sigur rós – valtari mystery film experiment

sigur rós is by far one of my favourite bands ever, the music these guys come up with and how they perform is simply breathtaking. Their music and visual art is always open to interpretation which is almost the band’s signature. It is as though they provide us with an empty canvas asking to be painted.

The valtari mystery film experiment is just that, a mystery film experiment. They wanted to have a visual representation of what other artists, in this case filmmakers, felt a certain song represented. Ingenius collaboration of artists in my opinion.

Here is what is said about the valtari mystery film experiment on the official sigur rós website;

the valtari mystery film experiment 
sigur rós have given a dozen film makers the same modest budget and asked them to create whatever comes into their head when they listen to songs from the band’s new album valtari. the idea is to bypass the usual artistic approval process and allow people utmost creative freedom. among the filmmakers are ramin bahrani, alma har’el and john cameron mitchell.
“we never meant our music to come with a pre-programmed emotional response. we don’t want to tell anyone how to feel and what to take from it. with the films, we have literally no idea what the directors are going to come back with. none of them know what the others are doing, so hopefully it will be interesting.” – sigur rós, may 2012

The official ‘valtari’ page on the sigur rós website can be found here.

I loved this concept so much that I wanted to share it on my site, so here are all the videos chronologically, enjoy!

Please note, everything below, and the above quote, is copyright sigur rós, all rights reserved. This post is simply reposting their video and commentary, to which, I claim no ownership.
ekki múkk
moving artwork. video by inga birgisdóttir.

released during the valtari album release.

film #1: ég anda
premiered may 25 2012. film by ragnar kjartansson.

“first useful pop video in history. file under: educational.” – ragnar kjartansson

ragnar kjartansson has been experimenting with elements of visual art, music, and theater and considers himself mainly a performance artist. his pieces are characterized by the play between contradictory feelings – sorrow and happiness, horror and beauty, drama and humor. kjartansson represented iceland at the 2009 venice biennale

other art by ragnar

film #2: varúð
premiered june 6 2012. film by inga birgisdóttir.

“for a little while now i have been experimenting with doing videos that are more like moving images or paintings. they have no beginning, middle or end so the video doesn´t expect anything from you. you don´t have to watch it all, you can glance at it or watch for an hour, it´s just your experience.
i have also been doing music videos which are almost the total opposite. they have to be fast, lot of things happening in a short period of time otherwise you just turn it off.
i was curious to try to combine the two.
ekki múkk is an animation of the cover of valtari. i was finishing the artwork for the cover and the guys came over to take a look and we were just messing about, making the ship sail across the screen and then we decided to make a video. i think it is like a meditation video in a way. look and listen once a day and you can skip your yoga class. varúð has more of a story. varúð means caution or warning so this image instantly came to my mind. someone making warning signs with a flashlight. i wanted the varúð video to have a slow build up like the song and leave something for the viewers to imagine for themselves. we have no idea who they are or what they are warning us about.i made the video by animating a postcard (see attached) and filmed myself over and over again climbing on top of a woodenbox in front of some blue paper.”
– inga birgisdóttir


inga birgisdóttir graduated from the icelandic academy of art in 2006. she has held and taken part in numerous exhibitions both in iceland and abroad, made album covers and music videos for múm, jónsi, sin fang, sóley and many more. she just premiered her first documentary called grandma lo-fi the basement tapes of sigríður níelsdóttir.


other art by inga

film #3: fjögur píanó
premiered june 18 2012. film by alma har’el.

“for me, it’s about not knowing how to get out of something without causing pain to somebody else.
for other people it might be about candy and fish. i’m down with that.”
– alma har’el

more in the wall street journal feature

born and raised in israel. director of music videos (beirut, jack penate) and the award winning documentary bombay beach. her work is recognized for her expression through modern dance, landscape and character and for her ability to create images with a striking balance of emotions heavy hearted as much as they are joyful and playful.


film #4: rembihnútur
premiered july 2 2012. film by arni & kinski.

