In the Flesh
A Unique Multi-media Event at the 1998 Reykjavik Arts Festival

The biannual festival in Reykjavik, Iceland, attracts a wide audience of art lovers from around the world. This year the attention-grabber proved to be a sprawling multi-media show at the Living Art Museum entitled In the Flesh (18 May - 7 July). Featuring over 120 participants, the show included visual artists, DJ's, fashion designers, writers, philosophers, cosmetic surgeons, rock bands and cultural critics as well as exhibitions in fourteen shop windows along Reykjavik's main shopping street, Laugavegur.

The arctic city of Reykjavik has become one of the most culturally active cities in the world. While projects of such scope as In the Flesh have been few, this city of only 130.000 has attracted prominent international performers and artists to complement a thriving art and music scene that itself has nurtured such international stars as Björk.

The theme of the show was the human body and contributions ranged from the physical to the abstract, from visceral performance works to theoretical debates on the body as a cultural symbol. Food, sexuality, horror films, advertising and physical expression all formed part of this complex presentation while some of the contributors choose to present their own bodies as subjects for debate. The show was a lively, no-stop event with performances, films, fashion shows and seminars going on every day while documentary film makers preserved the events for posterity.

To complement the show a bulky 430 page catalogue was published that includes articles by some sixty-five writers, ranging from medical doctors through anthropologists and philosophers to literary theorists. The writers and the artists in the show collaborated for over a year to formulate the ideas that went into the show that cut across all disciplines and cultural sectors to address the way the human body enters into our thinking and into the very fabric of our society.

While the majority of the participants was Icelandic, the show also features several notable international artists such as the French Louise Bourgeois and the Americans Barbara Kruger and Matthew Barney. Probably the most sensation contribution was made by the French performance artist Orlan, who came to Iceland to take part in the show and to lecture. Since 1990, Orlan has undergone cosmetic surgery nine times to radically alter her appearance and challenge our ideas of beauty and the body. Already a well-established artist on the international scene, Orlan continues to shock audiences around the world with her frank lectures and graphic videos documenting her operations. Also participating in the show at the Living Art Museum was the Swedish performance group Lucky People Center (LPC) and the German multimedia duo DJ T-ina and Ulf Freyhoff.

In the Flesh was produced by in co-operation with the Reykjavik Arts Festival, the Living Art Museum, the Reykjavik Development Council, and University of Iceland Institute of Continuing Education. Other establishments affiliated with the project included the Nordic House in Reykjavik, the French Embassy, the Regnboginn cinema, Eskimo Models, the Advisory Center Hitt House and the Municipal Museum of Akureyri, where the show was on view from 13 June to 12 July. Patron of the project was singer Björk Gudmundsdottir.

In the Flesh was a true melting pot of currents and ideas — a thoroughly Post-Modern idea come true in one of the most remote but culturally exciting cities in the world.
Click the image and navigate the Icelandic version with images of art work and images from the event