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Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir's 'Shoplifter' brings joy and playfulness to Kiasma
Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, Shoplifter, 2019. Photo: Finnish National Gallery/Petri Virtanen.

HELSINKI.- The year 2019 at Kiasma kicks off in February with a show by the internationally renowned New York-based Icelandic artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir / Shoplifter. For Kiasma’s fifth floor she created a site-specific installation Nervescape VIII. The subtly humorous installation made from synthetic hair allows viewers to enter into a colorful world and to pet the hair “as if it were a shy old mammoth”, like the artist describes it.

Joy, playfulness, and innocence are potential experiences Shoplifter conveys within her art. Hair, both real and fake, is Shoplifter’s signature material and trademark. She sees hair as being associated with fashion, self-expression and vanity. We use our hair to tell other people who we are. As a raw material for art, hair evokes mixed feelings: a furry work of art can be appealing and repelling at the same time. Hair is like “a remnant of the wildness that we possess,” says Shoplifter.

The new installation at Kiasma forms part of the Nervescape series. The installation changes shape and size depending on the location. Nervescape VIII in Kiasma is like climbing vines, surrounding the viewer on all sides. “It’s never really the same piece,” says the artist in an interview with Reykjavik Grapevine. “I imagined something like this when I saw the space, but I never know exactly how it will come out.”

The series is partly inspired by the artist’s interest in neuroscience and brain research. Tangles of hair resemble nerve cells and neurological pathways in their organic structure, but Shoplifter wants her art to impact our synapses in a more direct sense. She believes that when we are exposed to vibrant colors, it triggers the release of serotonin in the brain. She wants to inspire feelings of joy and happiness, as she believes “happy people tend to treat each other more nicely.”

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir was born in Reykjavik in 1969. She is living in New York. She took the name Shoplifter because her Icelandic name proved too difficult for many foreigners to pronounce. “Shoplifter” is one of many misheard versions of her name. Shoplifter’s art dwells comfortably on the borders between art, fashion, traditional craft and design. She will represent Iceland at the 2019 Venice Biennale.

The theme of the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma’s 2019 programme is goodness, with exhibitions and performances throughout the year exploring the ideas of giving, sharing, hospitality and encounters. Here you are. Let the art do good.

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