That’s a Very Large Number — A Commerzbau

That’s a Very Large Number — A Commerzbau by Hildigunnur Birgisdóttir

The Icelandic Art Center is pleased to share the title and further details of Hildigunnur Birgisdóttir’s presentation for the Icelandic Pavilion at the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 2024. The Reykjavík-based artist will present 'That’s a Very Large Number — A Commerzbau by Hildigunnur Birgisdóttir', an exhibition of new sculpture and installation works, curated by American curator Dan Byers. 'That’s a Very Large Number — A Commerzbau' will respond to the Icelandic Pavilion and the Biennale Arte 2024 itself, with an uncanny exhibition that playfully subverts expectations of beauty, value, and utility within the framework of a global art event.

Birgisdóttir’s presentation for the Icelandic Pavilion draws inspiration from the tradition of the ‘Merzbau’, a concept pioneered by German dada artist Kurt Schwitters, that involves creating a collage-like, immersive environment from scavenged materials and objects. Schwitters began using the term ‘Merz’ in his work, after discovering a fragment of newspaper printed with the end of the word ‘Commerz’. Birgisdóttir reintroduces the ‘com’, creating her ‘commerzbau’ from commercial fabrications and the castaways of commerce, all tailored to the architecture of the pavilion.

60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 2024 'That’s a Very Large Number — A Commerzbau by Hildigunnur Birgisdóttir'

The Curator of the Icelandic Pavilion in Venice Dan Byers and Hildigunnur Birgisdóttir, in the artist's studio. Photo: Ólöf Kristín Helgadóttir

Birgisdóttir is known for her nuanced artistic practice, which looks critically at the global systems of production and distribution and the strange lives of the products they create. Her work draws attention to the small, disposable objects that are often the mass-produced accessories of material culture: packing materials, price tags, signage and systems of display. She casts these objects in new roles, changing their value and meaning entirely as they are experienced outside of their original function. The artist has said of her practice, “the unfortunate produce of consumerism is my material, and human systems are my tools.” She utilises the systems of global production to sculpt and create her pieces, folding the capacities and cultures of manufacturers, fabricators, commercial firms, shipping companies, and the pleasures and perils of inter-net searches into her artistic process.

In addition to the forthcoming Biennale Arte 2024, Hildigunnur Birgisdóttir’s work is on show at Akureyri Art Museum in Iceland, presenting an exhibition responding to the museum’s collection (until 24 November 2024).

The Icelandic Pavilion

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