Innanúr / Within

Performance / installation work at the Living Art Museum Reykjavík for the show Embracing Impermanence, 2013.

Text by Becky Forsythe, Head of Archives and Collection of The Living Art Museum.

Innanúr / Within, 2013

In the fall of 2013 Karlotta Blöndal packed her body with the most salt she could carry discreetly under her clothing, and still appear normal, before entering The Living Art Museum’s exhibition Embracing Impermanence[1]. The salt had been sourced from a local factory in Hafnarfjörður where the artist paid visit to, and preserved in the accompanying photograph a tall, impermanent, fragile, and pale mountain leaning in a corner of a stark metal framed house. This image circulated as an invitation to a performance. Although Blöndal would not be present, in person, at the event, the remains of her preceding acts would await her audience.

Salt, in small fragments, occasionally abrasive, shape shifting and stubborn, is conditioned by nature to transform as a reaction to environmental circumstances and often reappears in a different version of itself. Weighed down with meaning[2] the physical salt spread, collecting some form of history through use in Innanúr (Within). You might say that memory was tested over time as the salt was pulled into an engagement with the audience. The performance allowed the artist´s body to develop as a metaphor for the salt house referred to in the photograph, a weighted vessel for distributing the fragments through movement about the museum’s space.

There was no immediate audience per se, as she walked amongst artworks from the collection, except for the museum’s current staff who stood witness to the event. The salt escaped from beneath her black clothing leaving temporary paths along the floor. Blöndal´s reading of the space was traced in the map laid for those who would come to observe, and unknowingly participate. For a moment, a waterfall fleetingly revealed itself, forming a salt mound in the place where the artist stood. Once the load had been exhausted, Blöndal left the scene, with only a part of the visible action remaining[3]. From then on, the life of the salt was as transient as the coming and going of the soles of audience members’ shoes, which carried particles off to new locations, and shuffled through the artist’s path. The act was fleeting, but also temporarily immortalized as a fading memory before being forced into another version of itself. By the end of the exhibition, the salt had been worked into corners, found its way into cracks and filled the tile flooring, and was consumed by the museum’s architecture. In time the material had become one with the structure and environment itself: one element of the entire whole. Little remained of the salt foundation drawn by Blöndal and the artist’s performance certainly had faded as a sidenote to the physical substance that could be identified upon the surfaces.

This quiet but enduring gesture, with life beyond the delivery by the body of the artist, resurfaces as a reference to the traces one leaves behind. The initial action was unwatched in the still space of an audience-less house, yet lived on in real-time with a reliance on the performance of exhibition-goers, who through interrupting the salt, acknowledged the fleetingness of Blöndal´s idea. In the persistence of the salt utilized in Karlotta Blöndal´s Innanúr or Within, we must consider the artist’s role in exhibition making, in history, and note the living nature of the often-complex reality of performance, its documentation and its preservation. As the inevitable intimacy involved in small relational gestures that quietly include unpredictable audiences resonates.

Becky Forsythe

[1] Embracing Impermanence: We came into this with a shovel in our hands, 2013 brought works from The Living Art Museum’s collection together under the theme of ephemerality, noting the museum’s long and temporal history with its main roles of collecting and exhibiting. Works changed, shuffled, and were updated over the exhibition period, coinciding with impermanence. The performance at hand was one of many and some remains of Innanúr / Within live on in The Living Art Museum’s Performance Archive.

[2] Salt has been referenced as a mineral of luxury for early civilization, important to trade, symbolic of friendship and “brotherhood”, can be found in metaphors throughout the bible, in popular superstitions, a crystalline mineral, a chemical compound, evaporated seawater, vital to human health and so forth.

[3] A run of photocopied images of Karlotta Blöndal releasing the salt, documented by the museum’s employees accompanied the exhibition information, and along with the remaining salt on the floor acted as a memory: the photocopied black and white ephemera already seemed to be fading in that way.