reykjavik

december 20, 2017

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.

Book Review in the Grapevine

Book Review in the Grapevine

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.
https://www.buzzfeed.com/lauragallant/which-icelandic-yule-lad-are-you-most-like?utm_term=.se4vNRaAWl#.avgqQdgK1w

CHRISTMAS CAT!

CHRISTMAS CAT!

 

 

 

december 13

A quick update to yesterday- While I spent most of my day grading, I did cap the evening off with a truly Icelandic experience... going to the outdoor pool.  Pools are a very big thing here and are open year round.  It seems like it is where everyone goes to just meet, hang out and talk.  Another resident and I agreed we would go together on day one (or so, but who's counting).  

 view from poolside

 view from poolside

The pools are geothermal so they are heated and around the perimeter are "hot pots" which are hot tubs heated to set temperatures.  While I loved being in the hottest one, my friend needed to moved to the next one down.  I eventually did too and we spent the evening discussing foreign languages and places to visit next.  We befriended an Icelander who was hilarious and great to have in the conversation mix.  Conclusion: we are going back!  Soon!

PS. One does not take their towel outside.  One dashes from the locker room to the desired pool or hot pot and jumps in.  It's a cold dash but I came to find you don't need it after time in the water.

As a break from grading yesterday, I decided to write a bit more about drawing.


A definition on drawing:

My recent performative work really grew out of the act of drawing and my early work in my studies that responded to the body through adornment.  

I view drawing as an act of mark-making and anyone who has ever taken a class with me knows that I value the power of the mark.  Three years ago I began to make drawings based on body proportions and measurements.  I considered them figural works, although not obviously the figure as we know it.  I had grown tired of depicting the figure with marks applied to its image.  I grew to feel that the overall imagery seemed disconnected- that the figure was still a passive object to which the artist applied marks to and around.

These newer works were meant to be more psychological and ontological.  They embraced error and the interdependence of the artist to drawing.  The artist creates the mark, intentionally, methodically while the drawing expresses the narrative.  While the drawings became more satisfying to make and felt less objectifying of the figure, the thing that emerged as most important was how it felt to make these works.

making a drawing

making a drawing

The ACT of making the drawing I noticed to be physical.  I had the same feeling creating a drawing as I did after a class of yoga.  It either cleared my head or drew attention to parts of my body I hadn't thought about in a while.  While this was invigorating, I soon grew bored of working on paper, not matter how many different ways I thought about making marks that reference the body.  

It grew into more drawings that were based on the body proportion while also involving the body.  And then there were drawings that happened just on the body.  This further grew into sculptural work- which also is quite physical but one doesn't lose oneself in a sculpture like they do a drawing (or knitting for that matter).  If my wrists weren't such a mess, I'd knit night and day.

Last winter, I made a piece that was a simple object oriented around the body.  It was rope and it used the same proportions as my circle drawings but the rope came to mean so much more.  Length of my Infinite Love is the length of my arm span but made from material that is meant to bring things together, secure them from falling apart, yet it can go too far and have a destructive quality to it.  I struggled with making other art pieces with this material that were as potent and meaningful as this one.  

the length of my infinite love

the length of my infinite love

In the Spring, I was challenged by my advanced drawing students to the "Obstruction" assignment.  This is an assignment I base off of Richard Linklater (more info here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0354575/)  to my advanced students- to each write a "rule" to consider when remaking what you consider your masterpiece.   I worked with the Length of my Infinite Love and if I remember correctly, I had to 1. use a personal item, 2. no circles, 3. no cats, and 4. use watercolor (the one that threw me most for a loop).  It wasn't a great piece (a sandbag made from a mattress casing hung from 2 ropes, watercolored) but it opened the door to a small performance I did carrying seven 3 pound weights around my neck.  The piece ended up as The Weight of These Decisions.  Three pounds is the weight of the average human brain and I wanted to mark the physicality of one's decisions- emotions that we feel in our body and know as real.  Seven of these weights represent a finite amount of time around these decisions.

the weight of these decisions

the weight of these decisions

 

While THIS wasn't a great performance, THIS was a great drawing.  This is what I wanted drawing to tackle for me- authenticity.  Why draw about something when you can draw with and on it?  I wanted a visceral connection to the work.  And this is very different than drawing ON my body a few years back.  The marks are felt.  The weight is carried.  The message is engrained.

Drawing is a vast modality.  It no longer needs to be matted and framed on the wall.  For me, my experiences can be recorded in the skin of my body, using that as my medium.  And our life is carried in that body; we express our individuality in our body, why not use our body as the source, medium, and product.  

 

december 9

I wrote a list yesterday.  I live by lists really.  They keep me on track and focused.  On my list was:

  1. finish editing sound
  2. assess color on video
  3. confirm imagery for next project
  4. test shoot imagery
  5. record morse
  6. go outside
along the shoreline

along the shoreline

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.  

aurora borealis

aurora borealis

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)

  

december 5

Well, up with the sun today... which is a bummer because I thought I might be moving beyond the jet lag.  

view from the kitchen, this morning

view from the kitchen, this morning

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.  

 

 

december 2-3: upon arrival

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.

Hallgrímskirkja

Hallgrímskirkja

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)...