- Branded a whore
A Book That Is Not A Book
Quite the Situation is an artwork composed of three elements – a bookwork, an album release, and an installation. They fold into one another, creating a three-dimensional story tied together with the strings of time and yet, unbound by it. The work shifts and evolves in continual motion: a book becomes a piece of music and a piece of music becomes a wordless conversation.
Although rooted in Icelandic history, Quite the Situation, joins the global conversation surrounding gender equality, highlighting the way female sexuality has historically been put under the microscope and continues to be.
Table of Contents
Did You Know That Iceland Is Green?
While it’s a part of obligatory education in Iceland to know the history of these two countries, most Americans seemed to only know trivia from Mighty Ducks II. That’s how I became inspired to make a piece about the common history of my home and the country I was calling home: America.
But Did You Know That Americans Used To Steal Icelandic Women?
During WWII Iceland was occupied by the Allies; however, this love affair wasn’t only political–it was also deeply personal. Many Icelandic women were enamored by the handsome foreign soldiers, and the soldiers were more than ready to “steal our women”. These affairs were dubbed “The Situation” and the women “The Situation Ladies.” Such liaisons gave birth to lasting relationships, children, and harassment.
In April 2019, I was invited to an artist residency at The Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin County, California. Located in an old military base, it was the perfect place to develop this new piece. I began to collect Icelandic newspaper articles from 1940-1945 that underscore society’s view of “The Situation”. It is right here that I must stop and give my sister some credit. She is a lawyer and therefore a much better detective than I am, so she helped me comb through and dig up all those old articles.
Newspapers were the Twitter of their time. People wrote articles voicing their opinions on current matters, and in WWII a hot topic was “The Situation Ladies” and how they could be controlled.
The Eyes Reveal If A Woman Loves A Man
The Musical Composition & Album Release
The names of the tracks are all sentences from these articles. I only pressed 30 vinyl albums, which sold out within the first week. You can listen to the album on all streaming platforms.
1. Quite the Situation
2. Relationships With Foreign Strangers
3. A Rootless Little Girl
5. Sex In a Car
6. Just Great To Have These Devils Here
7. Branded a Whore
8. The Icelandic Maiden
9. Who Wouldn’t Desire Her?
A Book That Is Not A Book
The book is not just a book. In fact, it is a musical composition. It is designed like a composer writing music, playing a familiar tune that has sounded throughout centuries. At first, the piece is quiet, but as more voices join together, it becomes louder.
The sentences in the bookwork are taken from Icelandic newspaper articles written during WWII. Sentences are unrestrained, flowing from page to page and rising in volume until they hit the silence, then rising again until the grand finale – two question marks in the center of the book where Icelandic and English meet. In an attempt to comprehend the whole, the reader must flick back and forth through the bookwork’s pages, going forward and back again and again.
I chose this formatting for two reasons. First, I wanted to infuse the bookwork with elements of a musical composition where events happen on a timeline. Second, when the reader hones in on just one sentence, he misses the greater conversation happening around him–just like with any conversation in society.
This book comes to life through augmented reality. Open the Artivive app and point the camera to page 1 (ISL) or page 32 (ENG) and you will see the page start to move. This was done to extend the Quite the Situation installation out of time and space.
Quite The Situation 360° Audio and Video Installation
In the Quite the Situation 360° installation, guests are invited into the work of art itself. Different media play together and form an experience across the senses, which is at once holistic and fragmentary, humorous but thought-provoking.
The work is shown on a repeating loop that is about half an hour long, but guests are free to enter and leave as they please. Furthermore, the video work contains both new videos I recorded and edited with filmmaker Erlendur Sveinsson and archived WWII videos I collected from The National Film Archive of Iceland. This rarely-seen archived footage shows American soldiers interacting with Icelanders.
You can experience the exhibition online if you click on the link below. Just drag the mouse to travel around the space.
Gender Equality Paradise
In international media and discourse, it is a rare mention of Iceland that does not include the label “gender-equality paradise”. But “The Situation” did not consist of women’s deeds; rather it was society’s reactions to those deeds, stemming from gendered judgments that even today fetter the sexes.
We have to keep on dissecting and studying history. Each moment reflects the past in a new way and draws out new angles and views. With creativity and by asking ourselves the right questions based on our history and past, we can find answers to contemporary questions.
It is easy to laugh at past prejudices; it’s much harder to distinguish tragicomic contemporary reality. How will the history of the present be regarded after 80 years?
Support This Release
Did you know it takes over 25.000 streams to make 100$ on Spotify? If you feel like supporting this release, please head over to my music and art store and purchase the digital download – or just something else that you fancy.
Released by Inni Music in 2020