The Sound of a Bugle in a Shoebox: Magnús Pálsson - A Performance Retrospective 1980-2013

18. May – 1. Sept. 2013


“The artist saw how absurd it was that a person made of marble was perceived as a sculpture but a person of flesh and blood wasn’t. And maintained: I am a sculpture. When I move I am a mobile sculpture, when I make a sound I am a sound sculpture.” MP
A durational retrospective of the per­formance work of Magnús Pálsson (b. 1929), one of Iceland’s most prolific and influ­ential artist of the last six decades. His roots in and love of the theatre medium have informed his art­istic output, but so has his dedication to experi­mentation and his unfailing belief in the non-​​segregation of art forms. Theatre, music, poetry, visual art and chor­eography all lie within the same experi­mental space that is Pálsson’s app­roach to art.
He was an active participant in Iceland’s avant-​​garde, colla­borating with alternative theatre groups as well with visual artists such as Dieter Roth. A founding member of the Living Art Museum, he is widely reg­arded as one of the most influ­ential teachers of art in Iceland. He was Iceland’s representative at the Venice Biennale in 1980 and has held over 40 one-​​man exhi­bitions in Iceland and abroad.
The exhi­bition is co-​​produced by the Reykjavík Arts Festival and the Reykjavík Art Museum, in close colla­boration with Pálsson himself. The exhi­bition opened on 18 May and took shape over a week of live per­form­ances, including the premiere of a new per­formance by Pálsson.

Curated by Hanna Styrmisdóttir and Jón Proppé


Per­formance programme 

All per­formances take place at Reykjavik Art Museum - Hafnarhús. Tickets available on-line at and at the door. 

Burst Eardrum, Left Side / Sigh: Sat­urday 18 May 2 p.m.
I Stand Alone: Casting: Monday 20 May 2 p.m.
Folk Tale / Threefold Magic, Giant­friendly: Thursday 23 May 6 p.m.
Cross: Sat­urday 25 May 7.30 p.m.


Burst Eardrum, Left Side / Sigh
Two performances by Magnús Pálsson
Reykjavík Art Museum, Hafnarhús
18 May at 2 p.m. 
Photo: From the staging of Burst Eardrum, Left Side, at the National Theatre in 1991.

Burst Eardrum, Left Side was first performed at the National Theatre of Iceland in 1991. Now a shortened version of the full-length stage play will be performed by the same ensemble of actors, some of whom are among the most celebrated stage actors in Iceland: Arnar Jónsson, Guðrún S. Gísladóttir, Kristbjörg Kjeld, Edda Arnljótsdóttir, Stefán Jónsson and Guðný Helgadóttir. Directed by Þórunn S. Þorgrímsdóttir.

Sigh is a new performance / installation by Pálsson, commissioned by and premiered at the 2013 edition of the RAF. It is based on a poem about the life and death of one of Iceland’s best loved and most celebrated poets. It is arranged and directed by Hörður Bragason, org-anist, and performed by the Icelandic Sound Poetry Choir, established by Pálsson in 2003.
The performances are part of the retrospective, The Sound of a Bugle in a Shoebox, a colla-boration of the Reykjavík Arts Festival and the Reykjavík Art Museum.

Price: 2.000 ISK
Buy Ticket

I stand Alone: Casting
Performance by Magnús Pálsson
Based on the performance The Anti-Society League Concert (1980)
Reykjavík Art Museum, Hafnarhús
20 May at 2 p.m.

I Stand Alone: Casting is a new performative sculpture commissioned by the RAF, which revisits a 1980 work by Pálsson entitled The Anti-Society League Concert. The heavy metal band MUCK will hold a concert at the Reykjavík Arts Museum, after which the space that their music fills will be cast in plaster by sculptor Ragnhildur Stefánsdóttir and her team. The work’s title is a reference to a song of the same title by MUCK.

The performance is part of the live exhibition, The Sound of a Bugle in a Shoebox, a colla-boration of the Reykjavík Arts Festival and the Reykjavík Art Museum.

Price: 1.500 ISK
Buy Ticket

Folk Tale / Threefold Magic, Giantfriendly
Two performances by Magnús Pálsson

Reykjavík Art Museum, Hafnarhús
23 May  at 6 p.m.

Photo: Folk tale, performance at Modern Art Oxford 2011 in collaboration with European Live Art Archive

Folk tale by Magnús Pálsson is based on an Italian folk tale retold by Italo Calvino. Composers Atli Ingólfsson and Þráinn Hjálmarsson approach the work from the vantage point of the music inherent in language, a recurring theme in Pálsson’s performances. The piece is performed in Icelandic by actors Bergur Ingólfsson, Katla Margrét Þorgeirsdóttir, Sigurður Skúlason and Una Margrét Jónsdóttir. Arranged and directed by Atli Ingólfsson and Þráinn Hjálmarsson.

In Threefold Magic, Giantfriendly, Pálsson aims to communicate that things do happen outside of our field of perception. The performance was premiered in 2000 and is arranged for this occasion by students of the Iceland Academy for the Arts, under the direction of artist and playwright Ingibjörg Magnadóttir.

The performances are part of the live exhibition, The Sound of a Bugle in a Shoebox, a colla-boration of the Reykjavík Arts Festival and the Reykjavík Art Museum.

Price: 2.000 ISK
Buy ticket

Performance by Magnús Pálsson

Outdoor performance. The performance starts at Fríkirkjan in Reykjavík.
25 May at 7:30 p.m.

Cross was first performed in 1996 in Denmark at a performance festival in Roskilde. It is a performance in three parts, requiring the participation of the audience in a progression through the city. In this version for The Sound of a Bugle in a Shoebox, it is directed by artists Guðmundur Oddur Magnússon and Daníel Björnsson and performed by Iceland’s Sign Language Choir, among others.


The Programme in pdf format can be found here.


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