús has said the sculpture is his take on monuments to unknown soldiers that you can find in many countries around the world to pay tribute to people who have given their lives in defence of their countries. “There is no army in Iceland, but plenty of officials,” Magnús told Morgunblaðið newspaper about the work. “And I thought it appropriate that the infantry of the bureaucracy, the anonymous destinies of the lives of ordinary people, should have their monument.”

Magnús is also the creator of a large sculpture placed prominently outside Iceland’s international airport in Keflavík. The “Jet Nest” is a massive steel egg sitting atop a nest of basalt rock. Poking out of the cracked egg is the wing of a jet that resembles the beak of a bird.

ISK 5.8 Million to Brighten Peace Tower

Yoko Ono’s art installation on Reykjavík’s Viðey island has never shone brighter, Vísir reports. The column of light, known as the Imagine Peace Tower, received an upgrade this year in the form of new mirrors which make the work brighter and more beautiful than before, according to Sigurður Trausti Traustason of the Reykjavík Art Museum, which oversees the work.

The Imagine Peace Tower is an outdoor work of art conceived by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon. The white stone monument emits a tower of light, which extends upward at least 4,000 metres (13,100 feet) on a clear night.

The tower is illuminated in a special ceremony which takes place every year on October 9th, Lennon’s birthday. Nearly 1,800 people attended the ceremony last month, a record for the event. According to Sigurður, lighting the tower involves a bit more than just flipping a switch.

“Each year a group goes out to Viðey to align the tower. There are nine spotlights which form the tower and they need to be straight,” Sigurður explains. One staff member lights the first spotlight while four others evaluate whether or not it is pointing straight up.

“It’s easier said than done as the work stands on open ground and there’s nothing to compare against. It’s similar to a larger work in New York, where the twin towers once stood, and there they’ve got all these straight skyscrapers to measure against,” Sigurður states. He adds that the team often calls a friend on the mainland to judge whether the light is perfectly vertical.

“It happened once that we thought we had finished the job, but when we had gained some distance we saw that the beam was quite crooked. By then it was just too late so we had go out to the island the following day to fix the work.”

The new mirrors cost of ISK 5.8 million ($46,000/€42,000). That’s a fair price to pay, considering the Tower’s overall cost since its inauguration in 2007 has been just over ISK 40 million ($321,000/€290,000).