A fabricated and fictional installation celebrating the life and work of character Magnus A. Thorsteinn, an artist gaining fame from his work at Walt Disney Studios.
This project was created during my undergraduate art study at CU, Boulder. I created the fictitious character and built a story and environment around him to play with the viewer's understanding of reality in a gallery context. Wall text, antiqued objects, promotional show materials, and environment arrangements all play a part in this personification of a fake reality.
Magnús A. Thorsteinn Wall Text
Magnús A. Thorsteinn
Born in Reykjavik in 1918 as the only child of an Icelandic architect, Magnús A. Thorsteinn first was drawn to the United States to visit the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. It was there that Thorsteinn first met Buckminster Fuller, and was introduced to the man who would later help him get hired at the Walt Disney Studios. Always a follower of Fuller’s work and an undocumented inspiration to his Spaceship Earth thinking, Thorsteinn too was driven to use art and design as a tool in exploring the themes of nature, machine, and human life. During his tenure at Disney, Thorsteinn created a lab-like studio to break away from the then contemporary minimalistic confinements that was instilled deep within his Northern European upbringing.
Buckminster Fuller held Thorsteinn as a captive audience. Ever since their introduction at the World’s Fair, they had kept in contact via mail correspondence as well as through collaborative research and projects. It wasn’t uncommon for Fuller’s innovations such as the Dymaxion car and house to appear in Thorsteinn’s futuristic sketches and cartoons. Perhaps Fuller’s most famous design, the geodesic dome, was actually the product of a late night drunk drawing meeting of the two friends in a dimly lit Vermont restaurant. The original sketches have been found on napkins that we kept by Fuller.
Thorsteinn was brought onboard to the Disney Studios in 1956 after his initial visit to the United States. He was hired as a 2D animator but his heart was always craving work with the wonderful expanding world of Disney audio-animatronics. It was during this him at the Disney that audio-animatronics was an up-and-coming developing technology – and Thorsteinn wanted nothing else than to be part of the movement. Because of the excitement, Thorsteinn spent half of this time at Disney working on a secret, unknown to Walt, animatronic project that pulled ideas and theories from Buckminster and Spaceship Earth alongside the playful animation of Disney. He called it Never Avienemy. His concept combined bird physiology with robotics. It was his dream to show the work to Walt and move from development into production, but it was a fate he would never reach. The limited computers at the time simply could not program the delicate movements of birds that Thorsteinn saw as necessary.
Leaving Disney & Death
After Disney refused to further fund Never Avienemy, Thorsteinn stopped showing up to work probably due to depression of his life’s work being denied. It was found that soon after leaving Disney, Thorsteinn headed out of town on a sabbatical in order to clear his head and tour the West, a region he never stepped foot in outside of California. That summer of 1966, Thorsteinn was declared missing somewhere between the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. His body was never found and it is unsure whether he took his own life after Disney’s refusal or was simply lost due to a tragic desert accident.
This exhibit’s collection of artifacts and celebration of his work is in honor of Magnús A. Thorsteinn, and his family to which we owe thanks for the loan of his possessions on display.