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


Nervescape V by Icelandic artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir adorns the walls of the Long Gallery, transforming GOMA 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.



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.


Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir a.k.a. Shoplifter, Iceland/United States b.1969 / ‘Nervescape V’ 2016 / Modacrylic fiber, nylon zip ties, steel staples / Commissioned for ‘Sugar Spin: you, me, art and everything’ / © The artist / Photograph: Natasha Harth © QAGOMA

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.

GOMA is turning 10! Headlining the celebrations is ‘Sugar Spin: you, me, art and everything‘, featuring over 250 contemporary artworks exploring light, space, architecture and the senses. From brand-new immersive works to large-scale visitor favourites, the exhibition reflects our complex connections to the natural world with an explosion of colour, sensation and spinning delights.

3 Dec 2016 – 17 Apr 2017 | Gallery of Modern Art | Free