past Exhibition

Katrín Elvarsdóttir: Fifty Plants for Peace


May 6 – July 8, 2023

Katrín Elvarsdóttir – Fifty Plants for Peace


A photograph of a pink flower. The frame is narrow and the background is generic :
Blue sky, a few clouds – we are not familiar with the place. This could be anywhere.
In the final days of May 2011, the Iceland-Japan Society gifted the city of Reykjavík fifty cherry blossom trees that were planted in Hljómskálagarður Park. 
The gift represented an everlasting friendship and peace between Japan and Iceland. 
Gifting a cherry blossom tree as a token of peace is a longstanding tradition in Japan, often planted where war has raged, where men had lost their lives. The trees represent both birth and death, beauty and violence. In Japan, they also serve as an emblem for the short, yet colorful life of a Samurai warrior. Furthermore, the pink flowers adorned kamikaze airplanes in the Second World War.
But what about the cherry blossom trees at Hljómskálagarður Park? Must battles be raised to
plant peace?


The photograph captures a moment in time that will not be repeated.
The moment becomes eternal yet elusive, at the same time.
The memory centers itself around this particular angle and has the possibility of
Cherry blossom trees bloom annually, for a very short period each time. They bloom in
spring, usually for a week or two. Should you miss a cherry blossom in bloom you’ll then
have to wait through fifty bloom-less consecutive weeks to see these fragile pink flowers
appear again.
For a moment, these trees alter themselves from being ”very ordinary trees” into otherworldly and dreamy vegetation, most reminiscent of candyfloss or a snow-covered summer.
Passers-by look up and linger for a moment. We are reminded of impermanence.
Life is short, colorful, and precious. Life is unexpected and  
is a result 
of other people’s decisions. 




What is taken out of context looks for a new context. Similar to an atom that is released from a molecule and searches for new connections. Like people search for connection. We yearn for context, we desire to belong. 
Plants attach their roots to a particular place. We also tend to use the same word for ourselves – where our roots are – often referring to a particular place. It’s quite clear that plants can be uprooted and moved to the other side of the globe – but can people be uprooted and moved?

Out of place : Not in the proper situation, not belonging; inappropriate for the circumstances
or location.

Where are you born? (In Ísafjörður or Kyoto?)
To be born and move
To grow up and stay
To fit in

Every year, pink flowers wake up in a public park in Reykjavík, far from their native place.
Bananas grow in a greenhouse in Hveragerði.



The frame is tight, and the plants seem gigantic, almost terrifying. A sharp eye detects tiny bananas in between enormous leaves.
The color of an object, the way we perceive it, is really the only color that the object does not absorb, but instead, reflects. If you stare at an object for long enough, then look at a white wall and blink a few times, you’ll see the image inversed. Dark becomes light, light becomes dark, green turns to purple, yellow to blue, and so forth. How we look at the world can reveal who we are, often in a more truthful way than how we present ourselves out in the world.
How does it affect the landscape when plants are moved from one corner of the world to
another? How about the plants themselves? To grow bananas, certain circumstances need to
be created. The ideal habitat for bananas is far away, in Africa, Asia, and South America.
Icelandic bananas do not see the sun until after harvest. 
Is the greenhouse a prison or a man-made paradise? Do plants have a home?
What is beautiful? (What do we think is beautiful?)
                 (Are we allowed to create that?)
What is appropriate? (What do we think is appropriate?)
(will it always be appropriate?)
Who is allowed to grow roots?
Who has the freedom to travel
and who is the one to decide?


The hands that reach out to the flowers are also cut off.
To whom do these hands belong? Where are these hands?
(Even though it is the same hand each time, they become many,
one for each moment. This is not the same photograph, this is not the same moment.)

The hands reach towards the tree but do not grasp it.
Time is an irrevocable element in photography. The time of day, the time of the year,
duration of aperture, and time in history. ”The moment.” In our minds, time is a linear
narrative, our history and its progression, both as a group and as individuals. We have our
origin – our roots – and we are headed towards our fate.
The pink blossoms on the cherry tree appear to us for a short while. The flowers are
remindful of life and mortality and perhaps they mostly remind us to let go and stay in the
moment. Here, for now, nothing lasts forever.
Such a rare event – despite its regular occurrence – calls for a reaction. What do you do when
you witness the blossoming of the cherry blossoms? Do you let yourself linger? Take a
photo? Do you cut flowers to dry and store?
Can the moment really be captured?
Should a photograph count as proof, then what does a photograph of a short-lived pink flower

Text by Halla Þórlaug Óskarsdóttir
BERG  Contemporary
BERG Contemporary
Smiðjustígur 10
Klapparstígur 16
101 Reykjavík
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