past Exhibition

Þórdís Erla Zoëga
Spaced Out


October 14 – December 30, 2022

In Neuromancer, a 1984 metaverse science-fiction novel by William Gibson, it clearly states that the future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed. Its author also coins the term cyberspace for the first time in the said novel, which could easily be described as a socially accepted hallucination of untouchable phenomena, a space without a physical entrance until now, which holds many parallels to the work of Þórdís Erla Zoëga. In her BERG Contemporary exhibition, she showcases three-dimensional light works, fissurated reliefs, electronic sculptures, and an interplay of compositions, all a material reflection of an untouchable world that we visit every day, often without contemplation.

In its title work, Spaced Out, an electrically driven smiley face reciprocates the movements of guests. With the help of a mechanical arm, a smile gets drawn, again and again, underlining our innate inclination toward expressing complicated emotions through a simple emoji, which can simultaneously convey sincere joy, as well as passive aggression, all depending on its user and what generation they might belong to. In written text, such as email, emotional subtlety tends to get lost in transit, as visual literacy is intrinsically linked to our personal experiences, which the writings of renowned art theorist John Berger support. In cyberspace there is no smell, taste, touch, or sound, so we tend to base our performance on contemplation, by putting forth the right photograph or opinion. We try to control what others see of us, and while the possibilities to associate with one another become more diverse, there is no guarantee of a better connection.

In Zoëga’s work On the grid, exhibition guests are allowed to reflect themselves in one another and combine their appearance through a glass sculpture, which works in equal parts as a mirror and deflector. The work invariably carries references to big brother and CCTV, the tale of Narcisuss, and algorithmic advertising. The aforementioned smiley face makes a reappearance throughout Zoëga’s reliefs. A wee symbol, originally designed in the 70s for a life insurance company in the United States, as a figure of goodwill for capitalistic gain. Furthermore, for exhibition guests to reflect themselves against one another, they must step inside a grid, a distinctive feature in Zoëga’s work, which is often characterized by harmonious symmetry. The form and title of the work On the grid equally refer to solar panels, as well as the original visual representation of cyberspace, a graphic portrayal of data, in an organized, all-encompassing imaginary space. Now, more than ever before, an off-the-grid lifestyle might seem alluring, in light of the earth’s imminent doom, better personal access to solar panels, people’s yearning towards alternative lifestyles, free from the extortions of foreign power companies. The term off the grid also tends to be used for those that choose to reside on the outskirts of society, modern-day outlaws, leaving no digital trace behind, disacknowledging capitalist values. In cyberspace, On the grid, everything can be traced, and in the end, even internet trolls won’t be able to escape their past dispositions. This might lead us to the assumption that our future on the grid may well be much more evenly distributed and secured than we had originally anticipated.

Moving to the inner hall of the exhibition space, Zoëga grapples with our existence concerning nature within a digital age, where printed works on sand-blown plexiglass have been gathered into compositions. Their tint originates from altered stock photos from the internet, where the refinement of natural beauty can often be more easily captured than in reality. Through reflection and transparent structures, Zoëga sheds light on a phenomenon bigger than us, and could even be described as hyperobjects. A phenomenon that occurs over such an extensive amount of time and space that it can seem impossible for any human being to fully grasp, and could be likened to our experience of global warming. We can read up on its statistics, look at photographs of melting glaciers, and even perfectly captured natural phenomena on a computer screen. Ultimately, it is our digital usage that allows us to become a part of something much bigger than ourselves.

Þórdís Erla Zoëga (1988) graduated from Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam in 2012. She has exhibited her work in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Berlin, Basel, the Czech Republic, and further worldwide. In Iceland, she has exhibited at the Reykjavík Arts Festival, LÁ Art Museum, Akureyri Art Museum, Gerðarsafn Kópavogur Art Museum, with the Iceland Dance Company and the Reykjavík Art Museum. She is currently Seltjarnarnes town’s honorary artist of the year. This is her first solo exhibition at BERG Contemporary.

Text: Kristína Aðalsteinsdóttir
BERG  Contemporary
BERG Contemporary
Smiðjustígur 10
Klapparstígur 16
101 Reykjavík
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