In late May, an exhibition on the Heimaey eruption opened in a new building on the slopes of the Eldfell volcano in the Westman Islands. The eruptive fissure that opened on Heimaey, 7.4km south of mainland Iceland, in 1973 was only about 150 meters away from the closest houses and eventually covered the entire town in slag. Four hundred houses became engulfed in this destructive lava flow.
The exhibition tells the story of this traumatic event, which deeply affected the lives of all the island’s inhabitants. The exhibition is centered around one home, Gerðisbraut 10, which has recently been excavated, 35 years after the catastrophic eruption. The visitor is taken back to this period in time to experience the way in which the extreme forces of nature reshaped the island and destroyed parts of the town. The visitor also gains insight to the human consequences of the natural disaster, where the 5,000 inhabitants escaped to the mainland and eventually returned to reconstruct their lives, homes and community.
Gagarin produced four interactive installations designed to illustrate the story in a stimulating and tangible way by multiple visitors simultaneously.
A large sandbox with shovels offers the visitor to search for houses that disappeared under the volcanic slag. When shovelling, a drawing of a house appears.
As the visitor digs deeper into the sand various images appear, as if uncovering lost memories from these homes that vanished in the eruption.
Through three cameras placed inside the ruins, the visitor can explore all the nooks and crannies in the home that was located at this street address. As the various artefacts are revealed to the visitor they are rewarded with additional information on those objects.
A big round table with a three-dimensional map of Heimaey gives the visitor an opportunity to receive a stage by stage visual narration of the progress of the eruption.
By turning the table the narration continues, day by day, from the beginning of the eruption on 23 January 1973, to the end on 3 July that year.