In the Eye of the Tornado ― JBK Ransu

“Shut up! Shut up! ... Shut up!”
Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull

Raging Bull is one of the most magnificent films I’ve ever seen. It is rude and violent and the self-centred hero, the boxer Jake LaMotta, is one of the most annoying characters in the entire history of moviemaking. The boxing scenes are impressive, especially the intense fights between LaMotta and Sugar Ray Robinson. In their second match (the first that we see on the screen) they risk all for the win. The advantage swings from one to the other. But when the bell rings in the eighth round, LaMotta ferociously attacks his opponent. He hits like a madman and in a close-up shot the viewer can see in his beastly face his determination to end the match. For a moment, as if to follow the blows, the camera turns from his face and shows us the darkness of the arena. A gleam of light runs by as if you were sitting on a subway train and staring out of the window. Then all gets dark again. You know that the blow will come, but the moment between cause and effect is like a timeless void between two thoughts, and as suddenly as any thought the face of LaMotta appears on the screen again, but now from another angle. The blow hits Robinson, who falls out of the ring. LaMotta retreats into the neutral corner. The scene is now in slow motion and there is silence all around. The muffled sound of the audience shouting is heard. LaMotta fumes and punches his gloves together. All is silent and the raging bull has secured the win. I don’t know how often I have watched that scene. I’ve spooled back to it over and over again on my DVD in order to remind me that in the whirlpool of agitation, violence and chaos, there is silence.

Silence is rarely celebrated in our culture, which is dominated by visual and emotional stimulation. Everywhere there are images and words that demand attention, so that many people have great difficulties in quieting their minds in one particular place. To sit still and do nothing for a few minutes can even be too much for people. In this respect, silence is a different kind of stimulation than the words and images that are imposed on us by the external environment. The stimulation of silence comes from within. It demands inactivity and thereby opposes accepted values of society. Still, it is the prerequisite of cognitively taking in information and experiencing wonder and beauty with the senses wide open.

For the exhibition Silence four renowned artists, Finnbogi Pétursson, Finnur Arnar Arnarson, Haraldur Jónsson and Harpa Árnadóttir, have subjected themselves to silence and produced works of art in homage to it. They approach the subject in different ways, but they share the same goal, which is to create a situation where silence prevails.

Haraldur Jónsson has frequently tackled silence with the unseen and has used soundproof materials in his sculptures and installations. Thereby he deliberately works with the experience of silence in a certain space. Haraldur is preoccupied with darkness where the void is complete and “nothing” exists, which results in unlimited possibilities of becoming “something”. Haraldur’s contribution to the exhibition Silence is called Hella. It is a wall piece made of soundproof materials and therefore has a direct impact on the acoustics of the space. It also refers in form to the area itself, as the piece is formed after the blueprint of Hafnarhúsið; its architecture has disappeared into a black hole.

Harpa Árnadóttir drew attention to herself early on for quiet paintings with nuances in white that are quiet procedures in themselves, like a breath. The title of Harpa’s installation, They hang on the heavenly hooks (the tears) / I stand for a while under a roof of rain, is a sign of the artist’s lyrical approach. But Harpa uses minimalism and her works— paintings, texts, sculptures and glass pieces—possess vicissitudes and emotional tranquility.

The silence in the works of Finnur Arnar Arnarson comes from everyday life. The week before the exhibition opened, he moved into the exhibition hall, slept there and ate his meals all alone. On the opening day, he moved out but left his traces there, the leftovers of everyday routine or invisible dreams that may still be hovering in the air. Here the silence is of existential origin, the aura of things that once existed but have now disappeared.

Finnbogi Pétursson is well known for creating extensive sound installations and site-specific works that refer to the forces of nature. Silence in Finnbogi’s works exists between sound and movement, between cause and effect. Finnbogi is a techno-romantic, and he combines the technical and sublime (androgynous sublime). His work of art, Moment, is subject to the same principles as the camera obscura, the originator of the photographic technique. The work is made using the same measurement as is used in filmmaking, i.e. 25 frames per second, and can be thought of as a visualized unit of time or a moment of tranquility.

The artworks in the exhibition are localized. They wrap the area in a shroud that becomes a sanctuary in the whirlpool of everyday activities and external stimulation. And like the raging bull in the neutral corner of the boxing ring, we stand in the eye of the tornado.

JBK Ransu, curator



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