Don’t Feed the Trolls

Egill Sæbjörnsson first met trolls Ûgh and Bõögâr in 2008 where they subsequently began to follow the artist wherever he went. With a new found appreciation for the world outside of their cave they began to develop their own artistic practice, as well as a love for coffee. So when they heard Sæbjörnsson was representing Iceland at this years Biennale they insisted that they be involved (how much choice he had in the matter is unclear as they likely would have eaten him otherwise).

The resulting exhibition, ‘Out of Controll in Venice’, can be found inside the art space Spazio Punch on the unsuspecting island of Giudecca, just across the lagoon from the much busier streets of central Venice. Inside the ex-factory building you are first greeted with a coffee shop as it seems where ever these trolls are coffee cannot be far. The exhibition itself is made up of two three-story structures in which visitors can walk inside, sit and drink. However, rather disturbingly, these structures represent the heads of Ûgh and Bõögâr whose faces you can see projected onto the walls from a central area between the two.

While standing amid the two heads, and huge noses, of Ûgh and Bõögâr you can listen in as they discuss the important details of Bõögâr’s use of tinder, whether trolls can truly be sensitive and most importantly what the best thing they’ve eaten so far is (Americans and MOMA curators FYI). Then in an almost haunted house moment they use ‘face swap’ to show the faces of Margaret Thatcher and Donald Trump. Ûgh asks ‘Is being the president better than being the prime minister?’, Bõögâr’s replies ‘Yes, you get to kill much more people’.

This is all expressed across the trolls faces using a combination of sculpture, video and animation making for some incredible visuals alongside the sound consisting of musical elements as well as the voices of the trolls themselves. It makes for a truly bizarre experience but one I welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed. Yet it raises questions about the authorship that seems to have been almost entirely surrendered to the troll fantasy but as Sæbjörnsson has said,

‘Getting immersed in the trolls’ world and seeing what they do and what they come up with is so liberating for me. There’s no ideology behind it. I’m not preaching. Do answers to philosophical questions make you happy? Or is it perhaps better to play Nintendo with trolls? To sit with friends and just enjoying being?’.