“the elevation of your consciousness helps the overall consciousness of the planet.” -gourasana.

“the much needed changes in the world will happen through changes within each and every one of us. we all want and need love. this film is a celebration of sigur rós’s music and the benefit it is having in the elevation of consciousness that is happening with humankind. people are finding strength in love, care, and respect for themselves, each other, and the world we live in.

for the last twelve years meditation has been a way of life for us. going within, releasing emotions, moving through negativity, judgment, discouragement, and the fears that are so often in the mind.

being able to move from the mind into the heart. this is what the music of sigur rós helps us to do and we use it as a tool in our meditation. in meditation we are able to feel and move through our emotions allowing us to drop deeper within our hearts. from this depth of heart we are finding more acceptance, compassion, love, gratitude, passion, clarity, intuitive thinking and much much more. we hope this video will inspire you to do your part in elevating the consciousness of the planet in whatever way that may be.

peace and love,” – arni & kinski

arni and kinski have a long relationship with sigur rós, having directed the videos for viðrar vel til loftárása, gobbledigook, glósóli and hoppípolla.


film #5: ég anda
premiered july 16 2012. film by ramin bahrani.

writer/director ramin bahrani’s films have premiered and screened at such festivals as venice, cannes, sundance, berlin and toronto. he has won numerous awards such as the fipresci prize for best film (man push cart, london; goodbye solo, venice), the “someone to watch” independent spirit award (chop shop), and was the recipient of a guggenheim fellowship. he collaborated with werner herzog on his short film plastic bag and recently directed a music video for sigur rós. in 2010 legendary american film critic roger ebert proclaimed bahrani as “the director of the decade.” his new film at any price with dennis quaid and zac efron will be released in 2012..


film #6: varúð
premiered july 31 2012. film by ryan mcginley.

“this piece is my poem to new york city. i wanted to bring a childhood innocence to the streets, through a character whose own light and wonder effects the world around her. i’m always interested in an atmosphere where dreams and reality mingle on equal terms.” – ryan mcginley

ryan mcginley lives and works in new york.

new jersey native ryan mcginley began documenting his friends and lower east side subculture in new york city when he was a teenager. the fine art community took notice of his work when he printed a fifty-page, inkjet book entitled the kids are alright in 1999. his large-format color photographs soon graced the walls of the whitney museum of american art, where he was the youngest person ever, at the age of 25, to be given a solo exhibition.

mcginley’s work has since appeared in prestigious publications such as the new york times magazine, allowing him to broaden his subject-matter to include olympic athletes, artists and other visionaries in their familiar settings. a subsequent exhibition at p.s.1/moma established him as one of america’s preeminent young photographers. his newest photographs, shot mainly in natural settings and focused on subjects interacting spontaneously, is a testament to his ever-evolving aesthetic and maturity as an artist.


film #7: varðeldur
premiered august 13 2012. film by melika bass.

“a film portrait of an unstable entity in a haunted vessel, drawn into and floating away from a siren song.” – melika bass

filmmaker melika bass creates atmospheric tales set in american gothic landscapes inhabited by mysterious, archetypal figures. her enigmatic, snow-globe worlds slowly unfold into half-remembered dreams of entrapment, sanctuary, and escape.

her most recent work, shoals and waking things, captured on 16mm film, premiered at the torino film festival in italy, and at the museum of contemporary art chicago. bass also creates immersive site-specific video installations.

“american filmmaker melika bass. . . an amazing talent yet to be discovered in europe, author of a unique cinema of atmosphere and historical reminiscences. . .one of the possible revelations of the torino film festival.” – roberto manassero, torino film festival


film #8: dauðalogn
premiered august 28 2012. film by henry jun wah lee.

