I, Alone

I just spent a lovely ten days with my parents and sister on their recent visit to Iceland. We got to do a fair amount of out-in-the-country-ing, a fair amount of just-normal-life-ing, a fair amount of errand-running, an awesome bit of horse riding, and I even got all three of them to go sea swimming with me, because they are heroes. (My dad in particular gets a shout out for swimming around the cove with me and making sure I didn’t have a panic attack when the Inferi seaweed started tickling my toes.) So as of today—National Day, as it happens—things are slowly returning back to normal here for me. Although ‘normal’ is actually not normal at all, as I now find myself in the midst of a real sumarfrí—summer vacation, that is—without a daily job or school assignments or any of that. (I’ll cope, I promise.)

Valdimar Thorlacius - Photo by Vilhelm, Vísir

Valdimar Thorlacius – Photo by Vilhelm, Vísir

So I’m going through my email and catching up on news and things that happened while I was basically off the Internet, and I’ve been pleased to see that a book of photography by Icelandic photographer Valdimar Thorlacius has been getting a fair amount of attention since it was released at the start of the month. This pleasure is twofold. On one hand, it is a beautiful book of photography on a fascinating subject: the daily lives of hermits in Iceland. On the other, I’m also excited because I translated the accompanying text—excerpted interviews with the photographed individuals—and did so over the course of a weekend. I had editing help, of course, but truly, this is the most extensive (and fastest) translation project that I’ve yet undertaken, made all the more interesting/complicated by the fact that the interview subjects were often talking about the daily circumstances or details of their childhoods on rural farms in Iceland (not a milieu that I’m super well-versed in yet) and also generally had rather roundabout/old-timey colloquial ways of expressing themselves. They are hermits, after all. So I learned a lot doing this translation, not just linguistically, but culturally and historically, too.

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Photo Update: Seaside Sculptures

I’m in the process of organizing all the photos which haven’t yet made it onto the blog, and am almost done. When sorting the other day, I found some great shots of the sculptures outside the Sigurjón Ólafsson Museum that I took a couple days before leaving Reykjavík. On that lovely May afternoon, Mark and I were hoping to see some sculpture outdoors, and since I remembered seeing what looked like a sculpture garden along Sæbraut, we took the bus over, only to find out that not only was the museum closed that day, but that the building that I had thought was an outdoor sculpture garden was actually a private home with tons of crazy, massive, amazing iron figures outside. (I would love to know the story with this house and the person who lives there.)

Anyhow, I’m looking forward to going back to the museum in the fall, but we got quite a nice little art infusion just walking around the perimeter of the neighbor’s house and checking out the tall wood and stone figures that the museum has installed on the grounds.

I’ve archived all of May’s photos on the photo blog here, but the sculpture ones are below.

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April Flashback: Off-Venue Artsiness, or: Sequences, Part II

Yesterday, I finally got around to starting my recap of the really amazing Sequences art festival that Mark and I went to in early April. It was getting to be a rather long post though, so we left off after I finished talking about some of the really amazing art that was part of the official Sequences lineup. But there’s more!

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April Flashback: Sequences VI, or: Getting Artsy in Reykjavík, Part 1

Every two years since 2006, Reykjavík has hosted the Sequences art festival, and we were lucky enough to be here during a festival year. Per the Sequences website,

The aim of the ten-day festival is to produce and present progressive visual art with special focus on time-based mediums, such as performance, sonic works, video and public interventions. An offspring of the dynamic art scene that thrives in Reykjavik, Sequences is the first art festival in Iceland to focus on visual art alone. New artistic directors are hired to reshape each edition of Sequences according to their vision, making it unique and different every time.

