Microreview: Continuous search for understanding

When I Though I Was The Glacier Snæfellsjokull
"When I thought I was the glacier Snæfellsjokull", 2013
When I Got A Message From The Tv
"When I got a message from the TV", 2013
The Future Is Bright
"The future Is bright", 2018
She Was Sheltered From Outside Stimuli
"She was sheltered from outside stimuli", 2018
She Wants Others To See What She Sees
"She wants others to see what she sees", installation, 2021
She Tries To Draw Herself Out Of This
"She tries to draw herself out of this", 2018
Artist Drawing The Instalation About People
Artist drawing the installation "About people", 2018
2021 May
Ásthildur Jonsdóttir reviews Halla Birgisdóttir: Did I notice it then, or did I notice it afterwards?, 2013-present
Author / Publisher
Ásthildur Jonsdóttir for NewsLibrary
Author Info

Dr. Asthildur Jonsdottir is an Icelandic artist, curator and independent scholar. She holds a Doctor of Arts from University of Lapland and PhD from University of Iceland focusing on the potential of art in education for sustainability and has studied artistic actions for sustainability, community-based art and participatory art practices when finding a balance between well-being and the integrity of nature.




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Newsletter No. 34

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Reviewed Publication

Halla Birgisdóttir: Did I notice it then, or did I notice it afterwards?, drawings, text and installations, 2013-present

Image Credits

All images presented with permission of the artist.

I first discovered Halla Birgisdóttir in 2013 when I went to the annual graduation exhibition at the Iceland University of the Arts. The works by Halla Birgisóttir (1988) were outstanding and incredibly mature. At the time, she had already started to develop as a visual poet. Then, as in all her numerous exhibitions since, she worked directly within the exhibition space, creating an installation titled "Did I notice it then, or did I notice it afterwards?" She has continued to work on this installation, researching her experience of psychosis through art. Through her search for understanding she reflects on her own experience of losing control of reality.

Her exhibitions are always an interplay of written words and drawings. She tells stories that are based on lived experience. Descriptions, consisting of short sentences or single words, express feelings, inner states or thoughts. Her work portrays people in intimate moments, in a way that makes the situations appear both melancholy and humorous.

Birgisdóttir's approach prods human society to go on questioning its norms and prevents that questioning from ever being declared finished. Birgisdóttir's work expresses what it means to be a human being, offers insight into what psychosis is, sparks conversations about it and increases understanding for it. Essential to her practice is her critical approach, characterized by questioning the nature of our actions – as they affect others or the place where we are at each moment. Her installations highlight prejudices against mental illness while giving the viewer space for emotional responses, drawing on the overarching question: when are things normal?