Three Snakes and Four Obsessions: Birna’s Playlist


In a First Look profile for our December issue, Brian Droitcour writes about Amsterdam-based Icelandic artist Ásgerður Birna Björnsdóttir’s penchant for exploration: “She goes to junk shops and secondhand stores, and looks in the gutters while taking walks, to collect whatever odds and ends catch her eye.” While Birna looks to YouTube as a resource for learning new skills to apply to her sculptural work, she also wanders it as she does the world, gathering strange and compelling objects. She shared some recent finds in a playlist for our YouTube channel. —Eds. 

As a hoarder of sorts, I get a thrill from coming across everyday rarities: an exceptionally nicely shaped carrot in the supermarket, a person wearing all red and a cowboy hat walking down the street, or a YouTube video I could never have imagined existed. Say, one on NASA’s account of astronauts (who may be seriously bored) spinning a fidget spinner while spinning in weightlessness, inside a spinning vehicle orbiting the earth.

I get really greedy with my YouTube findings, gathering them in playlists and browser tabs to keep them close. They’re all mine—finders keepers!—at my disposal and ready to play at any given time. Even a Kanye West music video feels like a unique find, mine alone.

An especially cherished video of mine is a man making a knife from scratch. It is recorded from a first-person perspective, showing his rugged hands moving around his workshop, hammering the blade and carefully carving the wooden handle without saying a word. I happily watched it again and again until one day, when I pressed the link, I found it had been taken offline.

It gives me immense anxiety when I look through one of my playlists and the weird square face looks back at me and says “[Deleted video]” in its indifferent, shoulder-shrugging way. Which one was it and what if it was something extremely important that I’ll now have to disregard, and worse, not even miss?

In this playlist the following things (among others) reside:

Three snakes

Four obsessions

Eleven series of movements determined by an object

Three very unhealthy things

One set of extremely expressive eyebrows

One Grosfillex Fidji Highback

Two questionable ethics

One wink from the future

Six meters of striped barrier belt

Five dancing men

One spider tattoo

One act of potential alchemy

Visit Birna’s playlist here.