2017 Venice Biennale

The Trolls Helming the Icelandic Pavilion Like Drinking Coffee and Eating Human Beings

Installation view of "Out of Controll in Venice," in the Icelandic pavilion, by Egill Sæbjörnsson.ARTNEWS

Installation view of “Out of Controll in Venice,” in the Icelandic pavilion, by Egill Sæbjörnsson.

ARTNEWS

There is still a lot to see in Venice, but I can say that the most batshit crazy pavilion I have visited so far is Iceland’s, which was put together by trolls. Yes, trolls. I will quote from the press release to explain:

When [Egill] Sæbjörnsson was invited to present the Icelandic Pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2017, he decided to hand that task over to Ugh and Bõögâr—or rather, he had little choice, as the trolls would have been too jealous of him creating the Icelandic Pavilion and would probably have eaten him.

Ugh and Bõögâr, whom Sæbjörnsson apparently first met in 2008, have hidden their show in the Spazio Punch arts space on the very tranquil island of Giudecca. The roughly 118-feet-tall trolls have projected their faces onto two giant screens with creepy, craggily sculptural noses, which resemble Venetian plague-doctor carnival masks, jutting out onto the floor. They talk back and forth about all sorts of things but particularly their zest for consuming humans. Their voices are a little hard to make out, but at one point they seemed to discuss eating MoMA curators. Also, they like to fart.

Installation view of "Out of Controll in Venice," in the Icelandic pavilion, by Egill Sæbjörnsson.ARTNEWS

Installation view of “Out of Controll in Venice,” in the Icelandic pavilion, by Egill Sæbjörnsson.

ARTNEWS

Sickening colors and textures appear onscreen and mouths and eyes pop up here and there. There are also a few moments that are a bit more accessible, when the trolls do a little jamming.

Behind the screens, the trolls have built staircases that you can climb to find chill little wooden seats and tables as well as lamps and records players that appear to be made out of clay. At the entrance, there’s a coffee shop with great coffee. The trolls love coffee.

Visiting the show felt like a mixture of relaxing at a great, design-conscious coffee shop in Reykjavik and walking carefully through a haunted house designed by Tony Oursler. (Two great things!)

There is apparently also a perfume available—a collaboration with Geza Schön—that was made with “nuclear waste and whale puke,” but I only read about that after visiting the show. So if you have the chance to give that a whiff, please let me know. And if are a MoMA curator, be very careful when you visit.

Installation view of "Out of Controll in Venice," in the Icelandic pavilion, by Egill Sæbjörnsson.ARTNEWS

Installation view of “Out of Controll in Venice,” in the Icelandic pavilion, by Egill Sæbjörnsson.

ARTNEWS

Installation view of "Out of Controll in Venice," in the Icelandic pavilion, by Egill Sæbjörnsson.ARTNEWS

Installation view of “Out of Controll in Venice,” in the Icelandic pavilion, by Egill Sæbjörnsson.

ARTNEWS

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