Art Prize 2022: Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir & Mark Wilson
The duo Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir (b. 1955) & Mark Wilson (b. 1954) are the recipients of the Art Prize 2022 for their exhibition Visitations at Akureyri Art Museum.
The exhibition is the result of the multi-year research project Polar Bears Out of Place, which they undertook in collaboration with experts in folklore, natural and environmental studies. The aim of the project is to contribute to a growing body of knowledge concerning human/non-human relations in a time of global warming. To this end, particular focus is on polar bear arrivals in Iceland both past and present.
The works in the exhibition cast a light on questions of nature conservation and examine stories about run-ins between polar bears and people over time and what happens when these two predators meet. Polar bears are not welcome visitors in Iceland any more than in other human settlements, but their visits place the society in the context of the wild nature man has gradually managed to exterminate. Polar bear visits to the human world draw attention to our anthropocentric attitudes and how wild nature is marginalised and excluded as an alien terror. The context, the reasons for polar bears seeking out areas habited by man, such as the melting polar ice cap and its accompanying changes to the ecosystem, are the main motifs in this exhibition which makes us face the thoughtlessness we show nature.
Apart from the exhibition at Akureyri Art Museum, Gerðarsafn in Kópavogur held a retrospective of the works of Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson, but the pair celebrated 20 years of collaboration last year. The interplay between these two exhibitions is interesting and clearly demonstrates their development of artistic research.
Their career is multiform and they have used the research methods of contemporary art to enter a dialogue with research in other fields, such as natural science, ethnology and environmental studies. According to them, contemporary art methods can bring an important addition to the dialogue between different fields and bring new and unexpected points into view.
Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson use diverse methods to present their work, where interaction of video works, found objects, drawings, photos and various data shapes the installation in each exhibition. Their installation at Akureyri Art Museum was powerful and enlightening and formed an interesting whole in the museum space. The project Polar Bears Out of Place was awarded a three-year grant from Rannís’ Research Fund (2019-2021) and is the first visual art research project to receive this grant. The project is housed within Iceland University of the Arts.