A gigantic vehicle made of rock: the digital native is a myth — a yeti with a smartphone


A gigantic vehicle made of rock: the digital native is a myth — a yeti with a smartphone, 2017. Video, color, sound, metal. Dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist


(From) Memory, 2015. Video, color, sound. 3:35 min. Courtesy the artist.

Icelandair Hotel Marina Film Program.

Considering memory as an arrangement of traces, Helena Aðalsteinsdóttir employs a carefully balanced sculptural language of presence and absence. Soft shapes and familiar objects dot her installations as if floating in a landscape. Wooden beams and television screens serve as primary structures while small objects like sponges or tassels become supporting details. Yet while her specific materials may evoke the body and its orchestration of the installation, she never depicts the body itself.

Instead, human presence is suggested by a pair of shoes left behind or a delicately hung ornament. In her videos, Aðalsteinsdóttir similarly employs a concise vocabulary of materials, but in these works the body functions as a mechanism for replaying and breaking down specific actions: molding a block of clay, bouncing a rubber ball, or toying with materials. By isolating movements and giving them prolonged durations, she gives a sculptural quality to the everyday rhythms of the body.

One such familiar rhythm is the pace of our interactions with the smartphone screen, an object whose dimensions and capabilities often dictate a particular pattern of swiping, tapping, and scrolling. These actions have become habitual, repeated even in the absence of interesting content or, conceivably, even in the absence of the phone itself.

Aðalsteinsdóttir’s piece for Sequences, A gigantic vehicle made of rock (2017) shows a hand holding a flat stone of the same dimensions as an iPhone 6. A familiar choreography follows: click, swipe, swipe, swipe, zoom, swipe, swipe. Though it does not appear that the stone responds, the hand continues its routine. A voice in the video mythologizes the stone’s origins from a sky ship in a cloud, a site of memory and data storage, and a place to shelf one’s responsibilities.

The site of the video itself, in northern Iceland, has particularly high levels of magnetic energy and emits high frequency sounds. It, too, seems to be part of an otherworldly network in which objects of the earth may have smart capabilities.

Helena Aðalsteinsdóttir