On the second day of my first visit to Reykjavík, I visited the house at Brautarholt 1. Somebody had told me there was a free concert there. I opened the door and to my surprise there was no concert hall or bar in sight. I walked through room after room, went up and down floors, saw drawings, pictures, music gear and graffiti, costumes and empty cups. Then a guitar started playing somewhere far away. I have no sense of direction but I let my ears guide me. Finally I made it into a big room where people were sitting in couches listening to a solo guitar player on a stage. He had long hair and a pained expression. Later I started talking to somebody, a Finnish couple gave me some vodka, and a girl invited me to a birthday party and there was some dancing. Back home I would tell my friends that everyone in Reykjavik was an artist.
In 2003, Landsbanki Íslands offered young artists in Reykjavík the use of a big and unused industrial building the bank had acquired in downtown Reykjavík. The bank contacted a group of young artists who had recently opened a gallery on Laugavegur by the name Kling & Bang. They offered the use of the building, free of charge, for one year. Together they decided to put ads in every newspaper in the country for two days, offering people studio space. Out of 500 replies 140 artists, designers, filmmakers and musicians were chosen. Klink & Bank opened in March 2004, housing art studios, rehearsal rooms, gallery and performance spaces, recording studios and construction workshops on three floors. The only rule was that the space should not be used commercially.
When I returned to Reykjavík a year ago I went to the same address. The doors were locked. The artists at Klink & Bank were only offered the space for a limited time. First it was a year, later extended for six more months. The last people left their studios in November 2005.
I met Erling Klingenberg, one of the eight artists behind the Kling & Bang gallery that was responsible for Klink & Bank, to hear what happened to all this artistic energy when the house was sold and all the artists had moved out.
“We needed to breathe after it was all over. To digest. During the nearly two years of residence there were many exhibitions, touring concerts, theatre and dance, a rough average of three events per week. There was a crazy energy and productivity, which might not have been as intense if we would have had the place on a permanent basis.
Erling says there was little organisation involved in Klink & Bank. Almost half the time no one even knew who had the key to the building and practical matters like who should take out the garbage started to become a problem. But from the anarchy and chaos, a genuine artistic experiment was born.
“What happened in Klink & Bank was that people from different fields like music, visual art and dance got to know each other and it influenced their artistic work. One could see all kinds of art working in the same space; people started working together on projects. It was an inspiration to see what all the people where working on. The house created a communication between different types of art and opened up new types of collaboration. The inspiration and communication continued to develop after the people had to move out. There are small groups from Klink & Bank who have gotten studios together today.”
Despite the relative success of the project, there are no plans to repeat the experiment in the same manner, but the people involved are still reaping the benefits.
“We are working on a book about the two years of the house. But there are 5-6,000 images to go through, and it takes time. There has been a lot of international interest, several documentaries about the development of it has been aired abroad. I’m going to Brussels in a few days, to speak about Klink & Bank actually. We have also been a part of exhibitions in other countries and lately there has been talk about a gipsy train.”
A train? That will be a challenge.
“No, I mean a train of busses and trucks of artists, designers, musicians, dancers and actors that will perform and have exhibitions through Europe. People can join or get off where ever they like to. We have already started to organise it, but at the same time we are still breathing out after the craziness of the house. Hopefully the gypsy train will happen by 2010.”
As I sit and write this, I can picture an old rusty ship full of busses and trucks, leaving Iceland and crossing the Atlantic Ocean. On the deck some people dressed in white are dancing. Others have started to spray paint the trucks in different colours. At the front deck there is a band playing and a man in a cowboy hat is working on a canvas, naked. A woman is filming the sky. The captain of the ship is scratching his ear, with a look on his face that expresses dismay and his hope that their trip will be a short one.
Look out; the Klink & Bank gypsy train might soon arrive in a town close to you.
With 140 artists working under the same roof for almost two years, Klink & Bank was 5,000 square metres of artistic energy. Later, the house was sold. What happens now?