In January 2019, Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir PhD, artist, professor and MA programme director at the Department of Fine Art, and Mark Wilson PhD, artist, professor and MA programme leader at the University of Cumbria, England, received a 42 million ISK (268,000GBP) grant from the Icelandic Research Fund (IRF) for a three-year research project Visitations: Polar Bears out of Place.
The aim of the project is to contribute to a growing body of knowledge concerning human/non-human relations and habitat in a time of global warming and rising sea levels. The research draws a particular focus on historic and contemporary polar bear arrivals to the North & North-West coast of Iceland. Approaching the subject from a visual arts perspective, the project tests the contact zones between humans and others and thereby, related networked effects of climate change, population displacement and environmental disruption more widely. The research will gather and combine images, texts, audio, biological and other material relating to specific recorded polar bear arrivals. Methodologies will involve a close study of the relationship between source material and its cultural and environmental contexts as well as to the transmission, interpretation and presentation of subtexts embedded within all visual and textual matter. The project has a satellite of partner institutions both locally and abroad, allowing for further comparative study within a wider cultural context, concluded in two museum exhibitions, international conference and a publication enticing the project as a whole. Collaborators are from the University of Iceland´s programme in Folkloristics and in Art History, as well as its Research Centre in Strandir, the Akureyri Art Museum and the Anchorage Museum in Alaska.
Of the 198 applications submitted to the IRF for this year, 16%, or 31 projects received support. The project will be hosted at the Iceland University of the Arts. This is the second time a research project within the field of arts receives support from the Icelandic Research Fund, the first in contemporary fine art.
Snæbjörnsdóttir Wilson are 2016-19 Artists-in-Residence at the David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University, Providence, USA, leading to the forthcoming solo exhibition.
The forthcoming solo exhibition at the Bell Gallery in Providence in April 2019, will comprise work made in response to the plight of the saltmarsh sparrow, resident along a narrow and depleting coastal margin along the US east coast. It is anticipated that the saltmarsh sparrow will be extinct by the year 2050.
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: http://publicsearch.nevadaart.org/rediscoveryproficiopublicsearch/ArchiveHome.aspx?NEVARCH and enter “CAE1310”
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.