Most hikers we met along the way: they all had a plan traced from the beginning. Ours were traced as we went along.

The making of this work began with one desire, a metaphor, and a single verse.

—Where is the bed of ashes? I want to get there.

Written By Sofía Hernändez

After some time of high seismic activity, in spring 2010, the volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted, leaving most of the area of Thórsmörk (southern Iceland) covered by a veil of magma and ashes. The artist Simone Couto therefore traveled to Thórsmörk valley on summer 2015, to explore and make a reflection about this recently devastated area. Whether a personal or a universal reading is made, the land covered by ashes after the catastrophe could be observed as a desolated and dead landscape, but also -and that's what the artist found out and tries to emphasize- as a tabula rasa where multiple re-beginnings are just arising.

Darkness visible and Fire Mountaind of the Islands are experiences of confrontation to the difficulties, in both physical and psychological ways. Reimagining an earth beyond Kant's theories where there is no Correlationism or no being but the earth-in-itself, or keeping a close with the Kant's ideas about the sublime, the landscape in this project is no longer a comfortable retreat or a getaway, but a quite hostile environment in which body and mind are challenged, revealing at the same time the smallness of the subject and the greatness of his/her faculties. Couto's proposal towards this experience of asymmetrical powers is the dissolution of the subjectivity into the landscape, and that's why Tibetan mandalas and the martial art of aikido have a strong presence in this project. Smooth movement, flexible strength and conciliation with a hard environment are the key to favor a re-birth from adversity.

The videos of the performance (2015) and walk (2016) that took place at the Eyjafjallajökull is the main focus of a multimedia installation that also includes sculptures, paintings, pictures and sheets of a poetry book. As the project has a strong interest in the multi-sensorial experience, several activities will take place beyond the contemplation of the visual artworks: the sound work that the composer Brian Mountford created for Darkness visible and Fire Mountaind of the Islands will be played live, and also a performance and a public discussion about the project with art professionals could be developed as parallel events.

What Else if Nothing at All?

Solo exhibition in progress


Title: The Agency of Objects in Time of Theorization of Love, War, and Materiality

Couto returned to the site in 2016 and is working in several videos. This is the first one. Agency of Objects is an extract taken from a 14-hour art and science exploration with an PHD archaeologist, on July of 2016 during her expedition to top of Eyjafjallajökull Volcano in Iceland (completed), after its eruption in 2010.

Video: 1.55 minutes. 2016

Photography in video: Simone Couto

Title: Darkness Visible

In her 2015 movie, Couto chooses the outskirts of Posmork National Park and the volcano Eyjafjallajökull as a site for engagement. Since April 2010, this is an area with high seismic, volcanic activity, and one major eruption. She produced a film after hiking for three days exploring the area and performing at the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic rock canyon. Her original desire was to dance her choreography based on Aikido movements she had been practicing for two years. Unable to do it due to the geological nature of the place, she laid down on the rocks and performed silence and immobility.

Video: 6:47 minutes. 2015/2016

In 2016, Couto returned to the area and climbed to the crater of the volcano.

Title: Fire Mountains of the Island

In her 2016 movie, Couto returns to the volcano Eyjafjallajökull to climb to its crater. Choosing mobility this time as a response to her previous year experiences, she embraced the walk to the top of the mountain as her site-specific performative gesture engaging with the wind, the clouds, the rocks, the unstable soil, ashes, and the unseen changes of the volcanic landscape post-eruption. She believes that imagination is the medium where our massive bodies transit. Imagination is them—wind, clouds, stones, ashes, no matter how present or absent they are. According to post-structuralism, presence occupies a position of dominance in Western thought over absence, because absence is what one is left with when presence is taken away from experience (Britannica 2011, Binary opposition, viewed 9 March 2011). Imagination allows the artist to collapse this dicotomy and experience the place and things as timeless. For the artist, imagination is filled with height, elevation, depth, and sinking. When the body experiences extreme physical dislocations in the environment, it is possible to re-enter other kinds of dormant subjectivities.

Video: 6 minutes. 2016/2016

Darkness Visible—18 Volcanic Studies on Paper

Gouache and graffiti on Arches Canson 22 x 30 inches cold press paper.

Darkness Visible—Three Studies on principles and Fundamental Forces of Nature

13 poems printed on recycled cotton rag hand paper from Khadi mill in South India displayed on wood table together with volcanic rocks brought from Eyjafjallajökull canyon, Icelandic wool and animal bones.