Björk to be Honoured with Statue in Reykjavík

björk 1997

Icelandic musician and artist Björk has been named an honorary citizen of Reykjavik. The City Council of Reykjavík has decided to commission a statue in her honour as opposed to holding a traditional ceremony.

City honours Björk

At a City Council meeting yesterday, Icelandic singer Björk was named an honorary citizen of Reykjavik. As noted by RÚV, Björk is the eighth individual to receive this honour. Other recipients include Reverend Bjarni Jónsson, ophthalmologist Kristján Sveinsson, former president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, chess grandmaster Friðrik Ólafsson, music teacher and choir director Þorgerður Ingólfsdóttir, and artists Erró and Yoko Ono.

Read More: Iceland Review Interviews Björk

Instead of a traditional ceremony, the city council agreed that artist Gabríela Friðriksdóttir would be commissioned to create a statue of Björk. The project will be a collaboration with the Reykjavik Art Museum, and a proposal for the statue’s location will be announced later.

A long and varied career

In a statement from the City Council of Reykjavik, it’s noted that few people, if any, have helped to elevate the name of Reykjavik more than Björk. She boasts a successful career spanning four decades, in both the Icelandic and international arts scene. In her work as a singer, composer, record producer, actress, as well as a pioneer and activist in various fields, no other Icelander has garnered the same international recognition as Björk.

Björk Guðmundsdóttir, known mononymously as Björk, is an Icelandic musician and artist who was born in Reykjavik in 1965. Beginning her music career at a young age, she first gained prominence as a member of the Sugarcubes, an influential alternative rock band. After the band’s dissolution in 1992, Björk embarked on a successful solo career, known for her experimental musical style and unique voice.

Björk has released a series of critically acclaimed albums, including Debut, Post, and Homogenic. Her work spans a variety of genres and incorporates elements of electronic, pop, classical, and avant-garde music. Beyond music, Björk has also made a mark in acting and music production. Renowned for her artistic innovation and powerful stage presence, she has received numerous awards and accolades and has established herself as a leading figure in contemporary music.

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.

Stolen Statue Resurfaces On A Spaceship

The case of the stolen statue has been solved.

As reported last week, a bronze statue of Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir was stolen from its pedestal in Laugarbrekka, on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Titled “The First White Mother in America,” the stolen statue depicted Guðríður and her son and was cast from a sculpture that renowned Icelandic sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson created for the 1940 World’s Fair in New York.

Guðríður and her son reappeared Saturday in a spaceship outside the Living Art Museum in Reykjavík. After some confusion over how the statue came to be in the rudimentary rocket atop a steel launchpad, it came to light it had been placed there by artists Bryndís Björnsdóttir and Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir, who told Vísir that, in placing the statue in this new setting, they were making the point that it is racist and should be launched into space.

The spaceship and the statue have been marked with a plaque identifying it as “Carry-on: The First White Mother in Space.”

Speaking on Vísir’s evening news program, Bryndís said she and Steinunn were questioning what point was being made by referring to Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir as the “The First White Mother in America.”

“We are delighted that this racist work has finally come off its pedestal and is in its proper place in the spacecraft on its way to space. It will be launched and hopefully turn into debris that flies around the earth,” she said.

Artists gone rogue

Director of the Living Art Museum Sunna Ástþórsdóttir said the statue hadn’t been stolen in consultation with the museum and that she was as surprised as everyone else when it appeared Saturday. Snæfellsbær Mayor Kristinn Jónasson said he was just relieved the statue had been found, and he would be arranging for it to be picked up and returned to its pedestal in Laugarbrekka.

Guðríður was born in Laugarbrekka around the year 1000 and was considered the most travelled woman in the world, as well as the first Christian woman to give birth in North America when her son Snorri Þorfinnsson was born during a voyage to Vinland.

April Fool’s: Reports of “Troika” Statue Greatly Exaggerated

Statue

Mark Twain said it best.

“The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.”

In celebration of our enduring idiocy, Icelandic media outlets have reported on – and, in some cases, authored – not a few April Fool’s day pranks.

Here are the highlights.

Statue of “the troika” to be unveiled

At 08:00 AM this morning, the media outlet Vísir published an article under the headline, “Live Broadcast: Unveiling of ‘the Troika’ Statue.”

Beginning at 10:00 AM this morning – when the unveiling was set to commence, according to the article – the outlet featured a live feed of a black cloth draped over a presumed statue on the premises of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management in Reykjavík.

But who knows what that black cloth was concealing.

The live feed was eventually replaced with a video message from Víðir Reynisson, Director of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, who earnestly thanked citizens for their collaboration during the time of the pandemic.

