In May 2014, an exhibition in the Westman Islands about one of Iceland's biggest natural disasters, the Heimaey eruption in 1973, was launched in a new building on the slopes of the Eldfell volcano. The eruptive fissure that opened, was only 150 meters from the closest houses but eventually Lava and ash destroyed almost 400 homes and businesses, a third of all buildings on Heimaey.
Visitors can learn about the extreme forces of nature that not only reshaped the island but also the lives of its inhabitants. You can learn about the remarkable story of how over 5000 inhabitants fled to the mainland of Iceland in the night, or how some stayed to fight the lava flow and finally about those inhabitants who returned to Heimaey to reconstruct their homes.
Gagarin produced four interactive installations that explain different aspects of this historic event. The studio worked in close collaboration with the exhibition designer, Axel Hallkell Jóhannesson, to tie their interactive narration tight into the overall exhibiton.
Explore the Ruins
The Heimaey exhibition is centered around a house, Gerdisbraut 10, that was excavated some 35 years after the catastrophic event. Here, visitors have the choice of three interactive cameras that enables them to explore all the nooks and crannies of this house. They can search for various artifacts hidden in the debris that reveal an intimate glimpse of the life in the house before the eruption.
Wheel of Time
An interactive table provides a day-by-day visualisation of the eruption as it unfolds. By turning the rim of the table, visitors can interact with the display and scroll forward or backwards through time. Images and key facts appear to highlight the key events on a particular day.
The property outlines of several houses that were lost under the ash are projected onto a large sandbox. With the aid of small shovels, visitors are invited to dig into the sand. This action alludes to a search for lost memories. As visitors dig deeper, an illustration of the house will emerge. If they continue this will be followed by a photo from the original house owner.
Visitors face the challenge of re-assembling a photo taken at the time of the eruption on Heimaey. When the puzzle is successfully completed, a photo from recent times from the same location is displayed on a screen above. There are six images to play with.This installation highlights the great effort put into restoring the town by comparing views of phenomenons before and after.