An Icelandic Artist Accuses a German Contemporary of “Nature Terrorism”

In February, somebody painted words on some of Iceland’s most pristine landscapes

Hlynur Hallsson

In February, somebody painted words on some of Iceland’s most pristine landscapes. The word “Moos” was spray painted on some moss in Mývatn, and the words “Crater,” “Cave” and “Lava” on other landscapes in northeastern Iceland. The Environment Agency of Iceland called the work nature terrorism, but no one knows who did it.

The Art Newspaper spoke with Icelandic police, who are looking into it. “We have two suspects and will now contact the police in Germany and Switzerland to help us,” Sigurdur Brynjolfsson, the chief superintendent of police in Husavik, in the municipality of Nordurping told the Art Newspaper. 

Now, one artist is pointing fingers at another, German artist named Julius von Bismark. According to Animal New York, Icelandic artist Hlynur Hallsson happened upon some photographs of the vandalism at a gallery in Berlin.

Von Bismark claims he was not responsible for the work and hasn’t been to IceIcelland since 2010. But he does say that he likes the idea of the work. “But the idea is mine. I want to focus on the idea of nature and its origins in Romanticism. I was aware that what was done might violate some laws, but I am not happy that the Icelandic authorities call the paintings ‘nature terrorism’. What about the new power plants and aluminum smelters that are planned for Iceland and that will destroy the environment?”

Hallsson, the artist who’s accusing von Bismark, says his work draws on similar themes but doesn’t actually destroy nature. He told Animal, “I don’t approve of works that damage nature, regardless whether they’re made in the name of visual art or commercialism. To mark moss, lava or rock faces with paint which doesn’t wash off in the rain is unnecessary and obviously damages nature.”

How von Bismark, or anyone else, even pulled off these feats isn’t clear. According to the earlier story in Icelandic Review about the vandalism, experts from the Environment Agency of Iceland were perplexed:

Especially the vandalism on Hverfjall appears to have taken a long time to execute. Locals believe that a high pressure hose and many liters of paint were required.

According to Icelandic Review‘s more recent story, regardless of how it was done, whoever did make the work, von Bismark or otherwise, will be in real trouble when they’re caught:

The tuff ring volcano Hverfjall is under nature protection. Employees of the Environment Agency of Iceland used rakes and gray paint to temporarily cover the letters and will work on further repairs this summer.

The police in Húsavík are responsible for investigating the matter and have said Hlynur will probably be asked for a statement,Fréttablaðið reports.

The police revealed that earlier evidence had linked a group of artists who were in the Mývatn region at the time to the damages but the investigation of their affairs didn’t deliver any results. The new evidence may get the ball rolling again, the police stated.

More from

Vandals Smash Irreplaceable Dinosaur
Dinosaur Decapitation in Durham

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.