Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Niceland # 27 - Goodbye Iceland

Today, I leave Iceland bound for the United States. It's a mid-August afternoon. I will definitely miss living amongst the moss covered lava fields. 

Iceland attracts people for a multitude of different reasons; I was inspired to move to Reykjavik in 2009 to pursue an animated film project inspired by the local natural landscape of Iceland.  I arrived in the early Fall. The city turns into a of wash of blue, a precursor to the endless darkness of Winter.

The vast moss-covered lava fields, black sands of the uninhabitable volcanic highlands, and fog-saturated fjords make up the unique appearance of this northern Atlantic island. The loud and emotional quality of Iceland’s sharp, barren landscapes provided a backdrop for my animated film production. Playing with the tension between portraiture and landscape, the film expanded the relationship between space and object. 
Beyond the considerable increase of woollen clothing in my wardrobe, the experience of living in Reykjavik has had a tremendous impact on my personal identity. Without travel, intelligence stagnates.  The experience of living in a foreign country can be a terrifying and marginalizing experience. There’s an invisible glass that separates people by social identities, ideologies, language and cultural histories.  The fruits of these challenges bare new perspectives, illuminate once-invisible nuances, and widen cultural sensitivities. 

While the barriers can be overwhelming, it takes time to appreciate the similarities. In the grander scheme, culture is culture and history is history. Although Icelandic society is different from that in America, people are fundamentally the same. There’s a shocking universality that ties us together.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Niceland # 25 - Couch Surfing in Iceland

I was introduced to the concept of couch surfing by one of my roommates in Reykjavik. He  accepted world-traveled young artists from Europe and America. As his roommate, I was able to be a part of his foreigner parties and weekend adventures. I've found couch surfing in Iceland to be safe and easy.
My first direct couch surfing experience began when preparing to leave Akureyri for Reykjavik. I met up with two Belgium travelers through the hitchhiking website Samferda. I was looking for a lift to Reykjavik. They were traveling counter clockwise around the island. We teamed up in Akureyri, aiming to travel into the West Fjords and ending the trip Reykjavik. The trip would last a two days. We met up in the northern capital, spent our first night in the Akureyri artists studios. After pancakes, hot chocolate, and orange juice, we heading off to the northern coast line, then traveled along the coast of Iceland stopping at a few of the historical points along the ways.
The belgians had planned to meet up with a German host who would provide us with three couches. We met her in the evening due to a delay in our travels. We cooked spigetti for dinner, squished the five of us on her couch to watch Harold and Kumar 2. To my surprise, our german host loved the movie so much. We cut the movie short I was falling asleep on everyone. Unfortunately, the endless summer daylight peaked around this time, causing me to lay awake almost the entire night.
In the morning we began our trip to the West Fjords, stopping on the Reykanes peninsula, before heading back into Reykavjik. I am so happy to took this opportunity to share this experience with these two Belgian travelers. I didn't know I could bond so quickly in a small car with two people I barely new. It was fun and I would definitely do it again.

The horse leaned in to car and started eating the seat!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Niceland # 24 - Dangerous Reykjavik

Our youngest of three cats was killed near Aegissida. He was hit by a car while crossing the street.
Cars are the number one killer of cats in Iceland. It has nothing to do with Icelanders or how they drive; there's a greater presence of outdoor cats on the street. 
Between the ages of one and two, cats are the most daring. We had always been nervous when letting our youngest cat outside.  Given, most cats have strange personality traits that individualize them from the group, our cat was extremely independent. He was an explorer.

We buried him in an Adidas shoe box wrapped in a giant rhubarb leaf with pink cat-tail flowers on top. Overall, it's been a sad few weeks.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Niceland # 23 - Menningarnótt / Culture Night

Fanny enjoying a cigarette on the dance floor.
Solvi, Fanny, and I went party-pantsing in downtown Reykjavik. We first started at a house party in the upper part of the city of Reykjavik. It resembles an industrial area with storefronts spread out on large blocks although Icelanders would consider this a neighborhood. Houses and large industrial apartments complexes stretch along the coast. The party ended around 2am, moving down to the cities center. Although the bars are located more than a mile away from the house, the Icelanders were willing to walk the sobering treck to the city center in the chilly Icelandic night.

Reykjavik nightlight is clustered in the city center on the major shopping street of Laugavegur. After midnight, these bars become flushed with a wave of drunken hopefuls looking for a spot in the already crowded bar. Smaller establishments have opened up off the main street where rent is cheaper. Baukus, Organ, and Sodoma are examples of smaller bars that have opened in the less trafficked areas

Solvi and I met up in Bakkus with some of the other party-friends. We got in right as it was getting swarmed by the hipster art-fags crowd. These guys travel in packs, where a similar outfit of extremely tight clothing, who all study, want to study, or have studied art at the local Reykjavik art university. The art-fag population are generally young, well dressed, and conservative dancers. They're usually the first to be prayed upon with unwelcome attention from older singles. As the night gets longer and the drunkenness get more and more unrestrained, the young, attractive, and less-seasoned partiers clear out around 3am and 4am. As the hipsters migrate to other bars, the dance floor gets replaced by creepy drunk singles. 

Solvi-revolver, Fanny, and I waited until 5am when Einar was to finish work. He had been working for one of the dungeon bars who close earlier than most other bars. We caught him outside sweeping up the broken glass of the night's causalities. Broken glass and other consumption related trash is common in Iceland. Icelandic city youth grow up without much stress placed on conservation and appreciation for the natural environment around them.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Niceland # 22 - Skriðuklaustur Culture Center

As per my residency invitation, I've been staying at the Skriðuklaustur Culture Center in the east of Iceland near Egilsstadir. It is incredibly isolated, located 50k from the nearest town, the property was built in a remote fjord. Framed by snow capped highlands and the sudden inland surge of thick fog, Iceland has a rare and haunting natural beauty. I can understand why the rural Icelanders believe in Evils and Fairies.

Writer Gunnar Gunnarsson, one of Iceland's Nobel prized writer built the property after returning from Denmark in the 1930's. His writing sold well in Europe, publishing over 40 novels, short stories, articles and translations. 

The property was donated to the Icelandic government when Gunnar moved back to Reykjavik. It was since been turned into a museum.

701 Egilsstadir
Tel.: 470-0840
Fax: 470-0849

Friday, July 2, 2010

Niceland # 21 - Icelandic Music

Hljómsveitin Varsjárbandalagið is an Icelandic klezmer band with an East Block, Cold War persona. Their performances are amazing, rousing dancing at each of their gigs. Their first album can be played here: I worked with the band on different designs and ideas for their new album. I used flowers print and screen print inspired color placement as references. They weren't used in the end, but the process was fun.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Photography - Water Series

From my travels around Iceland, putging together a series of photographs that focuses on the symbiosis between objects and space. I've been playing with the relationship between landscape and portraiture, and the converging of objects in landscapes.
Water Series, 2010