Our show opens....
I'm writing to you later than usual today because today is the day I travel home. Right now I'm sitting at the airport (one of the most lovely ever) and waiting for my flight, which is currently delayed two hours. My guess is that we are delayed due to a huge storm coming our way but who knows really. I hear roads north and south of here (exactly where I was traveling last week at this time) are closing.
But I'm sure I'll make it out of here.... if not poorer because this well styled airport has a lot to resist. I'm totally chilling with some beet, carrot, and ginger juice for exactly 1 gajillion krona. And I am surprised I'm not being accosted with Christmas music, although when I transferred buses at the bus terminal, they had little girls caroling as you moved through the (not so big) building. Kinda cute- and they were decked out in their Reykjavik Excursions sweaters (jumpers) so we didn't question who sponsored them or where they came from.
The airport is about an hour from the city. You cross through desolate lava fields which are pretty cool- today they were snow covered, as we have been getting a good amount of snow over the past few days. It makes the city all the more charming.
Yesterday, I went downtown one last time finished up christmas shopping, finally had a famous Icelandic hot dog (because apparently it's what one should do while in Reykjavik) and after spilling weird sweet Icelandic hot sauce into my hair, I when and sat in my favorite coffee shop with my cappuccino (sprinkled with chocolate pieces) and lavender shortbread. I also ran into the grocery store one last time to prove I am brave (not really- I was buying chocolates for my housemates). I'd like to report that in the end, I maneuvered the store like a pro- so much that they started to speak Icelandic to me first rather than just jumping to English like the stupid American I am.
So not to bore you with the details, after finishing up with the day and vowing to get a good night's sleep, I turned in early. I was interrupted though by my housemates so I checked out the hullabaloo and came to find that the Northern Lights were putting on quite a show last night. After pulling myself together and fussing with my camera, I went out and took some photos. It was impressive last night, but being without a larger tripod and with my hair wet from the shower, I ended up shivering so much that I had to go in. Regardless, what a way to go out!
The holidays are here and of course, I'm going to take some time to celebrate, but there is also a lot to reflect on, which I hope to do in the next few weeks. I will blog so I hope you wish to follow me however I don't think it will be on a daily basis (maybe weekly).
For now, I bid my housemates, fellow artists, and friends adieu. For more information on them (not everyone have websites but I did what I could to find an online presence on them),
There's doing figural art work and there is using the figure in art work. I, at one time, created figural art work but I now consider my work as using the figure in/as art work. I do this not to sensationalize or titillate, despite how some outside the art world have thought about my work. (In fact, I don't think I'm at all controversial or ever have been).
I use the figure as an exploration of Self- the same investigation I was making when I created figural art work, except I made so much of itand still struggled to create the appropriate conversation around it. In the end and what encouraged me to rethink my approach is that the figure, no matter what movement or gesture I tried to use, still felt like a passive object that one applies marks to or around.
This hardly felt fitting. I spent many years building my work from the innocent or fallen archetype to the empowered. And yet it seems cliche for me, as I sit and type this. Believe me, I had the best of intentions. I have always told students, ALWAYS, that one needs to make everything they have made (the good, the bad, and the ugly) in order to know how to make what one makes today. I love when they say it back to me. But I digress…
I am winding down my time here- all too fast- and I just told someone that I wish I had made more. I'm not sure why I decided to learn new software. I'm not sure how my job took up so much time- but again, I know I would not be here without the support from it. All in all, there is no going backwards. Only forwards.
But I do think about the why of my work. I think what it all boils down to is how uncomfortable i am in my own skin. I mean, I know I have strengths but I am conditioned to dwell on my weaknesses. This is most likely because of my own making, but I don't discredit that this may very well be a symptom of gender.
I always liked to think that I rose up beyond the conditions of gender, asking the larger questions. But I come to realize that it is not just the questions we ask but also how we respond, isn't it? The two pieces I am showing in the our exhibition next week are entirely about response. When I was thinking about them last night, I realize I am working with a gendered response and these works are entirely back to square one- the fallen archetype. The one who feels without her own agency. The one who's thoughts are disconnected from her actions. One who suppresses rather advocates.
It's somewhat frustrating but obviously a pattern of mine. Doesn't the saying always go, "we repeat things until we learn from them?"
I had a critique last year with an artist- quite a positive one. I had made a piece (or exercise) that came from pure joy. It felt so different and he noted to try to work from different access points. I do think about that often however I begin to think that in order to "widen the lens" one must understand the source. Thoroughly.
