Ryan Parteka

Selected Works


Ryan Parteka (b. 1975) is an Icelandic-American artist who began working in photography and film before transitioning to immersive interactive installation and narrative sculpture at the turn of the millennium. After receiving a BFA in Photography and Film, he completed a two year research residency at Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. His work has been shown internationally at galleries, film festivals, and museums.


Parteka’s work explores how man understands and perceives himself and the world through experiences with nature, often with landscape as a paradigm of human fate, using forms of nature in an allegorical manner to accentuate impermanence, and transcend scientific rationalisation and mastery over nature while in search of the sublime or the miraculous amongst the ordinary.


With everything imploding into biology, tragedy and landscape now encompass the human landscape.  His fluid, sound, and light installations are cinematic biological time pieces which operate on geologic time scales.  Using elements of light moving in time based on ecological data or celestial mechanics, time is compressed or dilated to match exhibition periods, such as one thousand years passing by in three months. His immersive works create a liminal space where contrasting elements converge and participation may influence the outcome of the piece.


After a decade of producing cinematic installations, Parteka’s work has come full circle.  He has returned to film-making and is currently in development on his first feature 35mm film.



Each Thousand Years, But A Day

Eucrasia / Dyscrasia


 Ryan Parteka - Each Thousand Years, But a Day at The Reykjavík Art Museum


A scene in a destroyed Casper David Friedrich painting shows melting snow revealing mud on the ground of a Black forest set against the vast grayness of a cloudy sky. Between two charred and scarred trees, the shattered remains of three arched windows and vault tower over what is once the apse of a basilica. Scattered around the slashed wet forest ground are broken crosses and tombstones, and in a distance, human figures clothed in black cloaks file in pairs toward the ruined façade of the basilica.


Each Thousand Years, But a Day is a modern interpretation of this romantic landscape.


Chaos and order underlines the ideology behind the art of Ryan Parteka since he started to create installations and multimedia art almost a decade ago. His installation is clinical and elusive, and underneath the pristine appearance he often plants a chaotic phenomenon. Ryan Parteka takes the chaos and orders it into numerical patterns that are translated into choreography of light and darkness through custom circuitry. He orchestrates the mechanical devices to drive components and objects that control light and/or sound, which transform the environment into disorder of sorts by taking things to the point of collapse – a state of aesthetic entropy.


For Each Thousand Years, But a Day the space and time elements intertwine past, present and future. The installation is controlled by a computed prediction of light and darkness for Reykjavik in the next 1000 years. Blood fills and drains from three arched window panes, which is pumped through devices pulsing in tandem with the rising and setting of a simulated sun. While light floods into the space and remains for different lengths of time, darkness swallows up the room with equal disposition. Along the ceremonious beginning and ending of the simulated days, an electric guitar and a group of brass instruments solemnly bring a tempo to the rite.


Yean Fee Quay

Ryan Parteka - Eucrasia/Dyscrasia


The title of Ryan Parteka’s installation “Eucrasia / Dyscrasia”, balance and imbalance, refers to the (physical) human condition and the ancient theories of Hippocrates and later Galen, within the field of medicine, that disease results from an internal imbalance of the four humors: air (blood), fire (yellow bile), earth (black bile), and water (phlegm).


Parteka’s works connect material to a concept and vice versa, his sensitivity and use of unusual materials have a purpose outside of the pragmatic, as does the carefully chosen special blend of thick, black liquid in his large installation at Kling & Bang Gallery. The color and texture of the liquid, which flows in soothing rhythm around the room, visible only through cut out forms in the walls, have direct reference to the black bile; melancholy. A sonic part of his installation is a sound piece, which he has recorded with an Icelandic choir, a sound of breathing, which he has edited together so that it plays for one thousand years. The sound and pumping of the liquid are then programmed to sync with one another, in a sedative way, as many visitors of the show have experienced while being seduced into its ambience for up to three hours at a time. One can say that this works gives breath to the whole space, makes the space breathe and delicately tunes the visitor into its rhythm as well.”


Birta Guðjónsdóttir

Ryan Parteka - Castigatio


It is as if we have arrived in purgatory: a space in between life, death, heaven and hell, a place of penance, where sins are washed away, after which the gates of heaven will open for us. The association is evoked by the bars surrounding the gallery's anteroom, the buzzing sounds, the red fluid behind the bars, the ropes on the floor, and the prominently displayed word 'Castigatio' (penance).


For his exhibition at Galerie Fons Welters, Ryan Parteka drew inspiration from a famous chapter in Amsterdam's history. During one of his forays into old documents, he stumbled on an account of the old Rasphuis on Heiligeweg, written by a Portuguese traveller. The writer relates that this house of correction, established in the sixteenth century, possessed a 'drowning cell'. Prisoners would be confined to the cell while it was slowly filled with water. Their only salvation lay in pumping out the water. According to this particular source, pumping would only delay death; the prisoners died of exhaustion anyway. The old gate of the house of correction with the word 'Castigatio' and the personification of the city of Amsterdam brandishing a whip, flanked by two manacled men, can still be seen on Heiligeweg.


Ryan Parteka's installation evokes the interior of a cell. From behind the bars, a red fluid is mechanically pumped in, and then out again, in rhythmic movements. The white, chalk-like ropes or shackles, consisting of the binding agents that are used in medicines, are scattered around the floor. The space is filled with a crackling, organic but lifeless, electronic sound. The neon letters, filled with red fluid, that form the word 'Castigatio', seem intended to name the whole - to embrace it.


Ryan Parteka brings home to us that the lives we are living today are inextricably linked to the past - sometimes consciously, but more often unconsciously. This ineradicable connection is hard to demonstrate, however. In his installation, Parteka mixes different times and themes, thus highlighting essential questions. He creates a present-day purgatory, a place for reflection, contemplation and penance.


Laura van Grinsven



Lynghagi 14

107 Reykjavík


+354 862-2815 ryan@this.is