Monday, June 28, 2010

Niceland # 20 - the Eyjafjallajökull Eruption

Eyjafjallajökull is an Icelandic glacier covered volcano that erupted in 2010. The eruption began on the 20th of March and lasted until the 12th April 2010. The eruption caused major disruptions in air travel in Europe and North America. The name of the  The name Eyjafjallajökull means island mountain glacier. 

Seismic activity began in December 2009 under the volcano. Activity increased rapidly in February of 2010 resulting in a fissure in March on the hiking and disruption air travel over many parts of Europe. The eruptions also created electrical storms.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Niceland # 19 - Icelandic Graffiti

Documenting graffiti in Reykjavik, Iceland 
 While I have been living in Reykjavik I have documented the graffiti that has been pooping up in the city with a particular interest in unique styles and reoccurring artist. I passed one building in particular on my way to the supermarket, that had great assortment of different graffiti styles. The graffiti refreshed on a weekly basis. Newer designs cover older pieces, the entire face would completely change week to week.
      Seljavegur, a street situated on the west side of Reykjavik -the oldest quarter, is positioned next to the coast. The last residential street before the ocean breakers. These streets are hit hard all year round, as they serve as the first line of defense against the ocean wind. Although there is practically 0 crime in Iceland, Seljavegur looks like a slum compared to the rest of Reykjavik. The houses look abused and depressed. The wall paint is chipped, basement windows are cracked, doors are broken, even the stone side walk is crumbling. I walked passed the same abandoned car battery for three months, just laying in the middle of the sidewalk, leaking acid into the street.
      The municipality seems to have given up, up-keeping Seljavegur and other ocean side streets like it. While the main shopping street, Laugavegur and fancier residential streets are cleaned regularly. The city charters workers to remove broken glass, trash, moss growth, and graffiti from the city streets. These locations are targeted specifically for their high tourist traffic, business value, and property prices. Seljavegur is not targeted in these effort for the lack of above qualifications. As evident from the image below, streets like Seljavegur are left out of the city’s target locations. This lack of city presence has attracted artist from all over Reykjavík, creating a hot bed for graffiti activity.
      When documenting pieces, I mainly focused on collecting a wide variety of styles. I looked for variations of complexity, details, flares, coloring, techniques and mediums. I found a great selection of wild style pieces, “throw ups”, and simpler bubble letters. These were the easiest to find. Usually sprayed on abandoned buildings and street walls. I also documented rare presence of stencil work. These pieces were usually political, placed in downtown residential areas. They were often short lived. Staying up for only days, before being removed by city or house owners. Understandable, these were harder to document.
      BUBBLE LETTERS - Rounded, puffy, simple lettering was the hands down, most common style I found in Iceland. As seen in the two images directly above, the letters were simple and contained two to three colors. DISCO TERROR was 5 feet long and colored in only black and white. A small piece, most likely a “throw up”, made quickly using a simple design. While the right image is a larger, 30-50 foot piece, with an accented structure of bulging sides and tapered tipped lettering. It may be a more grandiose, wild-ish bubble letter style, but it’s still a simple two main color piece, slightly raised, and thinly outlined. 
      COMPLEXITIES - The three images above are of the more complex script. The attention to detail and presentation make the pieces look more time consuming than their bubble cousins. These graffiti pieces are often containing many colors, gradients, shooting arrows, interconnecting letters, and beautifully refined lines. The three images bellow contain delicate accent flares in a variety of styles.
      ‘ROSE’ contains delicate serif detail that bends, twists, split and curls. The letters are purple with a dark definition, with a yellow raise and outlined in black. The piece takes up two 8 by 6 walls.
      The left two images use a more box letters style. The middle image of the red and white is 12 feet tall and 24 feet long. The piece uses a mix of straights and curves and contains twisting arrows and (penis) tipped letter serifs. The white letters are ‘buffed’ and raised in red, making it look 3D. All together the letters are double outlined in red and black.
      The far left image is the hardest for me to read for its interlocking letters and seemly random placement of letters are complicated for my untrained eye to see. The graffiti piece is colored in many tones: magenta, pink, violet, sky blue, blue, and blue-green. The letters are outlined in black and raised slightly in dark magenta.
      WHITE BIRD AND SCALY BREAD WALK -  The white bird with robot legs and scaly bread with legs are two of my all time favorite graffiti pieces.  Both pieces done signed ‘DÝR’ which could mean either expensive or animal in Icelandic. I find this designs to be unique from other graffiti styles present in Iceland. A purely illustrative style, they breaking from reoccurring text styles.
      IN ALUMINUM WE TRUST - The graffiti stencil is of a masked combat soldier with the slogan, “in aluminum we trust” hanging above. The soldier is labeled “Alcan Alcoa”, after the American aluminum company. This stencil illustrates the politically charged relationship between the Icelandic state and the aluminum giant.
The Icelandic government made a controversial decision to subsidize several Alcoa dams using state funding. The decision was passed without parliament’s vote but by the Minister of the Environment. The totalitarian move is represented by the masked combat soldier. “In Aluminum We Trust” references the slogan of the American dollar, as the Aluminum giant snuggles in with the Icelandic government.
Icelandic officials play monopoly with tax payer’s money as the Icelandic population is left without a voice or proper representation. As graffiti is illegal in the capital, the stencil makes a clear parallel between the silenced Icelandic voice and the silenced graffiti movement.
      RTS was a reoccurring artist I documented throughout the summer. The signature wasn’t hard to find a latter high off the ground, in big colorful letters. RTS likes it big with letters more than 8 feet tall, and a story or two up. The first image of is one grandiose tag of ‘RTS’, panted in larger than life sky blue letters. The second image is still simple, a “throw up” of only two colors, slightly raised. The last image is of a larger more complex salmon pink piece, using two different styles of interlocking widening letters, next two noodles and puffier letters.Graffiti jumped the across the northern Atlantic using Iceland’s strong cultural link to America. Sharing common media programming, hip hop poured into Reykjavik from films, television, the internet, and radio. From my experience living in Reykjavik, I’ve found Reykjavik’s colorful graffiti movement is not the only appearance of hip hop in Icelandic culture. Elements of hip hop: beat, sampling, rapping, style, rhythm and flow have deeply effected Icelandic culture. In fashion, music, language(slang), and art, the infusion of hip hop is expressed.
Before I left for Egilsstadir, I took photographs of Einar and I in front of some of the mass graphiti areas in Reykjavik.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Niceland # 18 - Icelandic Socialism

