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Q&A: Artist Amy Revier

by Stephen Becker 11 Feb 2011 4:20 PM

Amy Revier returns to Dallas after an extended visit working on Iceland for her latest exhibition, “A Quiet Root May Know How to Holler,” at The Reading Room. She spoke about her new work with guest blogger Tina Aguilar.


Laugavegar, Amy Revier, 2011

Amy Revier returns to Dallas for her latest exhibition, “A Quiet Root May Know How to Holler,” at The Reading Room. You may have seen our Q&A with her before she left Texas for Iceland. This month Revier offers us her latest orchestrations of tragedy, amusement and Icelandic splendor. Revier’s photographs are digital manipulations printed on one of Iceland’s major exports – aluminum.

We contacted Amy for a brief follow up:

Tina Aguilar.: With this recent snow-coated landscape, you must be asking yourself if you really are in Texas. What was it like living in Iceland during your Fulbright?

Amy Revier: I am finding it almost impossible to articulate my experience, partly because of the intensity of being alone, and partly because everything there is experienced in a visceral way. It is a land with a curious array of qualities – not exactly like anywhere, but reminiscent of many places. It is a very complex and very simple place, revolving around something young, wild, quiet and fragile, frightening and rugged. Pico Iyer writes about Iceland in an essay, describing it as a place where the preternatural stillness of the treeless wastes can get to you and inside of you, and you can feel a Brontëan wildness in the soil. He says that days spent here are interludes from life, sojourns in some other; a twilight zone of the mind.

T.A.: Tell me how the work of Anne Carson weaves its way into this project. What about the “root” metaphor?

A.R.: Anne Carson’s words always float in and out of my mind. I guess for this project I was rereading The Autobiography of Red, because it involves a volcano and the idea of something hot and dangerous. But it too, like Iceland, has a soft and vulnerable quality underneath its hardness. The root metaphor is referencing the core of something growing underneath. I was thinking about things very active that cannot be seen, like roots, volcanoes – or a slumbering volcano about to explode. Eileen Myles writes in The Importance of Being Iceland that the landscapes folding over Iceland say what’s churning underground, what’s running things. Unsteadiness is the country’s deepest force.

T.A.: How did you determine your narrative combinations? Did you experiment?

A.R.: These photographs are digitally manipulated collages. Every day for several months I documented the Icelandic practice of keeping prams (strollers) left outside, with infants sleeping in them, while the parents sit in cafes, movies, grocery shop, and other activities. I was interested in this apparatus containing something very active and slumbering, seemingly abandoned. It links to my previous research of hunter gatherer tribes and their use of cradleboards. The collages became a way to link various experiences I had gathered from Iceland. The pram represents something very delicate, young and wild, something slumbering and possibly about to explode. I experienced political, geological and economic explosions while living there. In that kind of in-between state of stable and unstable, it’s hard to say what’s still, what’s rattling and what’s real/unreal.

An opening reception will be held for Amy Revier tonight from 7-9 p.m. at The Reading Room. The related reading by Southern Methodist Professor Philip Van Keuren will be held on Feb. 27 at 4 p.m.