I’d like to say that I am so on-the-ball that I had been previously aware of Sequences and eagerly anticipating its arrival, but I hadn’t been. Rather, it came to my attention because Mark was asked to write a festival preview for The Reykjavík Grapevine. (On top of which I later got an email from a friend I hadn’t seen in quite a long time who was being sent to Reykjavík to cover the festival for an art publication she writes for. It’s not every day that someone sends you an email along the lines of “hey, I’m going to be in Reykjavík for work–let’s meet up!”)

It’s not perhaps timely anymore (as I’ve been moaning, I sort of fell behind with my of-the-moment documentation in April; there was a lot going on), but I recommend you check out Mark’s piece, as he was able to not only interview the festival curator, Markús Þór Andrésson, but also Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, whose ‘Self portraits from room 413,’ hung in the lobby of the Hotel Holt (where they were painted) during the festival.

One of Ragnar Kjartansson’s “Self Portraits from Room 413,” via Art Review

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This Is Not a Metaphor…But This Other One Totally Is

Although Mark and I have certainly not been suffering for cultural experiences here in Reykjavík, there are certain inherent limitations to which cultural activities we can participate in without speaking Icelandic. (We’ll leave music out of this conversation for now–a lot of Icelandic musicians sing in English, and even if they don’t, music is on one those forms of artistic expression in which linguistic clarity is frequently not the point.)

Performance-based art is difficult to see and understand in another language, though. Theater is generally out, for instance, and although we’ve actually been to a lot of movies lately–thanks to the recent European Film Festival (different from the Rekjavík International Film Festival) and a whole host of American movies of interest which have made their way to Iceland–foreign/non-English language films generally only have Icelandic subtitles. (The one main exception to this is that Icelandic movies and animated movies generally have two versions playing simultaneously at the theater–one in Icelandic and one in English, or with English subtitles.)

So what about dance performances, you ask? I’m glad that you asked. Because, after seeing ads all around town for the Icelandic Dance Company‘s piece “This is not a metaphor,” we went to see our first Icelandic dance performance at the end of November.

Now, the title “This is not a metaphor,” was compelling enough to me that I didn’t really do any further research on the performance. (Mark did, but I went into the whole thing blind.) It was a delightful, short piece with three dancers accompanied by a pianist on stage (playing a John Cage composition), and the whole thing was surprisingly narrative and very funny.

The “story” centered around two of the dancers–a man and a woman–dressed in simple, street-style clothes in neutral tones who were very seriously practicing a dance piece, only to be frequently interrupted by an enthusiastic girl (herself dressed in vibrant colors–lots of sequins and tulle) who, after watching them in adoration for a short time, keeps trying to insert herself between them. The pair was lithe and sophisticated, the girl was gangly and infantile. Their dance involved a lot of mirrored movements, modernized balletic motion, and body contact, and and the interloper–the literal third wheel–just kept getting in their way and trying to participate where she was clearly not wanted. There was also a legitimately funny bit in which the girl tried to act out a sequence that she watched the other two dancers perform with an inflatable orca whale pool toy.

Here’s a video preview of the piece from the ÍD website, as well as the company’s own description of the piece:

A straightforward and clear exploration of movement, time, space, and performance. A lighter perspective on dance than people are used to seeing, yet sensitive if not always sensual. A revisit to some of the major themes and art movements of the 20th century.

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Walking Around Skerjafjörður

I have a feeling that you all are going to get tired of looking at the views along the ocean path in Skerjafjörður long before I do. Skerjafjörður, by the way, is the name of the neighborhood that I live in, as well as the fjörd that spans from the neighboring town of Seltjarnarnes to that of Álftanes, where the President’s residence, Bessastaðir, is located. Our little corner of Reykjavík is situated right in the middle of the fjörd, and we’ve spent a not inconsiderable amount of time over the last month or so walking/running/wogging along the path in both directions.

The photos below (after the jump) were taken over multiple days and walks. I realize that in some cases I’ve taken pictures of the same fish shack or prospect, but these views seem to change so frequently and look so beautiful with different light, or at different times of day, or with different clouds, that I just can’t help myself.

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