CONTAINER 96, Copenhagen, 1996

Artists from more than 90 cities around the world were invited to take part in Container 96 in Copenhagen and each of them created a work inside a 20-foot transportation container. The containers were then arranged like a map of the world around the exhibition area, turning it into a kind of world fair. Where possible, the cities awarded grants to the artists representing them.

Thorsteinsson was Reykjavik’s representative at the exhibition and created a work which gave visitors the chance to thank the exhibition sponsors, namely the taxpayers who lived in those cities.

To do so, he had a payphone wired up by the Danish PTT inside the container and obtained telephone directories from the participating cities where the sponsors’ phone numbers could be looked up. He also mounted a poster informing visitors of the names of the cities, their area codes, and the phrase “Thank you very much for your contribution to art” in the language of each city - more than 40 languages in all. Thus people were at liberty to contact individuals all over the world and thanking them for their support in their own language. Judging from the full visitors’ books used to record the phone numbers called along with any comments, the telephone was clearly in fairly constant use for the three months that the exhibition lasted. But some people did not confine themselves to the message suggested by the artist, since one of the entries in the visitors’ book was: “Today I called my home for the first time since I disappeared in 1989”.

*Most translations were provided by the Foreigners Centre, Reykjavik

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