Egill Sæbjörnsson. Courtesy of The Reyjavik Grapevine
Egill Sæbjörnsson (b. Iceland, 1973) is a renowned Icelandic visual artist living in Berlin since 1999. His video installations consist of real objects with projected images, often self-generative and combined with technology and sound.
Sæbjörnsson approaches his work with a sense of magic and curiosity, mediated through other elements such as music, video, and installation. His language spans a wide array of styles, from childish and comical, to minimalistic and simple, but what unites the works is his use of humour and philosophical approach to the subjects. Steinkugel, his public art piece for the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, and the first permanent, self-generative video installation in an outdoor space in Germany, opened in 2014.
In 2017 Egill Sæbjörnsson represented Iceland at the Biennale d’Arte in Venice. His works have been shown in The Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Frankfurter Kunstverein, National Gallery of Prague, The Amos Rex Museum Finland, Künstlerhaus Bremen, Frankfurter Kunstverein, The Watermill Centre New York, HOPSTREET Gallery in Brussels, i8 Gallery Reykjavik; Johann König, Berlin and Reykjavik Art Museum.
As a member of Therme Art’s Advisory Board, Egill Sæbjörnsson regularly collaborates with Therme Art’s curatorial team on programming and events, including the Wellbeing Culture Forum. Having practiced in Berlin for over 20 years, Sæbjörnsson brings a wealth of knowledge and insight into Berlin’s cultural scene and institutions, which Therme Art has an ongoing commitment to support.
Flying Waters was conceived by Egill Sæbjörnsson on occasion of the event Therme Art x Messe in St Agnes, organised in partnership with König Galerie. The work involved a set of evocative and free-flowing water jets being projected onto the façade of the iconic Brutalist St Agnes church for the duration of Gallery Weekend Berlin and Berlin Art Week celebrations from 8-20 September 2020.
Flying Waters used the building as an all-encompassing blanket, with the “flying water” creating shapes and forms that interacted with the built environment. As with other elements of the Therme Art x Messe in St Agnes programme, the artwork played with the viewers’ senses and perceptions, asking us to reimagine and reconsider our everyday surroundings. The line between real and illusory is often blurred in Sæbjörnsson’s work, highlighting how subjective preconceptions and responses mould the material world.
In 2017, Therme Art commissioned The Mother by visual artist Egill Sæbjörnsson. The work is a self-generative video installation and is estimated to be completed by 2023. The ﬁrst version of The Mother was made for Therme Art and presented at the Courtauld Gallery in London in 2017. The initial prototype consisted of a 3D printed model and a video animation of flying water projected onto it, with the idea of creating a fountain where real and animated water could be combined.
The Mother is a self-generative video installation. The work encompasses a fountain of water held within a larger dome, measuring 4,5 m x 2,5 m x 1,2 m. The fountain features a pool at the fore which is connected to another pool, adjacent to the dome, by a water entrance.
The fountain is animated by a computer-run application, which creates kinetic visuals of flying water and transformational rock surfaces that never repeat themselves; mapped onto the fountain using video projectors. The soundscape combines digital sounds with that of real running water. While the fountain is the central focus of The Mother, it is complemented by additional features which play an important role, including the water entrance and the hollow walls that visitors can explore. Outside of the dome, a smaller, organically-shaped object is placed in juxtaposition with the fountain, intended to transform the structure into a hybrid between building and living being.
The conceptual foundations for The Mother are rooted in Sæbjörnsson’s extensive research on the architecture of fountains, dating back to 2010, as well as a 20-year artistic trajectory of projecting videos onto objects and places. A fountain, derived from the Latin “fons” (genitive “fontis”), is a source or spring; a structure which projects water into a basin for consumption as well as entertainment. Fountains have long served as a meeting point for humans and animals, whose gatherings foster community and liveliness in situ. In parallel, the sounds generated by fountains and running water are universally considered to be calming to the nervous system. Through The Mother, Sæbjörnsson’s explores the creation of a convivial, calming and healthy environment.
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