Enter the horses …

In what would have been excellent news,  Mbl.is reported this morning that Aha.is was announcing “a revolution” in the field of fast-food delivery.

The article explained that after the company’s drone-delivery service was named “initiative of the year” in 2021 by Business Iceland (SA), Aha.is had decided to add to its fleet of environmentally-friendly conveyances.

Horses.

“We have added five thoroughbreds, and we aim to add more horses to our fleet as the summer draws near,” Helgi Már Þórðarson, one of the company’s owners, stated in the interview.

We’re not sure that he was serious.

Zuckerberg arrives in Iceland

Hoping to capitalise on the success of a recent Zuckerberg joke (he was lampooned by Inspired by Iceland not long ago), the Icelandic ad agency Sahara shared a FB post this morning announcing that Zuck (Zucc) had arrived in Iceland.

“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has arrived to the country and will be hosting an open meeting at the offices of Sahara between 12:00 – 13:00 today. Everyone’s welcome, space allowing.”

It is uncertain whether anyone attended.

Múlaþing municipality apologises

While most April Fool’s Day pranks were well received, the employees of the offices of the Múlaþing municipality took to Facebook to post an apology.

Earlier today, they had announced that the municipality would soon “break ground” on the Garðarsvöllur sports ground (ideas have been floated regarding the construction of an apartment building on the lot).

“The undersigned composed the prank in good faith, and we are sorry if we hurt/offended residents,” the employees wrote.

“That was not our intention.”

That’s it. That’s the joke.

On a lighter note, attorney Konráð Jónsson posted an image of his bathtub on Facebook under the heading:

“Our firstborn (8 years old) poured all of our toiletries in the bathtub. That’s it. That’s the joke.”

Lastly, 7,453 businesses posted online ads of their special first-of-April discount under the shockingly original headline, “This is not an April Fool’s Day prank!”

Statue Would Honour Strongman

The family of Jón Páll Sigmarsson have petitioned the city of Reykjavík for a space to erect a two-metre [6.6 ft] bronze statue in honour of the Icelandic strongman known for his brash public theatrics and gentle private persona, RÚV reports. If approved, the statue would stand in front of Jakaból gym, where Jón Páll first began his training.

Although he died quite young at the age of 33 in 1993, Jón Páll, who was also known as The Viking, remains one of Iceland’s best-known powerlifters. By the time of his death, he had won the World’s Strongest Man competition four times.

In a letter addressed to the city’s culture and athletics council, Jón Páll’s family say the strongman is known worldwide as “the father of modern strength trials.” There have been efforts made to erect a statue in Jón Páll’s honour since his death, but thus far, none of them have yielded any results. Now, however, Jón Páll’s son and his mother have collected donations to fund the statue. April will mark what would have been Jón Páll’s 60th birthday, so his family is especially eager to see the memorial through this time.

The proposed statue would be two metres tall [6.6 ft] and one metre [3.3 ft] wide in bronze and would be accompanied by a short biography of Jón Páll and his accomplishments. His family and statue supporters have stated that they would take full responsibility for its cost and upkeep.

Statue to Honour the First Black Man to Settle in Iceland

Djúpivogur is home to Iceland's latest art museum

Like many countries around the world, Iceland has been touched by the Black Lives Matter movement and has been undergoing a moment of self-examination and reckoning as regards the realities of police relations with the public, racism, and inequality in its own society. As statues honouring the lives and legacies of colonisers and slaveowners are removed throughout the US and Europe, RÚV reports that Independence Party deputy MP Vilhjálmur Bjarnason has proposed that Iceland put one up: a statue to honour the life and legacy of Hans Jónatan, thought to be the first Black man to settle in Iceland.

Hans Jónatan lived a remarkable life. He was born into slavery in 1784 on the Caribbean island of St. Croix, then under Danish colonial rule. His mother was Emilía Regína, an enslaved African woman on a sugar plantation owned by a family named Schimmelman. His father is believed to be of European heritage.

See Also: Reconstructed Genome of Iceland’s First Black Settler

As a child, Hans Jónatan was taken to Denmark, where he lived in Copenhagen for ten years, even enlisting in the Danish Navy in 1801. Following his return from service, his superior officers advocated on his behalf to Denmark’s crown prince Frederik, who wrote a letter affirming that Hans Jónatan was “considered free and enjoys rights.” Nevertheless, the Schimmelmans tried to forcibly return Hans Jónatan to St. Croix. He asserted his freedom in Danish court, but for reasons currently unknown, could not produce the letter from Denmark’s future king and his case was dismissed.

