a fly in my soup: is a project extending the artists cycle of projects examining human relationships to landscape and environment by way of observing the human/animal interface. In this instance we are concentrating on domestic animals and animals within an urban environment. The title makes reference to an often awkward and sometimes problematic collision between culture and nature. By taking the city and even the domestic environment as the coalface of this exchange it seeks to stake out new ground for a reappraisal of the way we relate to the wider environment as revealed through this particular set of relationships.
The basic structure of the project is a survey, which maps out pets in the inner city area of Reykjavik the catchment area of an established primary and secondary school called Austurbæjarskóli. A part of the project is run with Austurbæjarskóli involving pupils and staff at the school. We've sent out a brochure through the school introducing the project and offering those students interested in animals to take part in a project where they draw and/or paint their pets or those of their friends and family. They will also be asked to consider the origin of these animals and their homes - Where do they come from? - in a short essay form.
Another component of the project is a series of photographs taken of the environments (homes) of pets constructed/ provided by owners and sometimes chosen by pets within the environs of their hosts.The research visit to Reykjavík in early October prompted various concerns in relation to the initial survey. The initial survey had proposed walking from house to house to over 4000 residencies asking for information relating to the location, species name, age and origin of animals residing in the house. Our research found many restrictions and regulations related to the keeping of animals and pets in Reykjavík, some of which are very different from other cities that we know in U.K. or USA. In Reykjavík dogs are forbidden by law. You can apply for a license (that costs approximately 15,000Ikr or £200). With the license come obligations to micro-chip your dog, and show proof that it is wormed and vaccinated by a vet on a regular basis. In August this year a law was passed in the City Council in Reykjavík that if you have a cat you are now obliged to register it with the Department of the Environment at the Reykjavík City Council. You have to micro-chip and supply information on its collar including the name of owner, home, contact number etc. Cat owners are made responsible for disturbance or damage made by their cat. If a cat or a dog is found unregistered or licensed it will be put into a home for 3 days before either being destroyed or given to a new owner. It is thought that many people don't register their cats or dogs. There is a debate in Reykjavík today about this law.
Ron Broglio a writer and historian wrote the following about the project."This same absence of the animal world is evident in the current project a fly in my soup as in other projects by Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson. In a fly in my soup Mark and Bryndis travel to Iceland and photograph the space in people's homes where their animals dwell. It may be a dog bed, a cat corner, a fish bowl, etc. The photographs do not include the animal - only their setting. As with nanoq, the absence of the animal haunts their work. In this case, viewers must negotiate the (often oedipalized) human expectations of a pet with the question of what the animal perceives. There is an uncomfortable fit between the animal's residual space in the human's habitat and the photograph which makes the animal's place central. Bryndís explains that when they are invited into a home, they will not be photographing the well-kept family room or the front façade of the house; rather, they photograph corners and washrooms, stairs and ledges. Wilson and Snæbjörnsdóttir force the question, "From whose umwelt are we seeing this place?" No longer are we opening the animal up in order to name and know it. Rather, knowledge comes from the displacement of perspective and from the uncomfortable haunting provided by the surface of another world that lingers as a remainder in our own."
Ron Broglio, Associate Professor Georgia Tech. Atlanta, US.