Uncontainable truth

María Dalberg, Uncontainable truth, 2021, (videostill). Courtesy the artist

María Dalberg’s video piece Uncontainable truth (2021) is at the centre of her first solo exhibition in Berlin, which bears the same title. In her practice, she often uses artefacts and archival work, collects historical accounts, writes fictional and non-fictional texts, and makes use of her autobiographical writing and field recordings. For the exhibition at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Dalberg investigated the fate of working women in 18th century Iceland,  just before and after the vulcanic eruption also known as the Skaftáreldar (1783-85) in the south of the island, which had a devastating impact on social and economic conditions.

Digging through the archives of female court trials from that time, she found manuscripts and printed contemporary sources in the traditional Icelandic language concerning unmarried working women, who were punished for hiding their pregnancy and the birth of their children. If the child disappeared or the mother said the child had been born dead, they were guilty of murder unless they could prove their innocence. Being unmarried, they had no power over their own bodies, since sex outside of marriage was a crime in itself.

In Uncontainable truth, five female protagonists (based on five testimonies) covered in red-dyed cloths and using traditional washing tools based on historical documents walk through a cold volcanic landscape, reenacting the hard labour conditions at the time. The choreography and the rhythmic movements of the women’s work are accompanied by the artist’s own voice reciting the old manuscripts that she has reinterpreted poetically as the only records of the women’s existence. Aiming to give them back the voices that they were consistently denied, the film brings their names to light. The soundtrack to the film is a combination of these spoken narratives and an airy composition for the trumpet played by Áki Ásgeirsson in an ode to centuries of silence.

María Dalberg (b. 1983) is a contemporary artist based in Reykjavík. She studied Fine Arts at Iceland University of the Arts, and History at the University of Iceland. She works in various media, including text, performance, film and photography. María recently participated in the group show Olev Subbi: Landscapes from the End of Times at Tallinn Art Hall (2020). She has had a solo exhibition at Reykjavík Art Museum (2018) and has performed at Cycle Music and Art Festival (2018) and participated in the 5th Moscow Biennale for young art (2016). María Dalberg is a grantee of the Artist Salaries run by the Icelandic Center for Research, The Icelandic Visual Art Copyright Association and The Icelandic Visual Art Fund, run by the Icelandic Art Center.

11.06. – 11.07.2021
Tue - Sun: 2 - 7pm
Admission free