My life swings between moments of empowerment dashed by crippling insecurity. Is this something I admit to on the internet? I guess to make my point this is exactly what I do. Let's rattle off all the phrases that women hear: Lean in; Personal is Political; "A woman is like a tea bag—you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water." (Eleanor Roosevelt); "I'm tough, I'm ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay." (Madonna). You'll love to know that I was reminded of those last two quotes from Bazaar magazine's article entitled "30 Empowering Quotes from Women Who Dare."
I'm so sick of hearing stuff like this. Women are so over-saturated with these messages of empowerment and strength that we say we hear it, we give it a "like" on social media yet we (the collective we) don't change the game. We continue to cope with a horribly skewed playing field (2016 Presidential Election, anyone?). We are "making it in a man's world” (gag) and while girls are being encouraged to love themselves for who they are (and I think this is great), there still is a huge current to swim against to get the same things as some others.
I'm almost angry that I have chosen to work from a place that reinforces a lack of power- Instead of "leaning in," one should sit this one out. But this is a frustrating reality of our gender and perhaps I grapple with wanting to be an outspoken, articulate warrior however remain authentic to my own experience. Perhaps this is a different kind of warrior, who knows.
As I reread what I have written here, I know that perhaps it is important to voice the conditions of gendered response. How many other women exist this way? Just a short few months ago, I swam in my confidence and possibility. Now, this moderately accomplished woman, can hardly advocate for the simplest of requests. Why the change? Perhaps it is because I had a huge life change this year and life changes always stir up questions of our self image but I tend to also question, are there other factors here?
As the residency comes to a close, we all have started to think about the title of our exhibition. Because many of us have different working and sleeping schedules, we tend to communicate via a Facebook closed group page. I know, its funny, considering we live in such close quarters.
It seems a few of us really like using the word, "eternize," as our title, which was yesterday's word of the day. The definition is "cause to live or last forever." I realize that a residency is incredibly special- not just for the place it is but for the gift of time it gives one to devote to their studio practice. This time in Iceland is finite but the impact will be ongoing... a cause to last forever. Anyway, while I don't know at this moment that this will be what the name of the show will be, I liked thinking about what this all is.
I also was downtown for a good part of yesterday to run some errands. I had lunch at the falafel shop and read the "Iceland Grapevine," which is a weekly free paper that discusses culture and current events. I read a book review for "Land of Love and Ruin" by Oddný Eir. I liked what I read so much that I wanted to buy the book to read on the plane however I didn't find it at the bookstore. When I looked it up on Amazon, it has some questionable reviews but it seems its because people expected a linear narrative. I'm ok with it not having one... I mean, it is endorsed by Bjork, for god's sake.
The review was peppered with quotes from the book- one reading "Surely beauty must be in motion. Or be motion." This really struck me, as I have replaced the word beauty with art. Not only does a residency eternize the art practice but it creates/is the motion that Eir suggests.
I sometimes really struggle feeling good about working across so many disciplines/mediums. I judge myself harshly as if it implies my practice lacks discipline. I've done that here over and over again as I have been bumbling through learning this video software. My studio is next to another artist who I tease because I never see her unless I catch her when she comes out to eat. She must have piles and piles of work while I know I have spent piles and piles of time trying to figure out Adobe Premiere.
I do try to come to terms with dumping my small and precious time into learning software instead of doing what I know. That quote I came across I am trying to hold onto as a validation- that perhaps learning something new and coming out of this residency with a few minutes of video is a practice in motion.
I also can't neglect the environment of the country. Yule Lads and Christmas Cat aside, I am still so moved by the glaciers. This breaking off and floating away as a concept is still so striking to me- the ice caps as this crust that covers over geothermal activity, violent even, quietly break away with environmental pressure. The relationship brittle.
For more info about the book I read about, check out this link: https://www.amazon.com/Land-Love-Ruins-Oddn%C3%BD-Eir/dp/1632060728/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1482246870&sr=8-1&keywords=land+of+love+and+ruins
On a lighter note, if you want to know what Yule Lad you are, you can take this quiz.
I am Stekkjarstaur
English translation: Sheep-Pen Clod. This is the first Yule Lad to come, on 12 December. He likes to harass sheep but is slightly impaired due to his peg legs.
Yesterday we had Icelandic Christmas Dinner which the staff of SIM came to the residence and cooked for us. It was so nice, especially since the group of residents have become a pseudo-family. Doing a few residencies now, I really value this because people really make all the difference in these situations. This group is particularly special.
