Gapassipi by Magnús Pálsson

August 1, 2022
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Gapassipi (1995) was installed in the then-recently constructed Reykjavik City Hall, which is situated on the lake Tjörnin in central Reykjavik. Exhibited from February 25th – March 10th, the work was commissioned from Pálsson by the Icelandic branch of the Nordic Visual Arts Association to coincide with a meeting of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Gapassipi installation featured a 30-sq. meter, triangular formation of broken glass laid upon the floor, level with the lake, as well as eight loudspeakers positioned throughout the space, emanating two vocal tracks pre-recorded by Pálsson. The first track consisted of Pálsson reciting vignettes from his memories surrounding Tjörnin. The second comprised, in Pálsson’s words, a loosely chanted “appeal to the gander of the lake.” The gander in question, the Greylag Goose, is one of several bird species that frequent Tjörnin yearly, and whose V-shaped migration pattern was evoked by the triangular array of glass upon the floor of the City Hall.

The most distinguishing attribute of Gapassipi is that both texts were written and recorded by Pálsson not in regular Icelandic, but rather the colloquial “P-Language,” a secret language spoken between Icelandic children in efforts to avoid adult comprehension. As Pálsson articulates, the linguistic mechanics behind P-Language are informed as much by sound as by logic:

The rule is that, within a syllable, before any vowel, you add a “p” preceded by the same vowel – Hence, the Icelandic term “gassi” (gander) is transformed into “gapassipi.” Thus, Þeir becomes Þepeir, not Þepeipir because “ei” is one sound. Other variations occur depending on the sound of the vowel – thus, Lárus (á in Icelandic is pronounced au in English) becomes Lapárupus, not Lápárupus, which is more correct but is awkward to say. Like any language, there are other variations, e.g. Ég becomes épeg and not épég, but Í becomes Ipí. So the so-called “rules” when applied to double vowels, at least in Icelandic, are governed more by sound and ease of speech and are a flexible feast.

Mumbling Eye: An archival label dedicated to the publication of rare/unreleased Icelandic sound art & related ephemera. Operated by sound artist Adam Buffington ( and visual artist Tumi Magnússon ( | |


Live streaming: Bailey Polkinghorne
Text: Magnús Pálsson, Adam Buffington
Translations: Anna Sigurveig Magnúsdóttir, Frances Cowan, Magnús Pálsson, Páll Magnússon, Tumi Magnússon, Vera Pétursdóttir
Photos: Frances Cowan
Design: Tumi Magnússon
Help: Ráðhildur Ingadóttir, Åse Eg Jørgensen
Print: Laser Tryk, Copenhagen
CD Production: Myndbandavinnslan, Reykjavík

*The views expressed in this art piece and texts are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the view of Helsinki Open Waves.  

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