ArtReview sent questions to artists and curators exhibiting in and curating the various national pavilions of the 2017 Venice Biennale, the responses to which will be published daily in the lead-up to the Venice Biennale opening (13 May – 26 November).
This year, two trolls are representing Iceland. Since they did not want to answer in writing, ArtReview talked to Böõgâr and Ūgh, accompanied by artist Egill Sæbjörnsson and Stefanie Böttcher, director of Kunsthalle Mainz. Their show is titled Out of Control in Venice. The Icelandic pavilion is at Spazio Punch, on the Giudecca.
What can you tell us about your exhibition plans for Venice?
Böõgâr: Me troll and troll Ūgh, saw a show with Dame Her. Troll also want to use diamonds. Gold and diamonds.
Egill: I tried to tell them that diamonds are very expensive and that we have to use other materials. But they are crazy about gold and everything that shines. That’s why they like Damien Hirst so much.
Ūgh: One of the project we like to make is big diamond you can go inside and drink coffee.
Egill: They want to make a coffee bar on two floors and put diamonds all around it. It’s a bit megalomaniac, but it’s ok. I will try to find some material that looks like diamonds. I see the role of Stefanie and me to help them realizing their dreams without controlling them too much. They want to make also a sculpture in San Marco, but I told them they need a permission. I mean, there are limits.
Stefanie: They are not used to permissions. It’s been difficult to explain that to them.
Egill: Yes, very difficult, they don’t understand that word.
Stefanie: Also, trolls – be honest – what you’re working on is much more precious than diamonds – it’s the trollification of the Icelandic Pavilion, of Venice, Italy – the whole world.
How is making a show for the Venice Biennale different to preparing a ‘normal’ exhibition? Or another biennial?
Ūgh: We troll never do biennal before. Troll like very much. We like.
Stefanie: I guess, your situation is very comparable with the one of the participating artists. It’s an honour and the aim is to create something uncomparable, a work that surpasses everything you did before. Think of barriers, but only to extravagate them.
Egill: The trolls really want to make art. They are big beings. With big temperament. This is their first biennial. Actually it’s their first exhibition all together. It’s an experiment.
There are a huge number of biennial exhibitions across the world nowadays. Do you think the Venice Biennale still has a special status, and why?
Böõgâr: Venice Biennale is the troll of all biennales, Stefanie says. We like that.
Stefanie: That’s right, Böõgâr – in some aspects. The Venice Biennale is the oldest of all existing Biennales. It’s the biggest one, gigantic and it’s still growing – each year new countries are participating, new collateral events are being organised etc. AND: Thousands and thousands of people are getting sucked in by this huge exhibition. Just like you and Ūgh love to swallow human beings.
Egill: Ha ha ha… great metaphor, Stefanie!
Böõgâr: Trolls eat people like people eat cows. What’s the difference?
What does it mean to ‘represent’ your country? Do you find it an honour or is it problematic?
Ūgh: We live in Iceland long time. Before we troll live in Scandinavia. Before we troll live in Africa. Before we troll, Ūgh and Böõgâr, live in a country existing before Africa.
Egill: They are so old that they were born in a land that existed before even Africa and the other continents existed. Then they moved to Scandinavia and for some time they have lived in Iceland. But they are not really Icelandic. Ūgh and Böõgâr seem not to care about national identity. I have been with them all around the world. They just put me on their shoulder and swoop – off we go. Last week we went to Greenland all the way from Venice. They have an old Troll friend there, Katjashuckukuluckuiac. It was great to meet him, he lived in an ice cave. They are all a bit worried that it will melt now.
The Venice audience is a diverse group. Who is most important to you? The artists, the gallerists, curators and critics concentrated around the opening, or the general public which visits in the months that follow?
Böõgâr: We hope ZhungTunx, friend of Awa will come. ZhungTunx is great troll. We teach him make art if he let’s us chew the bone.
Chew the bone?
Ūgh: Yes, ZhungTunx has ancient bone. We LOVE ancient bone.
Egill: It’s likely a dinosaur bone. From their youth. It’s really hard to find and ZhungTunx seems to have one. And Ai Wei Wei is our only hope to find ZhungTunx because I was told Ai Wei Wei has good connections.
Böõgâr: ZhungTunx has a huge gold too.
Egill: Böõgâr is saying that ZhungTunx also has a huge gold chain. Trolls really like gold.
Stefanie: It’s incredible how gold affects trolls. They are all crazy about jewelry as well, and they collect anything that shines. They often talk about their cave in Iceland – it’s full of diamonds, gold, rubies, smaragds. These are their favourite colours: green, red, yellow and gold. Their show in i8 Gallery that got cancelled was all this jewelry stuff. But it was too dangerous to open this exhibition – the trolls might have pounced on the visitors wearing their jewelry for the opening ceremony.
Did you visit the last Venice Biennale? What’s your earliest or best memory from Venice?
Böõgâr: We was in Venice 1547 last time. No biennale then.
Stefanie: You once told me that it was the smell of the Laguna during August.
Böõgâr: Back in days, Venice smell more good. Now, is very little smell. Modern humans take too much shower. And no smell. Also no dead people. We like smell of dead people. We like smell of dead people like people like cheese. Old days better days!
Egill: Böõgâr, people take baths to try to prevent from getting ill.
Böõgâr: Oh… OK, didn’t know that. I think, they misunderstanding!
How does having a pavilion in Venice make a difference to the art scene in your home country?
Böõgâr: Egill was going to do art in biennale for Iceland. We think, we also can make art. Why only Egill make art exhibition, when we also can do art? Now we do art biennale. Egill help us. Stefanie help also.
Egill: I don’t know about this, I thought, hey, maybe it would be really interesting having these two 36-meter-tall giants do the exhibition. And they do interesting things. It’s different from typical art. Some of it is absolute rubbish, but some is pretty good.
Stefanie: Yes, it’s definitely not the usual sort of things that one sees in art museums. Although, Egill and me try to have an influence on what’s going on. We are in conversation with Ūgh and Böõgâr and we curate it a bit how things end up being. The people shouldn’t be frightened too much. Generally, we tend to refuse what seems too unfamiliar.
You’ll no doubt be very busy, but what else are you looking forward to seeing?
Ūgh: We interested see more art. We like art
Stefanie: I think you might like the Hieronimus Bosch exhibition at Palazzo Ducale…
Böõgâr: We already saw Hissi Mussi Boss. Good drawing troll. Looks like Venice 1547. Good shaper shifter Hissi Mussi Boss.
Egill: They were fascinated by Hieronimus Bosch. He is quite catastrophic like the trolls. His paintings are like their world in some ways. They also saw Goya.
Böõgâr: Groova good. Make painting troll eat humans.
Due to the short attention span of the two giants, they at this point ran off and the interview ended abruptly.
Click here to read all the Venice Questionnaires so far
4 May 2017