So the menu for the evening was:
Hangikjöt (smoked lamb)
Uppstúf (similar to bechamel sauce + potatoes)
Laufabrauð (leaf bread)
Malt & Appelsín (drink)
Coffee and Icelandic chocolate
Needless to say, it was all delicious. A number of us talked about our traditional Christmas meals from our own countries. I shared that my family is cooking ham this year and some of the residents asked if we would have turkey too. It seems the one protein at the Christmas table was surprising to them! Swedish Christmas is chock full of fish, mostly salmon and herring (pickled); Polish Christmas has a cabbage soup; Korean Christmas isn't too much of a big deal because New Year's is what they celebrate; Japanese Christmas is lots of little foods (it was hard to hear her at the table because of all the chatter) but New Years is also the bigger deal there; Scottish Christmas seemed to be pretty straight forward like ours, having turkey.
I leave prior to Christmas but the rest of the residents will remain. They will be celebrating Swedish and Polish Christmas on Christmas Eve- traditionally the bigger event of the season for them. The Swedish and Polish residents will be cooking dinner. There have been beets pickling on the counter all week. The next day the Americans are cooking. I hear there will be homemade pecan pie (YUM). They decided to not work on the holiday and borrow the projector from the SIM office and project Christmas movies that day. It all sounds lovely.
I should also note, we do have a Christmas tree here. And advent candles so the residence has been quite festive throughout the month.
On the homefront, I hear that Kiki has declared a reign of terror on Christmas. From how it is described, I expect to see a Charlie Brown tree from once a beautiful spruce. Angels better watch their back!
If you haven't already noticed, I tend to write these posts every morning about the previous day. So this morning, which is December 19, Reykjavik has snow on the ground! Despite what one might assume about Iceland, this month of December has been full of wind and rain, but no snow (although we can see it far in the distance). Just in time for our Icelandic Christmas dinner that is happening this evening at the residence! The SIM staff will be taking over the kitchen to make us the true Icelandic meal- I'll have more to report on that tomorrow.
Today's post is broken into a few fragments as I re-group from our trip and look at wrapping up the residency.
Now for yesterday's thoughts- Being out on the road the past few days, I had a ton of grading to wrap up and post finals. I did spend a lot of the day doing that however I did take advantage of the beautiful light coming through my room to re-shoot some footage that I had been frustrated with prior to leaving for the coast.
Do you know what that means? I'm taking another stab at the last morse code piece with a slightly differently approach. What a difference a few days make. And what seems completely ridiculous is that the resolution to some of my major frustrations was the quality of the imagery. So I'm re-shooting it (and re-shooting it because even yesterday wasn't quite right). Funny how the most obvious of solutions are not obvious at all.
But what I am also contemplating is their life beyond youtube. I'm now considering what their life would be as installed in a gallery. It seemed to be another piece of the puzzle that I had not been thinking about and now I feel I should be so that is on the docket today. Plus it begins to start to feel more like something that I might make and not this somewhat left field "now I use video" nonsense.
We'll see what happens.
Thoughts on Glaciers
I hadn't mentioned what happened when we pulled into our second lagoon (Jökulsárlón of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier) the other day. Friday was an utterly overwhelming day. I mean, so was Thursday and Saturday, but Friday we visited glaciers in probably the most perfect weather ever. I mean it was damn cold but the light was stunning.
We talked a little bit in the car about what actually is a glacier. Have you really thought about it before? I mean I have always just been like "it's beautiful chunks of floating ice" and while that is true, there is something far more poetic about them.
We were at the largest ice cap in Iceland, Vatnajökull (which is a national park of the same name), which covers 8300 kilometers. So we started to discuss that the ice cap rests above volcanos (the largest being Grímsvötn in that region) and in the depths under the ice is geothermal activity cause by the volcano. It's mind boggling to think about the coldness of this ice and the stirring heat that it covers. Over a gajillion years (accurate measurement), the moisture freezes and heats up and freezes over and over again which causes what we see in glaciers. Then, from time to time, volcanic eruptions happen to release pressure the ice caps create.
We saw two different types of ice- bright blue pieces and shimmering clear pieces. The pieces that break away from the glacier and float in the lagoon is a process called 'calving.' The blue pieces are the oldest and have that color due to its density. This is many, many years of accumulation which results in extremely compacted crystalline structure where all colors of light pass through the ice, except for blue, leaving it the color we see. The clear pieces, well, they are the babies of the group.
This is a pretty generalized explanation. If you want more on glaciers, click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glacier
Now, I had to research some of that for you so I could explain it properly. When we arrived on Friday, I wasn't thinking of any of that (or at least with any amount of depth). At risk of sounding melodramatic, we got the first glimpse of the glacier calves and my eyes welled up. Then we pull around to the lagoon and my eyes bubbled over with tears and to my surprise, I just started to cry and cry. I have no idea how or why it happened like that. I would have thought I could control myself over a bunch of floating ice in a lagoon.
