Where are you from? UK and Iceland
Where did you study? In Sunderland and Glasgow School of Art
When and why did you begin to collaborate? We collaborated occasionally at first, beginning in 1999, but our collaborative practice as such began a couple of years later. Prior to this our individual practices were ideologically and conceptually aligned in many ways. We both had a prevailing interest in cultural perceptions and configurations of landscape and how issues of identity are bound up in such constructions. Whilst we were on a residency in Greenland we realized that we were discussing ideas and work so closely that it seemed a natural thing to pool our resources and skills both practically and conceptually.
Where are you now? And why? We are based in Cumbria in the north of England, in Gothenburg in Sweden and in Reykjavík, Iceland. We take inspiration from travelling and moving between spaces but it is in the Cumbria that we have our studio. There we have lots of space to work and think and we are able to live from day to day with our subject which stems from the interface between human and non-human animals.
Who has influenced you?Fluxus and the Situationists – at art school? John Latham’s notion that context is half the work – in general? Socially and politically engaged art
If you were to name one artist, whose work do you most admire? Joseph Beuys
Which is your favourite work of art? “I love America and America Loves me“
Which museum/cultural institution would you like to visit regularly? American Museum of Natural History,
How do you work? Many of our projects are long term affairs sometimes developing over years. We do like to mix our activity up though from time to time with some works that are conceived and completed within a few months. There’s a big research component in what we do, often requiring us to immerse ourselves in unfamiliar environments in pursuit of the specific knowledge and experience of others. We accumulate information in this way, together with photography and video material, discussing it as we gather it and it is revealed to us. We use drawing to test out ideas and alternative configurations of potential components.
What is it you want to achieve? Through the work and the discourse that accrues around it and its context we’d like people to begin to think differently about human behaviour, the history of our behaviour and its consequences now and for the future.
How does the collaboration function? It functions as a focus for collective thought. It functions as a prompt to enact ideas of indeterminate authorship. It is a pooling of trust. It works as a vehicle in which ideas are road tested, approved, discarded, refined in order that something of worth survives and has a public visibility. (There’s no roadkill in that analogy). It functions as a well-spring of methods by which surprising things can be revealed and made to happen. It is hard work, often involving close attention to detail but most rewardingly, it references and is rooted in the experience of people who care about what they’re talking about.
How do ideas develop between you? How do you decide? Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. We use drawing to visualize our ideas for each other. We make maquettes and collections of things… We often have to write about what we’re up to even during the developmental stages of the work and we actually find that very useful in helping to crystallize and give clarity to the ideas – what’s looking promising and what’s really going nowhere.
How do you share tasks? We bounce things between us. Things need to be done all the time in order to maintain the momentum of the project especially since we are working with others and their schedules and so it just depends on which of us is available at any given time. It may be that for a particular project Mark will do more of the interviews or Bryndís the lion’s share of the camera shoot but we both prefer to be present and to determine collectively by what we find, how things should be. A caricature would be that Bryndís is very thorough on planning, trying to anticipate everything in advance – Mark is comfortable with responding to the opportunities provided by specific conditions on the ground, but in reality both recognize the significance of the invaluable relationship between planning and informed reflexivity.
What are you working on currently? This summer we are completing a three year project entitled Uncertainty in the City commissioned in 2007 by the Storey Gallery in Lancaster UK. It explores the responses of people to the presence of other species in and around their homes. We’ve been working with people who actively encourage the proximity of certain animals and others who have anxieties and fear, regarding any such presence as alien, undesirable, abhorrent. We’ve spent a lot of time with the Pest Control Department in the local area, with agents who are called in to act as intermediaries in situations which are clearly profoundly distressing sometimes for people. So it’s a lot about how we see ourselves in relation to environment and the lengths to which we’ll go in order to isolate and insulate ourselves from or conversely, to draw close to living things which are like but not like us. Uncertainty rules but look where intolerance has got us. There’s a forthcoming publication (The Green Box, Berlin) documenting the whole project including Radio Animal www.radioanimal.org and that book will be launched late in 2010 or early 2011.
What are your plans for the future? We have a couple of other projects in the pipeline. The photographic archive from nanoq: flat out and bluesome is still travelling in the UK and Scandinavia. We have been asked to take part in an exhibition curated by Yvette Watt for the Ten Days on the Island Festival in Tasmania 2011 together with Mark Dion and Marcus Coates; then there is a group show of contemporary Cumbrian Artists in Tullie House, Carlisle. Research wise we’ve just been north to Svalbard doing some preliminary research on the dens of polar bears – but that’s all to come.
Snæbjörnsottir/Wilson June 2010