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In the interactive solo show ‘framandi heimavöllur‘, I use materials, such as my hair, sounds and textiles, to reflect on notions and feelings of foreignness that acquire an intense presence when living and working within my country of origin and within the lingual space of my first language, which is German. Returning to Germany in the fall of 2010, just after having overcome an illness which caused the loss of hair for months, I feel foreign within both my own weakened body as well as my surroundings, with people’s comments on my illness-related weight loss actively forming a process of ‘othering’ me.

However, although I am expected to fit - to feel at ‘home’ or to finally have arrived back - the inner notions of feeling foreign to customs, language, etc. are unable to adapt to this request. I am a stranger in this place; yet I am strangely positioned to ‘be at home’ given the ways in which others frame me within this geographical space.

The installation ‘framandi heimavöllur’ creates an outdoor space inside of the gallery room. One of the gallery walls has been painted grey and white chalk drawings on the grey surface echo African outdoor wall designs, the symbolic meanings of which exclude those who are foreign to the language of drawings within this region from understanding. The opposite wall has 162 white nails installed in an ordered manner in it, with the long diagonal black shadows being what the eye can see before seeing the cause of the shadows: the white nails, each of which has a single hair, lost during my illness, connected to it. It is the pain in which I am alone when being ill; it is only the shadow of the pain, visible for example in the loss of weight, which is visible to others.

Red desert sand covers one-third of the gallery floor; the other two-thirds are covered with sugar. Visitors entering the gallery are provided with a tiny ruler which carries the following instruction: ‘Others are not responsible for obliterating your traces. Please do so yourself, using this tool.’ The ruler provided is, on purpose, a rather useless tool for this task, reminding us of the responsibility we hold for our own actions in this world; for the traces we leave behind.

The sculptural core of ‘framandi heimavöllur’ (Icelandic for ‘alienating home game’), is a semi-transparent multi-layered tent produced of silky bands, which can be entered by audience members one by one. Sound recordings of bull frogs and black bears are played within the installation room. Having entered the tent, participants are invited to lie down on a silk pillow and to put on a pair of headphones, enabling them to have not only entered a new (indoor) space – the tent – but a different sound space as well. Through the headphones, participants hear the noise of a New York City subway tunnel, including music played by an accordion musician on the platform. The semi-indoor space of the tent is both sheltering and exposing due to the transparency of the material being enhanced by the use of a halogen spotlight in the tent. Also, the subway tunnel is a semi-indoor space, offering shelter for an exclusive group of people and not for musicians who have to work with the tension between playing music and being told to leave as their activity is illegal in most subway tunnels in the city. While the music and the subway noise are in an ongoing struggle with each other, gaining and losing power, the visitor in the semi-indoor space of the tent, is situated in a comparable circumstance, being both sheltered and not, as well as being separated from all others in the room due to the soundscape only she or he can hear via the headphones.

Choosing sugar to cover the floor and to be the surface we trample under our feet points to both the aesthetic temptation as well as the political ‘loadedness’ that luxury items, such as sugar or coffee, hold within globalized trading relationships which tend to disempower specific groups that are involved in the underpaid production of such items.