SÚL_VAD is an ongoing collaborative project between visual artist Ásdís Birna Gylfadóttir and composer Ragnheiður Erla Björnsdóttir. Growing up together in a small town in Iceland, their friendship, passions, interests and ideas were shaped by the freedom of their natural surroundings as much as they were influenced by the limitations of their environment. The duo’s unique way of collaborating and creating work together, while living in different countries for the past 6 years, has led to multiple different projects. Their artistic collaboration began when they created the audiovisual performance Ymur, premiering at the European audio and art festival Tut Töt Tuð in the Netherlands in 2017. Since then, their work has been presented at various exhibitions and events in Sweden, Austria, Iceland and The Netherlands.
Their work is experimental and observational, using video and audio as a means to collect information and material as well as communicating ideas to each other – resulting in interesting installation works and performances where the two mediums blend together. It explores the relations and opposites between the visual and the auditory, the natural and the superficial. It focuses on the seen, the heard, the felt elements of the world around us and gives new perspectives and roles to borrowed natural elements. Taking inspiration from the visible and hidden world of Icelandic nature, the contrast between human nature and nature, the weather and stories from their grandparents, amongst other things, each work is an autonomous result of their collaborative research of various perspectives and topics important to the artists, including social issues, human behaviour, and the spiritual mind to name a few.
vatnaveran mín (my water creature) is an audio/visual installation piece for 4 projectors and 5 speakers. Premiered in the art gallery in the duo's hometown, Mosfellsbær, the piece explores human influence on the environment and contamination of seas. In the visual part of the work Ásdís uses the body as a symbol for the self, where movements and choice of materials are highlighted. The sound world is a compositions in five parts for flute, vocals and electronics by Erla.
Helio is an audio/visual installation piece. The visual part of the work is a result of graphic notation research by visual artist Ásdís Birna Gylfadóttir.
The performance embodies the eternal cyclic movement of existence, inspired by the Earth’s orbit with the dancers moving in a constant circular movement. Containing six chapters, each can be described as a layer, where a layer is represented by a word from the text accompanying the work. Each word describes the movement of the layer they are paired with and every layer gradually adds to the story. The audio is controlled by the same words, creating a mystical and elusive soundscape by composer Ragnheiður Erla Björnsdóttir.
Velgja is an audio/visual installation premiered at IÐNÓ summer 2019. Later, presented at RASK #2 in Reykjavík. 2020 and at Young Nordic Music Festival in Denmark, 2021.
Velgja awakes within a conversation between the subconscious and the self in a dream. It arises and offers us clues about our lives - appearing to us in various ways: an upset stomach, series of sleepless nights, endless itching and bleeding wounds. Heavy, heavy breathing. As the waves within us demand to come forward. The piece expresses the nausea of the inner life moments before the itching begins.
CURRENTS IN OCEAN CIRCULATIONS
Currents in Ocean Circulation, is a composition written for 13 performers and audiovisuals and was chosen for Ung Nordisk Musik Festival 2019 in Sweden. The video installation expands the visual aspects of the work by creating an oceanic world inspired by the Icelandic shore found within the poetry collection, which the composition is originally built upon. The video installation is in 7 different parts, each depicting in different ways the raw and dreamlike energy caught in water around the island. The visuals were described by composer James Black in the Seismograf as following: “[...] and a beautiful, unpretentious video of ocean movements played in reverse, that in some bizarre way complemented the guttural, rich material from the choir.”
Ymur was created for the European audio & art exhibition Tut Töt Tuð in Grand Theater Groningen, The Netherlands. The piece is constructed vocal improvisation with electronics and video. It is an ever changing piece, changing each time it is performed, depending on the place and time.
Ymur has a strong indication to both Icelandic nature and the Icelandic language’s phonology. The visuals explore the power of elements and different forces in Icelandic landscape. The video work started as a video research collected in the summer of 2018 and then evolved as Erla and Ásdís started collaborating and bouncing off of each others material. The electronics by Erla disguise as nature sounds while the visuals are originally filmed in nature but sometimes seem to be machine-like. The vocal performance by Erla is heavily influenced by her research of the deconstruction of phonology, combined with improvisation and sound poetry.