“dauðalogn is a spiritual and meditative journey into nature.

since the time of our earliest ancestors, nature has been a source for inspiration, imagination, and wisdom. nature is where we come from. even in this modern age, its energy still flows through our veins. being in nature, we see the world our ancestors saw: a place of beauty, a place to reflect, a place to learn, and a place to connect with the heart and soul.” – henry jun wah lee

filming took place deep in the primeval forest of yakushima, a remote island in southern japan. i chose this location both for its unique beauty and because the story of yakushima was representative of the often fragile relationship between humans and nature. the giant trees on the island were once revered as sacred by locals. they lived for thousands of years but for the past 5 centuries they were logged to near extinction. the scarred landscape coupled with the dramatic way in which the forest has recovered made for a picturesque and magical atmosphere.

henry jun wah lee is an international filmmaker and photographer, as well as a practicing physician of traditional chinese medicine. his life’s commitment is for all of us to live whole, powerful, and inspired lives
henry’s passions for art, nature and medicine come from his belief that the healing powers of nature can rejuvenate the body, open the mind, unlock the heart and free the spirit.


film #9: seraph
feat. rembihnútur and ekki múkk

premiered september 12 2012. film by dash shaw & john cameron mitchell.

directed by dash shaw, wrtten by dash shaw & john cameron mitchell.

“oooooooooooeeeeee… oooooeeeeeeeeeeeeeeooooooo!” – dash shaw & john cameron mitchell

dash shaw is a cartoonist and animator in brooklyn, new york. his graphic novel new school comes out in march, 2013, from fantagraphics books. his recent books include bodyworld and bottomless belly button. his animated works include wheel of fortune and the ifc series “the unclothed man in the 35th century a.d. shaw is currently working on an animated feature produced by john cameron mitchell (hedwig and the angry inch) and his shortbus producer howard gertler (how to survive a plague).

other art by dash

john directed, wrote and starred in the film hedwig and the angry inch (2001). he directed shortbus (2006) and rabbit hole (2010) which gave nicole kidman a best actress oscar nomination. john executive-produced jonathan caouette’s documentary tarnation (2004) and has created music videos for scissor sisters and bright eyes. he’s presently adapting neil gaiman’s how to talk to girls at parties for the screen as well as producing dash shaw’s animated feature shell game with howard gertler.

film #10: ekki múkk
premiered september 24 2012. film by nick abrahams.

“a magical journey through an english field – this short is something of a taster for a feature film i have in development – a big thank you to everyone who threw themselves into this project, especially aidan gillen, tod the fox and shirley collins (the voice of the snail, who is one of britain’s greatest folk singers, you could do worse than seeking out her work).” – nick abrahams

additional background commentary here: promonews.tv, nicholasabrahams.com and i-d online

writer/director nick abrahams has collaborated with turner prize winning artist jeremy deller on 2 feature length films, one about depeche mode fans around the world, the other about the visionary eccentric bruce lacey. nick has also created pop videos for artists as diverse as stereolab, leftfield, huggy bear and the manic street preachers, and has collaborated with sigur rós on several previous film works. he is currently developing his first feature film project news from nowhere, and is working on some new artworks to be exhibited next year.


film #11: dauðalogn
fan competition: people’s choice winner
premiered october 8 2012. film by ruslan fedotow.

people’s choice winner of the valtari film competition

five years ago when we launched a similar competition to make a film inspired by our icelandic tour film heima, we received 57 entries. at the time this seemed like a lot to assimilate and judge. this time almost one thousand people (or rather, one thousand teams of people) have poured theirs hearts and souls into a bewildering variety of films that has frankly threatened to overwhelm us. wow! people have entered from all corners of the globe, inspiring us with so many and varied interpretations of the band’s music. and, without wanting to get too dewy-eyed, it really has been a humbling experience. thank you one and all for your truly amazing efforts.

this first winning entry, the people’s choice, is chosen by popular vote on the competition site. ruslan fedotow’s film is surely a deserving winner being exquisitely executed, deeply atmospheric and ultimately inscrutable. it hadn’t been our intention to feature the people’s choice in the pantheon of mystery film experiment on the site, but it is beyond doubt that this film is more than worthy of inclusion.

