“Take your place, steal it”
“Artists very often invent their own opportunities, some coming from institutions but mainly artists are not just creating artwork but a place and events and an atmosphere and make themselves a space.”
That was the view of Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir a visual artist from Reykjavik who has been working and exhibiting in Berlin frequently in the last six years.
We caught up with the 34-year-old in Berlin where she expressed the importance of claiming space as an artist.
“People adapt to any kind of situation, when you don’t have the space you feel you need you can either get depressed or do something about it – take your place, even in an aggressive way, steal it. I’ve done this sometimes with my artwork, I’ve used public space a lot. Coming from a graffiti background, the main focus is to use the city as your place to express yourself.”
Her work focuses on surrealism and the unconscious dream state but is often infused with political background.
She explained that both Berlin and Reykjavik are going through a gentrification that is apparent to the artistic community who are struggling to find studios for affordable prices and are suffering with the closure of venues due to lack of funding.
“What links the two cities together is that there is not so much money in art in Berlin or Reykjavik… There is an absence of the huge markets in America and London.”
“I feel both cities are really focusing and speaking up loud about being a nest for young artists, it doesn’t mean the governments in these cities are necessarily helping in creating that community.”
“In Berlin some good spaces run by artists for music, art, events had to close down because of bureaucracy or lack of money, especially the ones that fostered experimental music I have not found similar ones to those that are gone.
“In Reykjavik I’m missing the small spaces and bars playing music and the basements where people had their studios are almost gone – the easy access to do things has gone and I do miss that.”
But she added that it was clear people in both cities value art and Berlin and Reykjavik – the environment, the people, the politics – have inspired many of her works.
Learn more about Steinunn and her work here.
Words by Beth Cherryman