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Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir 2009


My eardrum itches:

Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir on Þóra Sigurðardóttir’s material world


Fear of the material fascinates me. We’re all material. My task is to notice how material develops and is transformed, to read the material. The beauty is hidden in the process, in what gets the story started.


She shrugs. An incitement, a relief, to not be afraid of the material.


A line is a remarkable thing, it marks off an area, it’s a border, it’s never straight, it follows the ground that it’s marked out on, it tells the story of the land, the sod, the wall, the surface.


Writing is close kin to drawing, no less in these times when everyone has stopped writing longhand. Are the lines in letters and drawing an elongation of our lifelines, our veins, our sinews? Is so we may well be able to read veins.


The skin. Who am I, where do I come from – My skin tells where I’ve been, what has happened to me, but nowadays so many people need to smooth things over, stretch the plotline so taut that it conveys no message.


All the cosmetic surgeries, the walls of peeling paint, the worship of youth, the beauty aids, senior- citizen sex-lives, the absence of the dead, don’t walk on the grass, the bathroom scales, don’t touch, don’t pick your nose. Fear of the material is fascinating.


There’s much beauty when hair goes gray, when concrete cracks.


Writing: each letter connects to the next letter as each person connects to the next, that’s how you get the whole context, maybe a meaning, maybe not, an inkling of a meaning – yet each of us is a body enclosed by skin, by material borders, outlines that are not gladly breached. Except in sex. Except in birth. The forming of letters is the letters’ symbiosis and out come conclusions, expression, tales. Sometimes something new is born, something that has never before been thought, felt.


It’s a powerful experience to meet up with a house; you have to run up against it somewhere and don’t necessarily get to decide where it will happen.


Houses are local and often reflect people’s unbelievable sensitivity toward their environment. Look at Röðull, Sun Ridge, the old meeting house at Skarðsströnd that sheltered the people of a desolate fjord in a way that opened the door to beauty. Instead of hunkering down at the end of the world, the house opens its arms to the world without end.


Or should we really get rid of our old kitchen cabinets, the knobs grasped by the people before us and the people before them, and the rock-candy scent of the cupboards? Every inhabitant must make up his own history; there must be no history exerting influence, shaping the ground. That’s how many people think. Fair enough.


This wall in Röðull, the seventy-year-old meeting house at Skarðsströnd, is so rough-surfaced that last summer when a certain meticulous woman wrote on it the drawing/handwriting was almost unintelligible. People said, Who wrote that, anyway? As if it had been some old man from the countryside. The man who’d built the place. As if the writing were coming through time.


It’s an odd word, script, like scrimp – and doesn’t writing demand physical expenditure? People bear down in different ways, twist themselves up, and you can see that in reading manuscripts from olden times. A look at drawings and manuscripts from the Royal Library in Copenhagen, for example, clearly reveals when the person bore down, hesitated, whether he or she clenched up or drew/wrote freely. Almost like standing face to face and shaking the person’s hand. A person who was around five hundred years ago.


Are there fewer stories in new construction; is it at all possible to read new buildings?

Oh yes. The architect’s thought, the thinking of the person who had the house built, show so many things, there’s their feeling for the place, the influence of zeitgeist, are they strong, do they take over completely, you can answer those questions. You can sense feelings for the natural surroundings, directions, views. Everything is legible. And delectable.


To read materiality: it comes with practice.

Children can do it beautifully, they sense and discern every aberration, every wavelength. Then – after going to school, the monitor screens, the calculations – most of us need to learn it all over again. How to read materiality.


It’s a powerful experience to meet up with a house.


The floor we stand on with all our heaviness is pulling for me. The body with all its weight and stature meets the floor with its texture and hardness, and the earth draws lines on the soles of our feet – lifelines, just as in the palms of our hands, a friendly and bold drawing. The cleft of our asses is a line. Sure it is. There is a geography within us and on our outsides.

You can map land, you can map internal organs, you can map the skin.

Where are the membranes, the atmospheres?


Drawing is a way of exploring the world; it’s not a tool for making a beautiful picture.


Copper is a glowing folio, copper is remarkably resistant, you need to dig in, it’s an insight/inroad into the material. Like the difference between drawing on yourself with a felt pen and getting a tattoo: there’s resistance, grooves are cut, there’s an appreciable change in the material overlay.


It’s also reading when you see a wire coming out of the wall, how it curves – as if someone had meant to form letters but not quite had the mastery.


Excuse me, I can’t let her out of my sight, she might be trying to make a copperplate of herself, might slop concrete on her feet and run off barefoot and blindfolded and start drawing on the walls – We are in public! It’s not civil disobedience because woman is born to research the material world, it’s in her blood, no coincidence, that choice of words, born, blood, let’s not let her out of our sight, she might draw blood, her own, and make an imprint, in public, in bold.


You are guarding the line. I say. She shrugs, nods.



© Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir. Translation: Sarah Brownsberger 2009