All posts by Mark Wilson

Shooting the Messenger

Snæbjörnsdóttir and Wilson’s 2018 series of works Shooting the Messenger (2018) takes as its leitmotif, the idea of the unwelcome visitor, arriving at the shores of an island. The visitor’s appearance in this place, though opportune, is not entirely voluntary and certainly not comfortable. In Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Marcus Coates’ Finfolk, Lars von Trier’s Dogville, the protagonist’s appearance, may be seen as the consequence of changed circumstance and possibly a harbinger of other more extreme events to come. Like them, with global warming, looming belatedly but ever more prominently in the media gestalt and so, in public consciousness, the arrival of polar bears in Iceland signifies a pivotal moment, in its potential to trigger either (temporally) new (or historically repetitive) behaviours in the host, with equally far reaching consequences.

In the summer of 2008, two polar bears made respective appearances on the Skaga peninsula, (Skagaströnd) in the north of Iceland, on the 3rd and on the 16th of June. Their arrival, though not at all extraordinary in itself, caused a particularly public reaction and controversy.

In response, for Anchorage Museum, last year, the artists made a two-part work entitled Shooting the Messenger in which a cross section of one of each bear’s teeth indicating annual, cementum-layer growth, was set against a roster of climate change events, summits and warnings correspondent with those same years of each bear’s life.

(the diptych is in collection of Anchorage Museum, Alaska)

Bryndis Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson for INSIDE/OUT lecture series at Leeds Beckett University














The Only Show in Town
Leeds Beckett talk

For the last twenty years, the collaborative artist team, Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson, have been practicing and producing in the field of contemporary art on an international stage with projects and exhibitions in the UK, Europe, Australia, and the USA. They have built a reputation, resonant in many fields – in contemporary art, animal studies, human geography, museology, the environmental sciences and more. In this respect, it has been their strategic intent to drive the idea that contemporary art is a significant voice, made possible by the application of unique blends of original methods and cross-disciplinary appropriation.
Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson’s artwork is multidisciplinary in nature, most usually taking the form of installation, involving anything from sculptural interventions, found objects and materials, video, audio, drawing, photography and texts. Notwithstanding their participation in International Biennales and major gallery shows, their adherence to the significance and advantage of site-specificity have often led them strategically to exhibit in some tiny and otherwise most obscure venues.
The production of their work is unashamedly driven and facilitated by intensive research and interdisciplinary associations, because as artists they consider art to be both the most promising platform and the most likely instrument by which the fusion and mutual complication or disturbance of traditionally discrete knowledge-fields will succeed in effecting significant and increasingly urgent cultural and behavioural change.
And change is the only show in town…
So, the lecture will examine what it means in the context of crisis, (e.g. extinction, the Anthropocene), to consider and practice art as a tool of disruption and mediation, how passivity is a weapon and how complex cross-disciplinary relationships can effectively and otherwise, be productively managed.
As a consequence of their approach, through many projects, the artists have invested and directed their energies towards alliances and conversations across multiple fields in exhibitions, associated seminars and international conferences. For them, every exhibition made, is a provocation of sorts and is used to create opportunities for extending discourse, often between people who would otherwise rarely, if ever, engage. Over this time and as a consequence, they have exhibited and otherwise continue to be involved with many other internationally significant artists and theorists across the world.
Now, in 2018, they continue to develop ongoing projects in Rhode Island (at the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown) and in Alaska (the Anchorage Museum).


nanoq: flat out and bluesome. Research archive at Centre for Art + Environment at Nevada Museum of Art, US

Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson investigate relationships between nature and culture, human and non-human animals, and domesticity and what is often referred to as “wild nature.” Working from both Reykjavik and London, they create installations that combine sculpture, text, photography, and video. Their most well-known exhibition, Nanoq: Flat Out and Bluesome (2001 – 2006), was a survey of all the taxidermied polar bears in the United Kingdom.
While researching the history of each bear, they identified the date, place and people associated with the animal’s death. They also created a photographic archive of each specimen and its taxidermic context—whether in storage, on display, or undergoing restoration.
Although Snæbjörnsdóttir and Wilson have worked with a number of other species, including birds and fishes, polar bears remain a subject of great interest to them. Since 2015 they have been artists-in-residence at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska in its Polar Labs program. Their work is on the denning habits and structures of the Alaskan bears, and how we must minimize disturbance of their dens by oil companies on the North Slope.


To access the data entries: and enter “CAE1310”

nanoq: flat out and bluesome




































We are about to go north again, tomorrow to Kaktovik in the Alaskan Arctic. Kaktovik is located at 70°7′58″N 143°36′58″W. Hosted by our colleague, artist Allison Akootchook Warden, we will spend 5 days in this village discussing the effects of climate change in relation to this coastal environment and its human and non-human denizens. Watch this space. This visit is in continued preparation for our solo show at Anchorage Museum in the Fall of 2020.

