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Air d'Islande Festival

Ari Allansson, founder of the Icelandic music festival in Paris, talks us through its star performances

To Average Joe on the street, the mention of Iceland usually triggers thoughts of Björk, volcanoes and smoked lamb -  or maybe even the three of them imaginatively combined. But there is more to the smokey Nordic island than that, and Ari Allansson is determined to prove it to us. The 35-year-old-going-on-12, a film graduate and transnational cultural organiser, is the founder of ‘Air d’Islande’, an annual Paris-based festival dedicated to slightly less cliché Icelandic creations. The event occurred for the second time ever during the last week of March, and presented a compilation of contemporary artists, musicians, film-makers who performed, sang, and danced around town.

“There is some kind of mystical idea in the French mind about Iceland, some place up north a little bit covered in fog, with sea around it, and the occasional volcano” says Allansson, “But that is not a card that we want to play on - we select artists first and foremost because we think they are interesting and then happen to be Icelandic. “

Dazed Digital: So what qualifies as worthwhile to the aware Icelander?
Ari Allansson: For one, this includes lots of music, which seem to both subtly refer to the country’s traditional sounds, yet speak back at contemporary scenes abroad. 

DD: Can you mention names?
Ari Allansson: For example, Berlin-based musician Hildur Gudnadòttir performed at rock venue ‘La Flèche d’Or’. The classically trained cello player is making a name for herself for her contemporary use of  her instrument; she “ takes lots taking lots of preconceived ideas and does something really new with them”, says Allansson “ and this is the same idea as what we are trying to do with the festival.”

DD: Was there not even one link to more well-known artists?
Ari Allansson: Only through Valgeir Sigurdsson, a major producer who has worked with the likes of Björk, Sigur Rós, Bonnie Prince Billy. Despite a lifetime spent on an island, he seeks for collaborators all over the world, whilst remaining loyal to local culture.

DD: There was film shown as well...
Ari Allansson: Yes, video art was also screened at Don’t Projects, a hip young gallery in the Marais, by the artist couple Libia Castro and Òlafur Òlafsson. They showed their short films ‘Care Givers’, ‘Lobbyists’ and ‘Avant Garde citizens’.
Like the feature-length films being shown at Filmothèque du Quartier Latin - such as the premiere screening of ‘White Night Wedding’, by Baltasar Kormákur. A lot of the time, Icelandic people make films for a foreign market, because the population is so small, so people try to do is exotify this Iceland element a little bit, of ghosts and things, to cash in a bit on that, like films by Kusturica, or Amélie Poulain”.

DD: And what will the third edition be about?
Ari Allansson: More literature, but no paintings of moss and swans in lake!