The Fettered Feast
Anna Líndal and the sublimation of white
by Gudbergur Bergsson

I have always disapproved of the tendency to approach works of art by trying to find in them a parallel with what we call reality. Various ideas have been put forward about the connection between art and reality, and how the artist ought to link the two so that his work reflects society and thereby presents a kind of world picture, presumably for the public good

It is as if we cannot approach works of art normally, see obvious forms, contemplate their shapes and guess at their content, if there is something other than the forms as such, their shape and colours.

Furthermore, the spectator constricts what he sees with his own experience, tempted to link the work of art to something from his immediate environment, typically from his childhood.

This is because the character of art is surface and depth in the well of memories.

A successful work of art is an indistinct echo from the dawn of time.

It is tempting to approach Anna Líndal’s work from one of the above angles, imagining that we see in them parallels with daily meals, something mundane, associated with stomachs, food, nature and even calories.

If we regard her works only as what we see, it soon transpires that there is more than meets the eye. Some of them could be called fettered meals, where the guests are prevented from taking a bite.

We run into problems. These are unattractive tables with nothing edible on them.

It’s ridiculous.

You find the works funny. They seem to be about a guest who is invited to a feast but is served nothing but beauty, and is hungry to understand.

Nothing is ridiculous unless it has human associations. A tablecloth does not raise a smile except under particular circumstances.

Bearing this in mind, what does Anna Líndal’s art serve up?

The spectator sees forks of asceticism, fettered sugarcubes, oppressed spoons, a failed soup bowl.

Is this a tragedy, the tombstone of dining? Is this the end of the feast in the age we live in, the era of plenty?

I have never pitied a piece of art until I saw Anna Líndal’s work. It was an experience for me.

You can dislike or be impressed by a work of art, find its colour or composition unattractive. But this is not the same as pitying, for example, a sculpture.

Anna Líndal’s works are not sculptures in the normal sense, wrought with a chisel, but rather arrangements of free objects which at some time have been in a different context, associated with appetite and not art.

Generally, the laid table tends to be elegant. On it is the set of china, or the remnants of it. The spectator feels it deserves better. Involuntarily he turns into the good housewife who thinks:

What a shameful sight!

While a socialist might think:

Such an illusion is what capitalism’s table has always been.

If someone asks: "What is this supposed to be?" which was common when people used to go to exhibitions for curiosity’s sake, not because they were sent an invitation to the opening day, the only sensible answer would be:

I don’t know.

But since works of art are resonances from the dawn of time, we could just as easily say:

It’s an attitude towards porcelain. The works could quite well have their origins in Della Robbia’s terracotta, intertwined with the folktales in which one animal takes vengeance on another inhospitable one by serving up a feast where the containers are not designed to fit its beak, but rather only for their unquestionable artistic value.


Gudbergur Bergsson:


Text by Guðbergur Bergsson, translation by Bernard Scudder