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!