The Symphony of Names : No Man Is An Island is a video/sound installation by Elizabeth Withstandley. The piece is a collaboration with the Icelandic composer Gunnar Másson, created during a month long residency in 2017 at SÍM in Reykjavik, Iceland.
The installation explores individual identity in culture that is not tied to their name as a form of uniqueness. Throughout the world surnames play a large role in ones identity often seen as an identifier providing cultural and familial history. Icelandic surnames are not used in the same manner, making it a unique culture to explore identity and naming. The project uses a modern interpretation of “the symphony” using the human voice as the primary instrument speaking all the Icelandic names with an ambient soundtrack tying the whole experience together.
In the video, four different video channels are composited into one view showing a young boy on a journey through the unique countryside of Iceland. We follow the boy while he travels from one screen to the next while being surrounded by the sound of the symphony. The audio track uses all 4129 names from the government name list and presents them in a melodic yet slightly chaotic form featuring a variety of Icelandic people reciting the names.
Elizabeth Withstandley is a Los Angeles based artist originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She is one of the co-founders of Locust Projects, a not-for-profit art space in Miami Florida. Recently she organized the exhibition Smoke & Mirrors at The Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA. Select exhibitions include The Arte Laguna Prize, Arsenale, Venice Italy, SIM gallery Reykjavik Iceland, Dimensions Variable, Miami, FL, Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA, Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, The Moore Space, Miami, Fredric Snitzer, Miami, The Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, The Tel Aviv Artists’ Studios, Israel, The Bass Museum, Miami, Fl.
Gunnar Karel was born in Reykjavik, Iceland. He started studying music at an early age and has played a diverse range of instruments. As a composer Gunnar mainly focuses on chamber music as he finds that his music gets the attention it deserves in smaller setups. Besides his composing he has been making his mark as concert producer. He founded the Sonic festival in Copenhagen with Filip C. de Melo in 2012. He is also one of the curators for the Peripheriberry group and the artistic director of Dark Music Days in Reykjavik. He is a member of Danish Composers Society, the theater group 16 elskendur and the Icelandic composers collective S.L.Á.T.U.R..