Artist in residence: Una B. Sigurðardóttir (Iceland)
The people here. I have met many people during my stay here and I mostly live and work with local people. Even though I am sometimes with out a tongue among large groups — and the fact that languages barriers truly exist — I feel very warm with the Japanese people I have connected to. Acting, drawing and whatever you can think of to make yourself understandable has been tried out on both sides. And as I start to know the people better and they to know me, it becomes easier and joking around is no longer a mission.
My experience with the people and the social culture is most friendly and I find the respect among and between people very comfortable. But this is also a double edge sword, this culture has a tradition for people not disagreeing or debating. People here have addressed this problem to me and are searching for a way to get the society to talk and debate about its future. It is very necessary right now because of the nuclear issue that they are facing.
There are not really bars in Japanese culture, but really many drinking restaurants. That means there is a big culture for eating and drinking all night long, talking, laughing and singing. Frankly, I think I have not sung as much with people in years! Maybe this connection through music has become so strong exactly because of the lack of language, but it doesn’t change the fact that the freedom to sing and be exposed by that is ok and not frightening.
Eating in Japan is also fun. It is very social action and as one can imagine the cuisine is brilliant. Of all the various traditional dishes that I have tried at dinner parties or restaurants there are only two things that I will absolutely not eat again. But the rest, preferably.
It is hard to describe a place, and why you start to love it. It is an atmosphere. The millions of details that you notice when you’re going around and about that compose this picture. The attitude, the smile, the colours, the smell, the train, the metro and the face masks. How people just seem to feel ok about falling asleep everywhere and under the most strange circumstances. The fact that you take off your shoes all the time and that you don’t need to worry about locking your bicycle.
The bathhouse and the bathing culture, the loud and colourful advertising signs everywhere manifesting the craziness of this country’s capitalism, shouting people on every corner wanting to sell you something, the stylish girls and guys and Kawii! Never have I met as many adults presenting themselves with such cutefied shyness as here. This attitude is the fruit of the Kawii culture that has been completely integrated into “Old Japan”.
Photographs belong to Una B. Sigurðardóttir
I am telling you that public signs, roadblock and … you name it — has been citified. But the sky here is beautiful and all is full of automates, for whatever you can’t think of and this culture definitely does not understand coffee, or to put it mild, has reinvented it … and everything is a bit different from what you are used to.
I like it.
About the artist
Una B. Sigurðardóttir completed her BA degree from the Iceland Academy of the Arts in the spring of 2008. She lived and worked in Reykjavík, as an artist and a poet, as well as teaching figure drawing at a secondary grammar school until the fall of 2011. She currently lives in the Netherlands and is pursuing her MA degree of Fine Arts at AKV St. Joost Academy.
She was a member of Gallery Crymo, an artist-run, non-profit gallery. In addition she ran a studio at Hvefisgata 61 in collaboration with other artists and writers. She has been involved in the organization of many artistic events, participated in numerous exhibitions in Iceland and abroad, and given performances and readings of her own works.
Her body of work is marked by multiplicity and the desire to experiment with materials, medium and method. Therefore she has chosen not to limit herself to a specific medium, although she has increasingly given emphasis to drawing/painting/collage and sculpture, as well as continuing the fusion of and search for new mediums. Una has explored the relationship between text and other mediums such as text and image. For example, three books with her texts and drawings, “The Adventures of the Sick Girl”, “The Sick Girl Kills” and “Soap Stories” were published in 2007.
Since 2010 she has individually, and in collaboration with artist Rakel McMahon, experimented with new mediums and forms of presentation, such as creating large advertising stickers displayed in windows and manufacturing false product packagings. By this they are testing the border between the art and consumerism.
In Una’s works there are underlying narratives, and although she critically examines serious subject matter, her work is liberally spiked with humor. Una seeks to process her personal vision of society and environment in the context of the ideological assumptions and global realities that modern man is faced with. Therefore many images of consumerism and popular culture, as well as symbols of dominant ideologies, have become motifs in her work.
Between 9th of February – 11th of April 2012, Una has been writing diary notes which she has been kind enough to share with us. This was the last post.