Magic Meeting – A Decade On

Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson and the Magic Team

Hafnarborg welcomes guests to the exhibition Magic Meeting – A Decade On by the Spanish-Icelandic artist duo and recipients of the Icelandic Art Prize 2021, Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson with the elastic artist-and-activist collective The Magic Team. Looking back, it has now been ten years since the artists’ last solo exhibition at Hafnarborg, where they focused on the Icelandic constitution of 1944, as well as it being a decade since the new constitution of Iceland was written.

The current show is the latest step in their socially engaged and interventionist art practice, continuing their investigation into the merging of art and activism and experimenting with the magic of art and its potential agency as a tool for social transformation. The exhibition´s subject is the constitution that was written in response to the Icelandic public‘s demand for a moral inventory following the financial crisis in 2008, but the project gained international attention for its innovative and democratic approach. On October 20th 2012, the people of the country voted in agreement of the new constitution in a national referendum. As of today, however, the new constitution has not been ratified by the Icelandic Parliament.

Magic Meeting – A Decade On is a follow-up to their latest performance In Search of Magic – A Proposal for a New Constitution for The Republic of Iceland. A durational and collective performance that took place on October 3rd 2020, at the Reykjavík Art Museum, the streets of the city centre, in front of the Prime Minister’s Office and at the public square Austurvöllur, in front of the Parliament House. Libia and Ólafur, in collaboration with Cycle Music and Arts Festival, invited a large group of composers, musicians, artists, civil organizations, activists and members of the public to collectively create a multivocal composition and performance that brought to life all 114 articles of the new proposed Icelandic constitution, written in 2011.

The exhibition’s central piece is a new five-hour video work that captures the polyphonic performance from last year. The work has been edited from video footage and cell phone recordings made by participants documenting the performance, interspersed with archival footage from the era of social unrest in Iceland in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash until today. Another 90-minute version of the film will be televised by RÚV, the national broadcaster, during the exhibition period.

At the exhibition, a porous multimedia environment will expand beyond the walls of the art centre into public space. This environment is comprised of works from their ongoing project on the new constitution, starting in 2017, and works that predate it but inform its foundation and background. Photographs, sketches, videos and drawings documenting the process and their collaborations, from idea to performance, will be on display as well as the monumental text and textile works that were used in the actual performance.

Magic Meeting – A Decade On is an open-ended exhibition. As part of an ongoing movement, the project itself is ever-evolving and the work will be changing over the course of the show. The centre´s ground floor gallery will open a week later as a “work-in-progress” space, with public events like workshops, activist meetings and a place of ongoing research and production of new work. In addition, a symposium is scheduled for mid-May on the topic of the new constitution, similar civil struggles around the world, art and activism. In this multifaceted manner, Libia and Ólafur and The Magic Team will occupy the museum space and transform it into a hub for critical reflection where art meets activism, as their innovative artworks and interventions in the sphere of civil politics and public debate keep on unfolding.

Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson have been in collaboration since 1997 and their work has been exhibited internationally on many occasions, including the 8th Havana Biennial, Van Abbe Museum, Manifesta 7, the 54th Venice Biennial, CAAC Seville, Kunst-Werke Berlin, 19th Sydney Biennial, Norway´s National Gallery and La Casa Invisible. They work in Reykjavík, Berlin, Rotterdam and Málaga.