Photo: Thorir Ingvarsson/Shutterstock

This New Art Installation Shows What It's Like to Be Inside an Icelandic Volcano

Canada Ontario News Art + Architecture
by Olivia Harden Jul 20, 2022

Volcano eruptions are unpredictable. While you definitely don’t want to get caught near one, if you’re fascinated by the thought of what it would be like to hear, smell, and feel what happens when a volcano erupts, you’re not alone. Icelander and multi-disciplinary artist Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson’s 2021 art installation Hrafntinna (Obsidian) has made its way to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Canada. And while there are plenty of volcanoes you can see up close, for those uninterested in hiking, Jónsi’s installation is meant to simulate the real thing.

Jónsi created Obsidian to pair with his 2021 album release of the same name. When the artist couldn’t see the eruption of the Fagradalsfjall volcano in Iceland due to the pandemic, he reimagined what it would be like to be inside one, according to a press release. Guests will find themselves in an immersive “dark ring” that uses the senses to make the experience come alive.

Inside the art installation, viewers are surrounded by 195 speakers that grumble and sing through a 16-channel composition inspired by Icelandic choral music mixed with the natural sounds of lava flowing and rocks crumbling. You’ll even hear Jónsi’s voice. Guests will also get a whiff of the sweet and smoky scent of fossilized amber. And above, a circular light represents the volcano’s summit, where guests will experience light that breaks up the dark.

The exhibit at AGO opens on July 22, and is located on Level two in the Signy Eaton Gallery. Admission is free for AGO Members, AGO Annual Pass Holders and visitors ages 25 and under. Otherwise, general admission tickets are $25, and for $10 more, you can become an annual pass holder. The exhibit will be on display through 2023.

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