Trolls take over Icelandic pavilion at the Venice Biennale

Artist Egill Sæbjörnsson says a pair of man-eating creatures will shape the show


The Icelandic artist Egill Sæbjörnsson has turned to two fictional trolls to stage his exhibition in Iceland’s pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale (13 May-26 November). Sæbjörnsson, a musician who also makes animations and videos, will unveil Out of Controll in Venice at the Spazio Punch space on Giudecca island. The trolls, Ūgh and Bõögâr, will create the content for the show, the artist stresses. Stefanie Böttcher, the director of Kunsthalle Mainz, is the pavilion’s curator.

The project will also have a presence on social media, with the trolls’ activities updated on Instagram in the run-up to the Biennale using the @icelandicpavilion handle and the hashtag #outofcontroll. “Ūgh and Bõögâr will be infiltrating our lives; no longer just the artist’s, but bit by bit, more and more people will be drawn into their world, encountering everything from the trolls’ thoughts and artistic output, to their music and culinary habits—they enjoy eating humans,” a press statement says.

“In recent years, the Icelandic pavilion has frequently been a venue for dissolving social constructs, whether they be ideologies, nationalist sentiments or the myth of the artist,” says Björg Stefánsdóttir, the director of the Icelandic Art Center in Reykjavik, which has commissioned the 2017 pavilion. “This tradition continues with Out of Controll in Venice, where the boundary between the real and the imagined completely dissolves as we are drawn into the enthralling and ferocious realm of two trolls.”

Iceland’s contribution to the 2015 Venice Biennale was one of the most controversial national entries. The Swiss artist Christoph Büchel set up a mosque in the former Catholic church of Santa Maria della Misericordia in Venice’s Cannaregio neighbourhood. But the project was closed by city authorities after just two weeks. The mosque remained shut after a Venetian court declined to fast-track a motion seeking its reinstatement.