The sensory world of Sigurður Guðjónsson

BERG Contemporary
Nov 16, 2018 1:58PM

In Recorder (2010) two tape reels rotate above a pool of water, into which droplets of water fall. The sound of the water and the repetitive rotational movement of the reels draw the viewer into a powerful visual world.

Sigurður Guðjónsson exploits the potential of time-based media to produce pieces that rhythmically engage the viewer in a synaesthetic experience, linking vision and hearing in ways that seem to extend one’s perceptual field and produce sensations never felt before. Usually slow and often repetitive, his pieces draw you in and gradually start to expand, creating complex loops and rhythmic schemes that can almost overwhelm the senses.

Sounds are an integral part of Sigurður’s work with dripping water or metallic, mechanical movement providing a contrapuntal accompaniment to the visual elements. Sigurður has also cooperated with composers to create tightly integrated pieces where the music and video imagery seem to magically merge in a single rhythmic and tonal whole. His approach to video seems to be ideally suited to such cooperation. He shuns all narrative to create works where visuals and sound combine in repetitive motion that seem pregnant with potential resolution but never actually reach it. One might expect such pieces to be frustrating, promising a reward that is never given, but instead the effect is oddly liberating, like a repetitive mantra that instead of wearing the mind down, in fact frees it to enable a deeper understanding.

Sigurður’s early videos were often explorations of complicated setups with pipes, tubes and wires, but his later works focus on the potential of simpler images and sparse presentation. His 2016 exhibition in BERG Contemporary featured only three works but managed to fill the gallery with repeating images and insistent sounds.

Recorder is a perfect example of this aesthetic approach. It is also one of a group of pieces that directly reference the media he uses and the history of video and audio as tools for making art. Before digital processing, this involved mechanical actions - moving magnetic tape across a tape head - and editing involved actually cutting the tape and splicing it back together. Showing us this, as Sigurður does, is not merely an exercise in nostalgia but a way of slowing us down and making us reflect on the processes involved in creative work and how they are embodied in the tools we use.

Recorder at the National Gallery of Iceland in 2011.

Exhibition History

2018 LOOP Barcelona

2015 Royal Society of British Sculptors

2011 SOUND FIELDS, National Gallery of Iceland, Reykjavík

2011 Tromsø Kunstforening, Tromsø, Norway (solo show)

2010 SouthbySouthWest, Reykjanesbær, Iceland (solo show)

BERG Contemporary will exhibit Recorder at LOOP Barcelona between November 20-22.

BERG Contemporary