“it was a team of four people brought together by their passion for sigur ros. we liked the task that for the video we could use anything that comes to our mind while listening to sigur ros music. we didn’t have a budget and it was very cold weather that’s why the video process was very extreme. we had a week left until the deadline and we still didn’t know what to do, but we even didn’t think about quitting.

we went to a small village for three days and everything we had was a tape recorder, sigur ros album, and some video equipment. the first day we were listening for the music, for the whole day and in the evening we shared our impressions. every night we tried to make a fire not to freeze at night. the next two days we were experimenting and created some video materials. when we came back home we realized that we don’t know what to do with the video. we had a day left until the deadline and we started mixing files. than we saw that there was something interesting, after what we stopped and just finished the video.

the most pleasant thing about the video is that everyone finds something for them there. it means that we could visualize the music. wanted to thank sigur ros for the opportunity to participate in the contest. separate thanks to everyone who voted for our video.

thanks from” – fedotow ruslan, zheludovich nik, borsuk sergey, alex tsymbaliuk, khursevich mikhail

at first there was no plot, cause we had neither a director, nor time to search for one – the deadline was at hand. that’s why we decided to reduce the so much debated plot to zero and to construct the story upon sensually emotional base, upon apperception of our favourite sigur rós music. accordingly, we knew not a verbal interpretation of the answer to a trite question “what is this video about?” a shrink, that dug the video’s idea, helped us. at once he told us, that video is written in the language of the unconscious: candor, repressed childhood feelings and fears: the birth, self-awareness, settling in the outer world, understanding the duality of personality, relationships with parents, fear of death. everyone has notorious experiences, which, no matter how forgotten, perform momentous influence on the whole life. especially significant, in his opinion, is the scene with apples: it helps understand that the story told through the visuals is in fact a story about one person, bipolar and in eternal search for a balance between the two entities. the finish of this fight is senility, the inner end of the struggle of opposites, a submersion. as in the video scene, where the characters are flowing through life in a confined space, a metaphor of which is the boat. and then they submerge into an integral element – water, becoming one.

it’s tricky to understand the half of the mentioned above, yet there lurks a feeling, a crazy feeling that someone interprets your work so easily, and does not falter in his interpretation.

more art from fedotow

film #12: fjögur píanó
fan competition: overall winner
premiered october 15 2012. film by anafelle liu, dio lau and ken ngan.

overall winner of the valtari film competition

everyone always says it’s hard judging stuff, but 834 films?! it’s safe to say this has been a difficult and at times divisive exercise. so much artistic endeavour! it’s impressive and not a little bewildering. but, watching in shifts, each and every film was eventually adjudged and a shortlist drawn up. ultimately, when the shortlist of that shortlist could be winnowed down no more, instead of the promised three runners up we had five, since it would have been unfair to exclude any, exhibiting as they did absolutely different creative imperatives.

skinned is a restless self sculpturing of one’s body. it is a glimpse of the corporeal unconscious, forever trapped in lacan’s double sided mirror” – anafelle liu, dio lau and ken ngan

performer: adrian heung
director: anafelle liu
story: dio lau
art director: dio lau
photographer: ken ngan
video photographer: lee kai ho
choreographer: cliff huen
editor: anafelle liu
hair & make up: cathy kwong

film #13: varðeldur
premiered october 22 2012. film by clare langan.

“the film explores the fragility of the human condition, frozen somewhere between life and death. shot with a high-speed camera, a human figure and water defy the laws of gravity. there is no clear distinction between dream and reality and the space that the film and the music create becomes a submersive world.” – clare langan

clare langan is an irish artist who works in photography, film, and video installation. her work has been shown internationally in museums and biennales, including moma new york, tate liverpool, uk, 25th sao paulo biennale, brazil, singapore biennale 2008, the irish museum of modern art, dublin and the metropolitan museum of photography, tokyo. she won the principle prize at the 2007 oberhausen international film festival, germany, for her film metamorphosis.

this is her second film project with sigur rós – í gær was part of becks fusions at the ica, london 2007. she is currently completing two new film projects shot on two distinctively different islands, montserrat , west indies and skeillig michael, ireland.

clarelangan.com / galerie-beckers.de / blinkvideo.de

film #14: valtari
feat. ekki múkk, valtari, rembihnútur & varúð
premiered november 13 2012. film by christian larson.

written & directed by christian larson. choreography by sidi larbi cherkaoui
cinematography by mattias montero, costume designer lydia kovacs, produced by noreen khan.

