Spazio Punch, Giudecca
Venice, Italy
13 May – 26 November 2017

The Icelandic Art Center selected artist Egill Sæbjörnsson to represent Iceland at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. They have handed over the creation of the Icelandic Pavilion 2017 to Ūgh and Bõögâr, two Icelandic trolls turned artists. Entitled Out of Controll in Venice, Ūgh and Bõögâr’s project will be curated by Stefanie Böttcher, Director of Kunsthalle Mainz.

Who has control? Who is guiding our actions, our knowledge, our thoughts, even our powers of imagination? Who is exploiting whom or what? These are questions that Egill Sæbjörnsson consistently grapples with in his work. In phantasmagorical settings, he fills dormant objects with life by overlaying them with animations, projections of light and sounds, allowing their voices to be heard and their characters to be experienced. When an eraser starts flying, stones begin singing or handbags perform a choreographed piece, established relationships and hierarchies are challenged and inverted.

While Ūgh and Bõögâr may appear to belong to an archaic world of fantasy, the more time we spend with them in Out of Controll in Venice, the more concrete this seemingly other world becomes. For Sæbjörnsson the trolls are already part of his reality: having encountered Ūgh and Bõögâr in Iceland in 2008, wherever Sæbjörnsson goes, they follow. They have even followed in his artistic footsteps, sharing his studio space in Berlin, creating works and presenting exhibitions.

Out of Controll in Venice will extend beyond the Pavilion of Iceland, both in time and space. From now until the opening of Biennale Arte 2017 and beyond, Ūgh and Bõögâr will be infiltrating our lives – no longer just the artist’s, but bit by bit, more and more people will be drawn into their world, encountering everything from the trolls’ thoughts and artistic output, to their music and culinary habits (they enjoy eating humans). The culmination of this encounter – a large-scale, immersive and participatory presentation for Biennale Arte 2017 – will share Iceland’s joyous and terrifying co-existence with the trolls to the wider world, revealing how a simple exchange can evolve into deeper understanding, transforming our perspectives, our ideas of truth and reality, and our relationship with the world.

Stefanie Böttcher, curator of the Icelandic Pavilion 2017 and Director of Kunsthalle Mainz, said: “Out of Controll in Venice is Egill Sæbjörnsson’s most ambitious work yet. Without noticing, we outgrow the role of passive observer and gradually grow into the artwork. Rather than following the activities of the trolls, it is we who are being followed. Rather than seeking an encounter with this world situated between imagination and reality, we are being sucked into it.”

Björg Stefánsdóttir, Director of the Icelandic Art Center, said: “In recent years, the Icelandic Pavilion has frequently been a venue for dissolving social constructs – whether they be ideologies, nationalist sentiments or the myth of the artist. This tradition continues with Out of Controll in Venice, where the boundary between the real and the imagined completely dissolves as we are drawn into the enthralling and ferocious realm of two trolls.”