Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson - Feral Attraction: The Museum of Ghost Ruminants.
As a starting point, Bryndís and Mark´s exhibition takes their accumulated research and material regarding human and animal relations to specific environments. They explore these connections and in in what ways they are manifest in the landscape around Lambeyrarháls and the mountain Tálkni, set between Patreksfjörður and Tálknafjörðður. They have concentrated particularly on a flock of feral sheep, which occupied the mountain for some decades but were hearded and slaughtered at the end of 2009 and finally, at the beginning of 2010. Central to this research are questions regarding the essential right of animals to live and the basis of rules and reglulations that exist in respect of different animal species.
On the 27th October 2009 a flock of sheep on the mountain Tálkni, was herded up and taken immediately for slaughter. What made this event newsworthy was that these feral sheep had been on Tálkni for decades. It is thought that originally, the sheep came from a neighbouring farm where their owner had retired. Throughout the years, other farmers would regularly lose sheep to the flock on Tálkni. Despite difficult conditions on the mountain and most likely heavy fatalities, the flock grew. Various attempts were made to capture the sheep. Amongst other methods, at one time the Icelandic Viking Squad was deployed to shoot the sheep from a helicopter. This was neither a good nor successful operation. It was difficult to spot the sheep on the mountainside as they were camouflaged against the landscape. The shooting exercise resulted in wounded sheep remaining on the mountain which locals on foot then had to despatch. This incident, along with the customary practice for locals to go out on boats to shoot the sheep for their own consumption, made them particularly wary of man. Their wariness was starkly apparent when they were herded up on that day in October 2009. Then, nothing, neither sheepdogs nor men could contain or properly control their movement. Despite this, and though the herders had put their lives at risk in negotiating the precipitous mountain cliffs, the exercise succeeded in capturing most of the flock. Altogether fifteen animals were taken – five others fell or ran off the cliffs and five more escaped. On the 22 Jan 2010 another expedition, to gather the remainder was undertaken and thus finally, the mountain was cleared of sheep.
Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson went to the area and interviewed many locals in relation to these sheep. In these and in other interviews with specialists in Reykjavik, it was revealed that those who had gone to the mountain and/or had handled the animals had detected a different physiology from that of ‘normal’ sheep. They were said to have longer legs and that the fat and muscle distribution was different, with many likening the sheep to Leader sheep. No research was undertaken on the captured animals to ascertain whether these observations were true or false. On the other hand an evaluation was made of the meat, which was thought to be of good quality. It can certainly be said that something unusual had occurred. Whatever respective parties consider the rights of sheep to be, in becoming feral, one cannot but respect the desire and capacity of these animals, despite the harsh environmental conditions they must have endured, to live independently of man.
We like to thank all those we interviewed for this project and also the following: Ásgeir Sveinsson, Karl Benediktson, Unndór Egill Jónsson, Bjarni Sigurðsson.
Bryndís & Mark are a collaborative artist team, whose art practice is research based and socially‐ngaged, exploring issues of history, culture and environment in relation to both humans and non‐human animals. Their artworks have been exhibited internationally and they have delivered papers at key conferences in animal studies worldwide. One of their art projects nanoq: flat out and bluesome an artist survey of stuffed polar bears in the UK has toured widely in Europe since 2006 and is now along with The research/process archive for this project, part of international museum art collections. Uncertainty in the City, an art project exploring the conception of ‘pest’ in
The human psyche was exhibited in the Storey Gallery in Lancaster, (2010) and a publication with the same name was published by Green Box, Berlin (2011). Their work Vanishing Point: Where Species Meet was part of the Gothenburg Biennial (2011) and was also exhibited at the State Darwin Museum in Moscow as part of the 5th Moscow Biennial (2013). The project between you and me was exhibited at Kalmar Konstmuseum (2010) and at Interactive Futures '11: Animal Influence, in Vancouver, (2011). In October 2014 a solo exhibition Trout Fishing in America and Other Stories opened in Arizona State Museum of Art in Phoenix and a publication You Must Carry Me Now: the Cultural Lives of Endangered Species was recently launched at the SLSA conference in Houston, Texas. They are currently working with Anchorage Museum, Alaska on ‘Polar Lab’, a two‐year research project. They are also currently part of a Cross disciplinary team of researchers into ‘plant blindness’ funded by the Swedish Science Council, the results of which will be two site‐specific installations in Gothenburg. Their work is installation‐based, using text, sound, sculptural, photographic and video-based media.
Bryndís and Mark have contributed a chapter; Feral Attraction ‐ Art, becoming and Erasure to the recently published Routledge Handbook of Animal Studies edited by Dr. Susan McHugh and Dr. Garry Marvin (2014). They were Research Fellows at the Centre for Art + Environment, Neva da Museum of Art (2013‐2015). Mark is an Associate Professor at the University of Cumbria and Bryndís is a Professor at Malmö Art Academy, And Visiting Professor at the Icelandic Art Academy and a guest teacher at The University of Iceland. For more information on their work see: