How did we install Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir’s ‘Nervescape V’?


Nervescape V 2016 by Icelandic artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir adorns the walls of the Long Gallery, transforming GOMA in 2016 as we celebrate it turning ten. Exuberant, tactile and sprawling, her installation is constructed from massed bundles of synthetic hair. Under her influence, the smooth white walls of the gallery become something much more animal, untamed and surreal.

Watch | Time-lapse installation

Watch | Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir introduces ‘Nervescape V’

Watch | Experience Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir’s ‘Nervescape V’

Arnardóttir works with the unusual medium of hair, her bold application of colour reminds us of dynamic painting traditions such as Fauvism and Abstract Expressionism. Here the colour has a life force and energy all of its own, gaining volume and texture as it spreads across the wall.

Many of us tend to our hair every day: brushing, fluffing, smoothing, curling, clipping and colouring. This can be a way of projecting a story about who we are – perhaps signalling that we are a unique individual (crazy pink), or a member of a club (neat trust me). Underneath this outer layer of hair, immediately beneath our skull, is the nerve-scape of grey and white-matter from which a more internal sense of self develops. Long hair-like neurons hum with electrical impulses as we process bodily input, access past memories, appraise complex situations and make new decisions. Our nervous system underpins these mechanisms and governs more unconscious physical processes. Nervescape V is a super-sized nervous system connecting people and ideas within the ‘body’ of the gallery.

Arnardóttir invites visitors to be embraced by the abundance of Nervescape V. The work is sensual and enveloping, its softness evokes maternal comfort, suggesting a child cuddling a soft toy. It is also unsettling. To see such a volume of hair is strange, even grotesque. Immersive and tactile, Arnardóttir’s work invites a return to our primal instincts.

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir installing ‘Nervescape V’ 2016

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir ‘Nervescape V’ 2016

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir a.k.a. Shoplifter, Iceland/United States b.1969 / Nervescape V 2016 commissioned for ‘Sugar Spin: you, me, art and everything’, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) Brisbane, 3 December 2016 – 17 April 2017 / Modacrylic fiber, nylon zip ties, steel staples / © Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir / Photographs: N Harth © QAGOMA