Language and communication play an essential role in Hlynur Hallssons’ works. But despite this, Þetta er það – Das ist es – This is it – is the first exhibition which he composed solely from textual works. In the conceptual and purposeful multilingualism of his works, he confronts himself not only with the semantic difficulties of communication surrounding the work of art, but also with the cultural preconditions of – and multifarious opportunities for – interpretation. From the start, the exhibition title betrays the fact that the multi-layering of language and the shifts in transferring language are main foci of interest in his debate with text. This can also be interpreted as an expression of his way of living in a globalised internationality.
The first of his trilingual spray-works arose in the year 2,000 for an exhibition in Charlottenborg/Copenhagen. In these, Hallsson united elements of text, statements and the fleetingness of modern-day art. His reciprocal multilingualism does not represent a mere translation, however, but rather – in this case – with a discursive entree with a cultural difference: Islandic – the artist’s mother tongue – stands for every original human language. German may well be considered vicarious for all elaborated languages of the “poet and thinker”. And in any case, there is no way round the international lingua franca of English: the global lingua franca per se. The fleetingness of the works is achieved, on the one hand, by using spray paint – a material that has been dismissed for quite some time as having no artistic expression whatsoever. And, on the other hand, by the fact that, in every exhibition gallery, space must be found for the New. Nothing really endures in the halls of the art galleries; all works find themselves in a constant flow and drift from one place to another, whilst some pass away, only to be resurrected elsewhere.
When he occupies himself with the subject of “the word as image”, he shows his exhibition Þetta er það – Das ist es – This is it, a work that apparently deals with the basis of written language. His alphabet of the Islandic language consists of 32 characters and unites the familiar with the alien. The familiar characters offer the viewer the sense of recognition, while the unknown letters bear within themselves the promise of something new. The work is like an invitation to grasp both the origin and the home of these symbols. It is a return to the very core of things, comparable with his earlier photo-text works, which serve in places as a fragmented diary and, at the same time, as their antithesis. Here, too, Hallsson uses spray paint to emphasise the element of transience.