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Icelandic rock star creates immersive art exhibition for Seattle

Jónsi, lead singer of the band Sigur Rós, composed music and designed art specifically for the National Nordic Museum in Ballard. #k5evening

SEATTLE — An immersive, one-of-a-kind exhibition at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle features the work of Icelandic musician and artist Jónsi.

Best known as the lead singer of band Sigur Rós, Jónsi (Jón Þór Birgisson) blended his vocals and composing skills with other aspects of visual art to create "FLÓÐ (Flood.)"

“This exhibition is a reflection on climate change and rising sea levels,” said Leslie Anne Anderson, director of collections, exhibitions, and programs at the museum. "He visited Seattle in December of 2021 and was inspired by our proximity to the coast, he was inspired by the climate, and also the fact that Seattle, since the 1980s, has been a sister city to Reykjavik. So he saw a lot of parallels there."

The exhibition invites visitors inside a dark room, illuminated only by a long light strip that corresponds with sounds coming from 40 speakers.

"They're hearing field recordings, they're hearing the sound of water rushing, but they're also hearing Jonsi's beautiful vocals,” Anderson said. "It's 25 minutes and 36 seconds but you can come and go as you please."

A fog machine creates even more atmosphere, and the sense of smell is also activated. Jónsi created a tincture that’s diffused into the space. It smells like seaweed so visitors will have the sense of being transported to the ocean.

"Jónsi creates perfume and he has for many years," Anderson said. "He actually, with his family, owns a perfume store in Reykjavik called Fishersund and the products are available in our museum store.”

The immersive aspects are designed to create a “sublime landscape” experience.

"You are supposed to feel a little bit of terror, a lot of awe, and a little bit of pleasure, delight,” Anderson said.

Though his work has appeared in Los Angeles and New York gallery shows, the exhibition is Jónsi’s first in a U.S. museum. He created the art and music specifically for the National Nordic Museum.

"This exhibition is for someone who wants a very active experience in a museum," Anderson said. "It is for someone who is interested in music, is interested in art, and can come away with a very transformative experience." 

FLÓÐ (Flood) runs through July 30 and is included with admission to the museum. Tickets are available online.

Sigur Rós returns to Seattle for a show at the Paramount Theatre on Aug. 24, where the band will perform with a 41 piece orchestra.

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