Interview: Artist Shoplifter at the Nordic Fashion Biennale

The Nordic Fashion Biennale recently opened at the Museum of Applied Arts in Frankfurt (Museum Angewandte Kunst) focusing on design from  Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.  The biennale centers around the exhibit The Weather Diaries where the photographic duo Cooper & Gorfer have created an exhibition interpreting fashion from these countries with strong narrative imagery referencing their culture and fashion.

The Icelandic artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir a.k.a. Shoplifter is participating in the biennale with her piece Nervescape III, occupying one of the rooms at the museum with parts of it escaping the room in a colorful way.  She has collaborated with designers, stylists and artists throughout the years and worked in different styles of media even though she has become best known for her artwork in hair, either human or synthetic. I met Hrafnhildur at the museum and spoke with her about hidden worlds, fashion and art, identities and expressions.

Artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir a.k.a. Shoplifter Photo: Silja Magg

Artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir a.k.a. Shoplifter
Photo: Silja Magg

What can you tell me about Nervescape or the beast as you sometimes refer to it?

This piece came into existence when I was asked to do an installation at the Clocktower Gallery in a New  York. There was a steel structure that was to be demolished.  I worked on the piece with the curator Alanna Heiss, the founder of the Clocktower  as well as PS1 that has now become a part of MoMA in New York.  She is a very inspiring curator and wanted me to use my signature medium to create artwork onto the structure. We started thinking of Arcadia and it´s weeping willows.  When I started working on this I saw how the hanging hair reminded me of stalactites which created the feeling of being in a cave and the piece became a place of it´s own with abstract reference to landscape.

When thinking of how the world came into existence and seeing photos from the Hubble telescope I realized that this is exactly the same creation as you see when looking at photos of the neurological systems and latest brain imagery.  I think its fascinating that what we see in a microscope often looks like something that´s light years away.  Everything has the same structure both on microcosmic and macrocosmic level and is in fact concerted.

 

Shoplifter, Nervescape III, 2014. Photo: Cooper & Gorfer

Shoplifter, Nervescape III, 2014.
Photo: Cooper & Gorfer

I wanted to attempt to display the magnificent landscape that is within the human being; a landscape we never see and generally do not think about.  This piece is an imaginary neuro-landscape called Nervescape, a secret and hidden place. I soon realized that I wanted this place to have movement and sound and I invited the artist/musician Kría Brekkan to respond to the piece and create a soundscape for it.  She also becomes a part of Nervescape by performing her music live as the creature who is one with the Nervescape and wears a costume that makes her camouflage with the piece.

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir a.k.a. Shoplifter, The Creature Blue. Photo: Cooper & Gorfer

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir a.k.a. Shoplifter, The Creature Blue.
Photo: Cooper & Gorfer

You have from time to time been working with fashion designers and stylists. Is that something you aim for?

Fashion design interests me because I find it inspiring how the human being dresses.  Fashion is an interesting way of expression and it lends a voice to our inner self and sends a message to the world of who we are. I know a few designers in New York and it all kinda started when I worked with the stylist Edda Guðmundsdóttir on knitted pieces for a show in NY,  without having much experience in such work.  Even though fashion design interests me I realized early on that it was not something I wanted to dedicate my life to and decided to focus on my art and that´s what I´m really happy doing.  I don´t seem to be able to avoid doing some wearable design every once in a while either for myself, or my friends.

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir a.k.a. Shoplifter, Study for an Opera IV. Photo: Jan Berg

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir a.k.a. Shoplifter, Study for an Opera IV.2011.
Photo: Jan Berg

Can we think of clothing as an expression of our identity or a medium for making our self-portrait?

I believe that’s one way to look at it.  Every person needs to make a choice of what to look like.  Everyday we have to make a decision of how to dress and do our hair even though it differs how much work we put into these acts and how creative we get.  I remember one woman once telling me that she didn´t care what she looked like but that is also a creative decision.

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir a.k.a. Shoplifter, Vanity Disorder, 2009. Photo: Michal Jurewicz

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir a.k.a. Shoplifter, Vanity Disorder, 2009.
Photo: Michal Jurewicz

Ideas about vanity and identity have been a part of your investigation of the human being.  Are we becoming to obsessed with vanity?

I´m trying to get people to think of vanity as a positive  force of nature.  It can be very boring when it gets out of hand but I believe that the world would be a very dull place if we didn´t have the need to make beautiful things.

The Weather Diaries Exhibition is from March 22nd to June 22nd.

More information about the Nordic Fashion Biennale can be found here.

Information about artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir a.k.a. Shoplifter can be found here.

 

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“Interview: Artist Shoplifter at the Nordic Fashion Biennale”