Kolbeinn Holgi is a video and performance artist from Iceland. He also has a studio in Berlin. His work has been exhibited widely and includes a foam party in MoMA PS1, staging knife fights at Icelandic metal festivals and birthing beers.
I’m drawn to work that’s brilliant but it took two seconds to make–concentrated, lightening thought. People do better work when they can forget themselves. I used to draw and be worried that the paper was expensive or that I’d destroy something. When I started working with cheap stuff and relaxed, the best work came out. I was listening to music, talking with other people and totally not thinking about what I was doing. That’s the only time in my life that drawings have been nice.
I’ve done everything but painting. I don’t have the patience for that. When I was making videos, it was frustrating because there’s not a direct correlation between how much time you spend and how much feedback you get. I started doing performative work because I’m getting feedback as I’m making it. I like making work. I like being in the process of making work. Exhibiting is a hassle. You’re drained afterwards. With performance art, you’re full of energy afterwards. You get energy from the people and feedback from the work and what people are doing effects your work. You feel great.
I’ve been doing these performances with my friend Helgi at Mayhemisphere, a remote metal festival in Iceland. We do it for the metalheads. Our rule is that we can’t discuss the performance until the evening it happens. It’s very freeing. You don’t have to create a fucking masterpiece, you just do whatever you can with the time. Last year, we found a roll of chicken wire in the abandoned factory so we made overalls. Then we made fake hearts filled with blood and had a knife fight where we tried to stab each other in the heart. I lost.
Last summer, I was living in MoMA PS1 with a group of artists and made a foam machine in one of the courtyard pools with an industrial vacuum cleaner I found inside the museum. It made foam and music. I did it for 6 hours and at the end, everyone jumped in.
My idea of success is just doing something. I have no idea how it will turn out. Right now, I’m doing weird experiments with 3D printers for the Reykjavik Arts Festival. The type of printer I’m working with takes plastic and melts it. It’s like putting cream on a cake. It drizzles out into a little stream and then hardens. I have some sketches of what I want to do–print straight onto vinyl records, into hands, into water. I want to 3D print black metal t-shirts. I’ve always worked in a lo-fi way with hi-fi stuff. People see the 3D printer as an exotic machine but really you can do whatever you want with it. It can just as well be a blender, a house appliance.
There’s no art market in Iceland. It’s just too small. So, all the people making art are just making it because they like to do it. They do whatever the fuck they want. I never made art thinking of selling it. I used to play a lot of music and I felt like I got dragged into identifying as an artist. I didn’t want to be boxed into a category, but then I realized the box of “artist” is infinite. It was only last year that I said, ‘Fuck it. I’m an artist.’
–Kolbeinn Holgi, as told to Studio Beat
photos by Matt Lundy
Visit Kolbeinn Hulgi’s website here.