SOE Kitchen 101 Event 26.09.2018, Reykjavik







The Mariner’s Oubliette was filmed in the North Slope Borough in Alaska where human and other animal interests of many kinds intersect. With oil interests to the West and the conservation area to the east, such interests coalesce within a crucible of environmental contention.

 The Bowhead whale is an important animal to the Inupiaq people and skeletal remains can be found scattered around Barrow and Kaktovik. Polar bears in the area depend on leftover whaling carcasses on the shore from hunting trips for food. There is symbiosis between culture and nature – a sort of magic, which this video work seeks to capture through an abstraction of imagery and sound.

The ‘oubliette’ is a name associated with forgetting. In medieval times, it signified a dungeon with the only entrance or exit being a trap door in the ceiling.


Gothenburg: Searching for Stipa















Snæbjörnsdóttir Wilson have recently installed a new work, a 14 metre tapestry, Searching for Stipa. The tapestry shows the complex structures of a grass seed Stipa pennata. During research for the project Beyond Plant Blindness, under the supervision of the artists Bryndís and Mark, a scanning electron microscope at Chalmers University of Technology was used to image the seed awn in twenty-nine highly detailed sections. The artists then meticulously assembled the scans as one image, using Photoshop software. From this single file, the tapestry was woven in wool, in Norway, by Kristina Aas.

It was installed in Hus B, Pedagogen, University of Gothenburg on 15-08-2018.

Westfjörds: Feral Attraction








In May 2018, Snæbjörnsdóttir Wilson re-installed their exhibition Feral Attraction: Museum of Ghost Ruminants at Hnjotur Museum, near Patreksfjördur overlooking the mountain peninsula, Tálkni, where the events drawn upon in the exhibition took place in late 2009 and early 2010. Although the Museum is closed now for winter it will re-open in Spring and the exhibition will remain until July 2019.



Trout Fishing in America and Other stories

Species Wall: All the Recorded Species of the Grand Canyon excepting the (unrecorded) INSECTS – 35ft x 9ft

Species Wall (detail)

Trout Fishing in America and Other stories
Bonytail Chub: diasec-mounted digital photograph (120cms x 90 cms)

Bryndis Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson explored the networked effects of conservation initiatives in Arizona. Over two years, they researched programs underway to reintroduce the California Condor and the Humpback Chub into the Grand Canyon. Through humour, wonder and surprise, their installation of photographs, videos and sculpture explored the complexity of human-animal interactions and their combined impact on ecologies.

You Must Carry Me Now

 3 x image-and-text works from the series of 14


248 She was hatched on 8th of May 2001 and released on 16th of February 2002. She was the last mate to 227. Condor 196 was 227’s first mate – she disappeared and the next season he paired with 248 and a year later we recovered her in late November in the Utah territory. We thought they would nest too – we had them displaying in the same remote canyon where we found 299 dead last week. 248 we recovered, dead of lead poisoning buried under snow on 15th of December 2006… she had a GPS transmitter. I remember that trip, 48 miles of snowmobiling to get to her…



232 This Condor died of lead poisoning on 3rd of January 2007. He was hatched on 30th of April 2000 and released on 25th of September in 2002. He spent over four years in the wild but did not reproduce. You know what hits me more than anything is not just the carcass – some of them you can recognize – I remember holding that bird – it had a really big head or whatever. What hits me the most is the relationship between how old the birds are when they die and the cause of death. So I look at a bird and see this is an adult – look it up on the charts and it died of lead poisoning… I find another bird – it’s only been out a year and didn’t die of lead poisoning. The longer they are out there, if they are going to die, they are going to die of lead poisoning and that gets me more than anything. But I notice things – like this one has green fecal material on its feet and that is a sign of stress on their system – sometimes related to the lead poisoning – not always – but it is related to stress. And I see a dead bird that has head coloration like that and it is obviously an adult – it just strikes me as such a loss because that bird could have been a breeder and a key to the success of this recovery is going to be adult survival. He was just beginning an adult life with the opportunity to produce. Depending on how long they live – they can live 60 years and are sexually reproducing at 8 years. That is a lot of babies – 20 plus potential so… You become hardened to it. It’s a shame but my way of dealing with the emotion of it is thinking well, what can I do on this bird and all these other birds’ behalf? This is why we are here, this is why we started – to recover the species so, are we doing due diligence on behalf of the process – the effort – the losses, to make sure we ameliorate the problem or at least identify and present it to society and see what they decide to do. Of course I will bust my ass to see that they will use less lead. Every bird in every part of the program is paying the true cost of recovery. So yeah, due diligence…



304 He was another lead death – the 304th condor tagged in the history of the condor recovery effort and yeah, he was hatched in our facility (the Peregrine Fund) in Boise Idaho on 24th of April 2003. He was released 20th of March 2004 and died two years later on March 16th 2006. Two years in the wild… and then died of lead poisoning.