A Grip on Life

One of Anna Líndal’s most memorable works is a photoseries of a woman who is wearing a red apron and holding a coffee cup in one hand and a coffee pot in the other, pouring endlessly into the cup so that it overflows and the coffee spills everywhere. This is a portrayal of a routine action that goes out of control and consequently becomes a threat; a grip that fails and emotional energy that is released. For an instant it is revealed to us that all our life is pinned down with rules and customs but down below it seethes the very primal force that makes life into life and at the same time threatens to wreak havoc upon humankind’s pedantic but necessary system of rules. We are actually talking about culture and nature, though this may seem far-fetched at first. The tension between these opposing forces is one of the main themes running through Anna Líndal’s complex world.

Many of Anna Líndal’s works give an initial impression of being pointedly critical, but on closer inspection they prove to be interestingly subtle. For many years she has practised what she calls mapping of routine life in the form of photoseries and installations where “invisible” everyday objects which we normally do not wonder about – coffee cups, bobbins of thread, a shovel, a bucket, spoons and forks and sugarcubes - are highlighted by being given a new role in a new environment. Generally these objects allude to domestic chores which up to the present have been within the realm of women, women who are often literally tied down by childbearing and housework. So there is no reason to play down the political force behind Anna Líndal’s works, but her criticism is not based on declarations; rather, it is interwoven with objective documentation and lively recreation of objects. Yes, her works depict the struggle between repression and vital force, freedom and fetters, critique and creativity, objective documentation and unforeseeable metamorphosis. The artist herself says that she does not regard being a woman as a full-time job. The question dominating the themes of most of her works is much rather this: how far do we control our own lives, how far are we controlled by a predetermined pattern? In Anna Líndal’s work this is a political question, a philosophical and an aesthetic one.

Most recently, Anna has been moving her works out of the home and into the community and nature. Her latest work, “Borders,” is based on a scientific expedition in which she took part, exploring Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe. The work deals with the energy at the point where two different surfaces meet: the forces of nature and human society.

Text by
Hjálmar Sveinsson,

translation by Bernard Scudder