As such, Hans Jónatan escaped to the fishing village of Djúpivogur in East Iceland in 1802, where he eventually married, had three children (two of whom survived), and ran the local trading post. He died in 1827.

“It matters how this is done”

“I hope that the MPs go through with erecting a monument [to Háns Jónatan in Djúpivogur],” remarked anthropologist Gísli Pálsson, who wrote a biography (translated by Anna Yates) about Hans Jónatan called The Man Who Stole Himself. “I can recall conversations with locals who want to honour his memory in some way. There’s definitely a demand for it.” Gísli notes that tour guides in the area are often asked about Hans Jónatan but there’s not much to show visitors. “There’s little to be seen about him outside the memorial in the cemetery where he was lain to rest somewhere in an unmarked grave.”

“I think it’s about time to put up a monument to him,” continued Gísli, “but it matters how this is done.” It’s important, said Gísli, to consider what’s being memorialised. “Is it his skin colour, his enslavement, his career, or his character?”

Hans Jónatan “Chose Freedom”

It’s important, said Gísli, to recognise Hans Jónatan’s character, his descendants, and the history of enslaved people who pushed and strove for justice. He stresses Hans’s agency, and emphasises that he “chose freedom.” While many have disparaged Gísli’s choice of words in this regards, arguing that enslaved peoples didn’t have choice, he considers it hugely important that pervading notions that the white elite in the US, the UK, and Denmark were the driving forces behind abolition be challenged; really, he says, it was pressure from the enslaved peoples themselves that led to slavery being abolished. “It’s an objection to this cliché that intellectuals in the United States, in their benevolence, eased laws [legalising slavery].”

A statue to Háns Jónatan, done well, would be a monument to the man himself, Gisli continues, but also more. “He has a thousand descendants and their story is remarkable. Many of those in the second and third generation had to struggle with adversity. A monument would also honour these people and speak to the present moment that we are living in. We would be memorialising these people and their fates no less than Háns Jónatan and his story.”

Little Mersausage Meets Tragic Fate

The Little Mersausage statue that’s stood in Tjörnin pond since late October met a tragic fate on Thursday, Vísir reports. Reykjavíkers woke to find that the artwork—which has divided opinions, to say the least—had been decapitated. It is as yet unclear if The Little Mersausage came to this end during an unusually strong wind, or if vandals are behind the damage.

The sculpture was installed as part of the Cycle Music and Art Festival and raised some eyebrows for its resemblance to a phallus. But while Artist Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir acknowledged the similarity, she said it wasn’t the original point of the work, which, among other things, was meant to celebrate Iceland’s 100-year anniversary as a sovereign nation.

The Mersausage also struck a pose similar to that of the famous sculpture of H.C. Andersen’s Little Mermaid, which is famously perched alongside a Copenhagen waterway, and coincidentally, has been beheaded a number of times herself. Icelandic artist Nína Sæmundsson also sculpted her own bronze version of the Danish sculpture, which has been a resident of Tjörnin pond since 2014.

Bjarni Brynjólfsson, the City of Reykjavík’s public relation officer, had no comment on the damage, as he’d only just seen that The Mersausage was no longer standing in the pond when he was contacted by Vísir.

See pictures of the damage here.

 

Too Wet to Return Mermaid to Pond

As sharp-eyed sculpture enthusiasts may have noticed, the bronze mermaid statue that has long perched in the pond alongside Hljómskálagarður park in downtown Reykjavík has been missing for months. Mbl.is reports that the statue toppled into the pond during stormy weather last November. It has since been restored, but wet weather conditions have prevented it from being returned to the pond.

“There was more damage to her than we thought[…]We’ve repaired her and she’s been ready since February,” explained Sig­urður Trausti Trausta­son, the department head at the Reykjavík Art Museum, which oversees the sculpture garden.

Hafmeyan, (The Mermaid) by Icelandic sculptor Nína Sæmundsson, was a gift to the City of Reykjavík in 2014 from Smáralind shopping center in the neighbouring town of Kópavogur. It was introduced as part of the new statue garden in the park, which celebrates the foremothers of Icelandic sculpture.

An identical statue by the sculptor stood in the pond from August 1959 until New Year’s Day 1960, when it was blown up. The current mermaid was cast in bronze using the artist’s original mould from 1948.

Sigurður Trausti says that the mermaid’s foundation has been reinforced so that hopefully, she’ll be less likely to topple into the pond again in the future. However, the recent months of rain have prevented the museum from returning the mermaid to her post. “…It’s been raining for many months and so it isn’t possible to drive a crane into the garden and hoist her up on the pedestal without damaging the grass.” However, it’s hoped that conditions will soon be dry enough to return the mermaid to her home.