janeiro 2009 Posts

Economy Collapses, Art Continues to be Made

Riot police guard the Parliment Building in Reykjavík during protests in January 2009.

 

 

 

 

Economy Collapses, Art Continues to be Made

JÓN PROPPÉ

The international media turned its spotlight on Iceland this winter. Unfortunately, they were not here to report on the diverse and exciting art scene, nor for the country’s famed natural wonders, not even for the infamous elves. It was the near economic collapse of the country – or at least its banking system, that brought our tiny nation to the attention of the world. In October, Iceland was reported to be the first casualty of the world-wide recession; many others have followed since. It has certainly been an eventful winter with the collapse of the government, the forming of a new interim government and new elections set to take place later this months. People have certainly felt the crunch: Unemployment is reaching record highs and many have lost savings and investments. However, society continues as long as there are people about and so does art, although we have seen cuts in many sectors, including the funding to museums and artist’s organisations.

Preparations are going well for Iceland’s participation in this year’s Venice Biennale with artist Ragnar Kjartansson and, already in May, the Reykjavík Arts Festival will include several visual arts projects in addition to concerts, theatre and other events. The pace of exhibitions in Reykjavík has barely slackened. Artists are also responding to, and even intervening in, the political and economic situation in various ways and as we hopefully move towards some kind of resolution to the crisis we will undoubtably see more of this new political art.

While the Icelandic banks and the boastful financial sector has proved unable to weather the storm, the art sector is proving more robust and continues to nourish the nation with thoughtful and challenging works and exhibitions. Perhaps that should be a lesson to us all as we set about rebuilding society.


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