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.