Artists News Iceland

Artists deny nature terrorism

Icelandic police look abroad for those responsible for spray-painting giant words on rocky landscape

Von Bismarck with his “Image Fulgurator”

The Berlin-based artists Julius von Bismarck, a German who studied under Olafur Eliasson, and Julian Charrière, who is Swiss, may have broken the law in the creation of works of art in Iceland.

Giant words were found spray-painted on the landscape in the Myvatn region of north-east Iceland in April. It is unclear who was behind the spray-painting, which the Environment Agency of Iceland described at the time as “nature terrorism”. Then, at the beginning of June, Von Bismarck and Charrière showed photographs documenting the affected landscapes at the Alexander Levy gallery in Berlin.

The Icelandic police are investigating. “We have two suspects and will now contact the police in Germany and Switzerland to help us,” says Sigurdur Brynjolfsson, the chief superintendent of police in Husavik, in the municipality of Nordurping. He would not confirm the identities of the suspects.

Von Bismarck says he did not create the graffiti, adding that he has not been to Iceland since 2010. “But the idea is mine. I want to focus on the idea of nature and its origins in Romanticism. I was aware that what was done might violate some laws, but I am not happy that the Icelandic

authorities call the paintings ‘nature terrorism’. What about the new power plants and aluminium smelters that are planned for Iceland and that will destroy the environment?” Similar pictures from sites in Switzerland, Egypt and Germany were also included in the exhibition at Alexander Levy.

The German artist has caused controversy with his “Image Fulgurator”, a device he has used to project images into other people’s photographs, such as Fulguration #1 (Obama), 2008, in which a cross appears on the lectern as the US president is giving a speech in Berlin. For Some Pigeons Are More Equal Than Others, 2012, which has been performed in Copenhagen, Venice and Berlin, Von Bismarck and Charrière trapped birds, painted them with lurid (non-toxic) dyes and released them into the cities’ streets.

Von Bismarck and Charrière, Crater, 2013. Photo: courtesy the artists, Alexander Levy, Berlin and Dittrich and Schlechtriem
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