But think of it, it has formed over a thousand years. It's what we based our metaphors on- and oddly correlates with the videos I've been making here- the composure and stillness on the outside that covers over the intensity of turmoil on the inside. And these pieces break off, calves, as children of the glacier and cast away into the water to melt and fall away forever. And with climate change as a reality, it falls away without hope.
I feel as though I watched these pieces of ice, as beautiful as they are, as these tragic figures in their swan song. That, is overwhelming.
I completely get that I am personifying an inanimate object (but as artists don't we do that sometimes anyway).
I wanted to write a bit more today but I'm afraid this took much longer than anticipated so I need to move along. More tomorrow, including a report on Icelandic dinner, menu and all!
I wrote a list yesterday. I live by lists really. They keep me on track and focused. On my list was:
- finish editing sound
- assess color on video
- confirm imagery for next project
- test shoot imagery
- record morse
- go outside
That's in no particular order. So I did some editing and then went outside HAARRDDDD yesterday. I walked to the lighthouse, which I thought was close by but it was more than an hour's walk along the shoreline. It was a beautiful day and I took a ton of photographs along the way- some for work, some for play. After reaching the lighthouse, snapping pics, I found the wind picked up to I'd better head back.
Talk about resistance training. Walking against the wind was really tough. Then it also started to rain. Basically the last bit of my walk was rather miserable. As I neared the apartment, a facebook post came in from the program manager telling us that tonight is going to be a big night for the Northern Lights. Soon after someone suggested we go to the lighthouse to view them.
I was so tired that I nearly wanted to die inside thinking about walking back to the lighthouse after such a long and tiring day. But damnit, I wanted to see this, so I sucked it up and joined the group to walk to the lighthouse. Again. And it was warm and hardly windy.
We began to see the "show" during the walk out but once we arrive there, it was insane! They are almost ghosty and weird. I'm not sure why I thought they were a bit faster moving but they aren't. They hang there and grow in intensity and maybe morph their shape a bit then fade out. Honestly, taking photographs of them is far more satisfying than seeing them because if you do long exposure, it pulls in more of their shape. (Listen to me talking like I know my camera. The reality is, a kind resident banged out a few settings for me to get semi-successful shots. Although I was on a tripod, my images were pretty fuzzy. I think others had far more success than I... but honestly, I'm still insanely jazzed with what I got).
So this is my post today. Sure, I did some good processing of thoughts while on my walk but I'll save that for another time. I have many, many photos to share. Enjoy!
(click the pics to go forward- it's a gallery of images)
Well, up with the sun today... which is a bummer because I thought I might be moving beyond the jet lag.
Yesterday, I spent locked away in my studio so unfortunately, I don't have a ton of "Heather as the stupid American" musings to report. So overall, that is good for me, since thus far, I've tried to give all my money away. Don't worry, that can change as I am expecting to get out of the house today to 1. clear my head; 2. find cats; 3. find some fabric; 4. be in sun (in that order). Reykjavik is known to be overrun with cats- my fellow residents have attested to that. Here's to many new friends!
Getting the studio off the ground has taken a direction I had not expected. I have a very small studio- which is fine, because I don't anticipate hands on 'making' to happen. Getting adjusted after almost 6 months in my new job and having thought about "what I would do if I had time" nearly that entire time, creates a ton of pressure as to what I would do once I got here. So needless to say, I felt a bit stifled. But I went through my sketchbook, which is chock full of ramblings, and I latched onto something I wrote in the margins back in October- morse code.
Let's make one thing clear, this past year, I committed to using my body as a measure when considering the nature of 'longing.' There is love, alienation, coping, and possible reconciliation. I have been investigating operations on how the body is measured, how the act exemplifies emotional content, and how I can actualize the internal and ephemeral cognitive nature of our 'human-ness.'
In months prior to this, I listed off different 'forms of measurement'- such as weight, length, volume, distance- in my sketchbook and have used the body to respond and create 'actualized longing.' Listed as an option of measure in my sketchbook was harmonic analysis. Yeah, I didn't know what that was either but here is the definition: a branch of mathematics concerned with the representation of functions or signals as the superposition of basic waves (thanks, wikipedia).