Iceland’s Eastern Highlands one of the largest unspoiled wildernesses in Europe. These untouched areas of public property have been largely destroyed by foreign companies Alcoa, Landsvirkjun and Impregilo. Through the Icelandic natioanl government, these companies purchased public property from the Icelandic state at extremely low prices and were granted government subsities to build in these untouched areas known for its unique environmental value and beauty. This decision has become a highly controversial subject in Iceland as it touches on ownership rights of state owned property,  the immorality of state owned property, state subsidies of foreign companies, and the lack of transparency in  the Icelandic government system. Outside of Iceland, the collection of unique natural landscapes destroyed by foreign energy companies has been widely criticized for its environmental effects and the Icelandic governments association with infamously dirty foreign companies.

The US company is the world’s largest producer of aluminium, serves the most industries as well as producing ‘bacofoil’. While the company is known as one of the major polluters, it undertakes replanting projects over former destroyed forest land. The attempt cannot compensate for the loss old eco-system, resulting in substantial erosion of topsoil.

Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Plant 
The hydroelectric power plant is located in eastern part of Iceland, designed to produce 4,600 GWh annually for the Alcoa Fjardaál aluminum smelter in the east in Reyðarfjörður. The Kárahnjúkastífla Dam is the centerpiece of the five dams and the largest of its type in Europe, standing 193 metres (633 ft) tall with a length of 730 metres (2,400 ft) and comprising 8.5 million cubic metres (300×106 cu ft) of material. The project involved damming the Jökulsá á Dal River and the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal River with five dams, creating three reservoirs. Water from the reservoirs is then diverted through 73 kilometres (45 mi) of underground water tunnels and down a 420-metre (1,380 ft) vertical penstock towards a single underground power station. The smelter became fully operational in 2008 and the hydro-power project was completed in 2009.

Dreamland is a book and documentary of Andri Snaer Magnason's critique against the current decision taken by the Icelandic government to build out Iceland's rivers in order to produce energy that can be delivered to aluminium factories. Magnason describes how Iceland's government actively have pursued the idea to attract foreign aluminium companies to Iceland with the promise of the "cheapest energy in the world". The government advertisement described Iceland's energy potential as 30 TWh/year. Magnason argues in the book that in order to accomplish this, the majority of Iceland's rivers would need to be exploited, with the consequence that some of Iceland's most known waterfalls such as Dettifoss which is Europe's most powerful waterfall, and Gullfoss which together with Thingvellir and Geyser makes up the golden circle.

It is set up as a series of thoughts on issues in modern Iceland and the past Iceland and deals heavily with the Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Project and other similar works being done. It was the best sold book in Iceland in 2006 and raised Icelanders' interest in environmentalism by a large amount. In the book the Icelandic nation is encouraged to look to more "futuristic" types of business than aluminium processing and to stop believing that they can't do anything for themselves

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Niceland # 17 - Akureyri

I've been on the move a lot these last few months. I currently reside in northern capital, Akureyri -leaving Egilsstadir a week ago. The town has a small airport, which connects traffic to Grimsy, the northern volcanic island and the central towns of Iceland. I've flown in and out of Akureyri before when working in Myvatn in 2006.
View of the main church from the Pennin, a cafe and bookstore.
I moved into the flat on June 7th to officially start my residency with the Akureiryi Gil-Society. It's a strange building. There's a small kitchen, eating area, bathroom, and bedroom. Then the flat opens into the main studio area. It's oddly large, with enormous plastic sky lights. I can look up and see into apartments next to me. Unfortunately, my neighbore can do the reverse -and they do. Late at night, I hear them pull lawn chairs onto the roof. They sit around my skylights and chatter off in hipster Icelandic.
The equipment situation inside the studio is bare. Besides a diverse collection of tables and german langauge books, there's little else. This point of the prodcution I'm dependent on research; I spend most of my day at the cafe leeching internet.
Solvi came to visit me in Akureyri. He brought gifts of liquire from his open sea adventures. We cooked dinners, told stories, and drank outside in the Icelandic evening sunshine.

Hitchhiking in Iceland can be fun. As a joke directed to drivers, I was standing in the middle of Husavik.
Inside the Green Hat, a cafe and resturant.
He's one of my favorite people in Iceland. His curiousity, insight, and personality reminds me of a famous writer from the early twnety century. Not any one in particular. I wouldn't be suprised if he became a figure in the post-post-post modern art world that we live in today.