“i’ve always been inspired by dance, so i wanted to tell a short story with dialogue through movement, without anyone saying anything. sidi larbi cherkaoui’s extraordinary choreography created this unique communication between the dancers james o’hara & nicola leahey. larbi’s way of working with flexibility played as an interesting contrast to the harsh environment in which matthias montero’s pure and ethereal style of cinematography allowed an intimate portrait of the couple.” – christian larson

christian larson grew up drumming, dancing & filming skateboarding in sweden and it was this background that helped carve his reputation of a rhythmic visual style. starting out making music promos, he went on to be an editor for the renowned swedish director jonas åkerlund before focusing fully on directing. his work includes promos for kylie minogue, tinie tempah, nero as well as commercials and editorials for wallpaper magazine, absolut vodka and roche bobois.


film #15: varúð
premiered november 20 2012. film by björn flóki.

“when i listen to varúð i feel this overlap and struggle between sadness and beauty, between darkness and light. an overwhelming feeling of being buried in darkness but being just barely able to escape into the light, if you try hard enough. this is the feeling i’ve tried to bring to the video.
a huuuuge thanks to the cruz twins and to crew for kicking so much ass with the limited resources we had, in conditions that were not the easiest. i’m in awe of you guys!”
– björn flóki

the making of varúð – photos

born in iceland in 1982, björn flóki got his first camera on his 8th birthday. he’s been taking photos and making videos ever since. in april 2000 he co-created the sigur rós website sigur-ros.co.uk, which he still co-manages today.

björn recently finished his graduate film studies in new york city and is currently developing his documentary ‘drag dad,’ a film about a 24 year old single father supporting his family as a professional drag queen performer. björn now resides in seattle with his boyfriend and co-creator of varúð, pétur valsson.


film #16: leaning towards solace
feat. dauðalogn & varúð
premiered december 6 2012. film by floria sigismondi.

“sigur rós’s music always evokes a strong emotional feeling in me. the film tells the story about a young girl sara, played by elle fanning, who confronts the imminent death of her father, played by john hawkes. the story is set in the desolate landscape of an economic collapse. it’s about the fine line between keeping it together and the feeling of helplessness when life just doesn’t work any longer. but the story is not only about sorrow, but about hope, love and the loss of fear, rebirth and reincarnation. the idea that we possibly have travelled through time with the same souls in different roles. the daughter now holds her father as he begins a new life in her arms. it was a rewarding experience working with both elle and john. i highly respect both their talents.” – floria sigismondi

floria sigismondi was born in pescara, italy and grew up in canada raised by opera singing parents. she studied fine art at ocad in toronto, which has led to a painterly esthetic to her photography and film work.

the german art press die gestalten verlag has published two monographs of her photography, redemption (1999) and immune (2005). apart from her art and photography, which have been exhibited around the world, she is best known for writing and directing the runaways, starring kristen stewart and dakota fanning. sigismondi’s provocative music videos have featured such luminaries as david bowie, björk, the cure, the white stripes, katy perry, pink, marilyn manson, fiona apple, leonard cohen and sigur rós.

she has a history with sigur ros that spans 10 years. her first sigur rós video, “untitled”, won best international video award at the 2003 mtv european awards.

she is currently developing her second motion picture.

About Me
In self-reflection; I can honestly say all that is good in my life has been a direct result of my artistic expression. Be it through writing poetry, prose, or philosophy, through painting or photography, or through filmmaking, art saved my life and it can save yours.
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