So that is about as exciting to me as a wet noodle. I've never much cared for math so one can only imagine what great joy it would create for me in my studio practice, but I have always told my students that never throw anything away in the sketchbook. One never knows what will be useful later. With a little arrow next to harmonic analysis directed me to the related concept- morse code. The little bit I have researched- we can thank harmonic analysis for telecommunications and space exploration. It led me to think about the alienation longing creates- a communication from afar; maybe heard, maybe not; maybe reciprocated, maybe not. When thinking of morse code, I sink right into thinking about ships lost at sea clicking away 'S.O.S.' hoping that someone heard them.... and I think of how we often can feel lost and we try and communicate, longing to be heard. (Cue Bowie's Space Oddity)
Fun fact: Samuel F. B. Morse, creator of Morse code, was an American painter, living from 1791- 1872. I never knew that!
I spent an entire day sorting this out into a little video sketch (below). Keep in mind, I am not at all a video artist but it seems the most appropriate method to flush this out at this time. On deck today is to work on phrases that will eventually string into a grouping visual poetic phrases or gestures, along this idea.
The big news is that I have corrected the "fun milk" issue and with few scars in the process. Yesterday's transgressions would be around money. I don't know why I have such a mental block about that. So while at the grocery store, I gave the guy what would be equilvalent to $20 for a $2 liter of milk. The woman behind me nearly rolled her eyes out of her head. In a related story, I spent $60 on something that I though was $10- Merry Christmas, Merissa! (I will be eating my errors with the family gift spending limit).
But onto observations around town- I woke up with the sun yesterday, which means I woke up around 10am. I did much better today and I am writing this to you in the pitch black of morning (up at 8am)! Talking with some of my fellow residents who have been here the past month, they urged, that if you are struggling with the dark, to go out and walk while the sun is out, which is what I did yesterday. I came to find that I am not that far from the neighborhood I came to know the last time I was here. Within about a 20 minute walk, I found my favorite coffee shop bookstore and had a lovely little cappuccino and lavender shortbread.
This reminded me a museum was close by and being a resident of SIM, I had free entrance. Lucky me because I happened upon a Yoko Ono show. It wasn't huge but a substantial part of the main galleries and presented both old and new work. A huge part of all her work is the participatory nature of it. I spent the afternoon putting back together broken china plates, writing on the wall about my mom, nailing into panel, and adding my wish to her wish tree. I did sit by the phone a while hoping she would call (yes, she calls into the exhibition from time to time- I even picked up the receiver to make sure it worked). Finally, I sat in front of "Cut Piece" for a while and took it in. It's just one of my favorite pieces ever. She did have a number of Fluxus scripts however they were in Icelandic... considering that I am brain dead with the money, I wasn't about to take on the language. I failed to sit and translate each one however the one pictured here translates to: Watching the sunset, Feel the Earth move.
I ended my walk with eating at The Laundromat (somewhat not as great as I remembered)- and a beautiful walk in the downtown. It is so lovely to see Reykjavik all decked out in lights with Christmas music piped into the streets and ice skating in the center of town. With that, I walked back to the apartment and rambled in my sketchbook. To be quite honest, I have been struggling a bit getting the studio practice off the ground. I'm trying to not fret about it, as I know I'm adjusting. It's been tough to turn off school responsibility and switch my headspace over to getting to work. New space, new stuff, and its against the rules to knock any holes in the walls. ;) haha- I did that already... moving on...
(click the pics to go forward- it's a gallery of images)
After a flight that seemed to be incredibly quick and last forever, I arrived in Reykjavik during the early morning of December 3. It seemed very much like the middle of the night- due to my body clock registering as 3:30am but also due to the lack of a sunrise while I was driven through the city at 8:30am to my final destination, SIM Residency. Below is a pic, as the driver wizzed by it heading into downtown, of the infamous Hallgrímskirkja Church that is on every postcard for Reykjavik.
I finally got some shut-eye once arriving at the apartment, finding my room and settling in. I woke up later to realize that I had slept through half of the day's daylight and urgently got myself together to go out and find groceries while it was still daylight (as I had found street signs hard to read in the night- perhaps because of my bleary, tired eyes, or maybe because they are just simply hard to read). I went to the Bonus market where I found the city folk to be much different than the Skagastrond folks I encountered a few years ago when I did a residency at the north end of the island. I was literally pushed through the store by folks behind shopping carts. They don't stop for you as you try and decipher food labels and as a result, I bought what I now find out to be translated as "fun milk"- which is a very disgustingly sweet and thin version of milk. Needless to say, I will go back to the store to buy different milk- and hopefully not form a version of grocery shopping PTSD.
Today- I am settling into the studio and flushing out some goals for the upcoming few weeks here- while also trying to disconnect from answering work emails or being tied to watching cat videos all day long. Sidenote: there is a shirt at the nearby Aurora Borealis Museum that is decked out with cats floating in a sky of Northern Lights. Am I that girl?
Ending with some shots taken around the 'hood (click the pics to go forward- it's a gallery of images)...