Wednesday, January 28, 2009

And Then My Thought Bubble Floated Away

I have been filling a sketchbook with quick illustrations that I like to call randoms. Here is a quick look at what I have so far. The book is just over a third of the way full. Just a warning, you might recognize a few recycled images.

Walking on a Different Planet

Looking back, there were definitely better spots to have shot these videos, but these are the spots where inspiration struck. Feel free to use your imagination though, as whatever you might be thinking could quite possibly exist just meters away from what you see here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I have been writing short essays (if you can call them essays) concerning some of the things that I've experienced and the thoughts that have been prominent in my head. I thought it might be good to share some of these thoughts. Here are a few excerpts from a few of these writings. It is obvious that they were written in the wake of their contents, as many of the ideas welcome debate. Nonetheless, they are simply accounts of some of the thoughts that have crossed my mind and have fueled aspects of my practice to this point.

From Balance and Beauty:

One of the predominant reasons that I chose to come to Iceland was the way Icelandic society interacts with its unique landscape. The Icelandic people use the geothermal heat that the earth has provided them to heat their homes, while using all the glacier rivers as a source for renewable hydropower. It was my initial thought that this wonderful little island was such a giver, providing its inhabitants with all that they need to live a renewable and potentially carbon free lifestyle.

It was on one of many ten minute walks home from the bus stop in Reykjavik that I realized my naivety. It was an unusually cold September night and although I was on the outskirts of the city, it was very dark. Rain was pouring down viciously. To be more precise, it was pouring sideways viciously. How it ever actually reached the ground was a mystery to me. Of course, accompanying this rain, and giving it its unusual trajectory, as well as a little extra sting when it hit the face, was a wild wind. The ten minute walk became somewhat of a journey. I longed for my flat that stood in the dark a few hundred meters away. While crookedly walking like an unapologetic alcoholic at a strange seventy degree angle thanks to the unwelcome aid of the wind, with half of my body soaked to the bone, I realized that this land does not only provide its inhabitants with resources, but it provides them also with obstacles.

Here I was, once again, realizing that every rose has a thorn, feeling like a child that just came to the realization that without death, there can be no life, and if there wasn’t asparagus, there couldn’t be ice cream. I feel like this occurrence happens all the time. And I am always surprised when it does...

...There is undoubtedly a comfort zone that plays into this as well. Knowing that my personal welfare does not rely on my direct interaction with the land, allows me to look at the land as an outsider and therefore appreciate the beauty in it.

From Human Space and the Human Condition:

The second I step off the path, my body and mindset change. I am no longer a human driving on a road or a person inside my home. I am an animal hiking around, experiencing my surroundings. I enjoy it, but I am not entirely comfortable...

...I had left designated human space; space where my path is always laid out in front of me with sidewalks, traffic lights, fences, handrails, or even stakes in the ground marking hiking trails. There were no longer signs assuring me that I belonged there; signs reminding me that others had been there and that it was safe...

...The potential intensity of the weather can turn human space into a kind of natural space, a natural space that we have merely built things on. Bad weather is nature’s way of reclaiming human space...

...This discussion also lends itself to a more personal topic; the way I spend my time during this grant period. Whenever I am in human space, particularly inside, I feel pressed to be ‘productive’. I get anxious and feel as though I am not accomplishing anything. However, whenever I am ‘in the nature,’ this pressure is entirely relieved. Perhaps existing within human space comes with a feeling of pressure to contribute to that space.

From Progress and Damage:

…A few sets of faint footprints in the snow, showed the way, when we were unsure of where the path was headed. The small river we occasionally walked along was getting warmer and eventually we saw steam up ahead. As we approached the steamy field we saw pools of bubbly water, some murky and uninviting, while others were a nice calm blue color, more inviting both in appearance and temperature...We were surprised to find that the rocky areas that appeared to be places to sit were nothing more than clumps of strange colored mud. As we tried to find comfortable positions in which to sit, we broke off pieces of earth and put deep footprints in the ground surrounding the pool as we walked around it surveying it for potential spots to rest. In addition to this destruction, the pool quickly turned a murky brownish purple as we stirred within it and I could not help but feel that I was destroying something and single handedly adding to the already staggering damage that humans have done to our planet. This seemingly natural concern, however, stirred an immediate debate in my mind.

For thousands of years, humans have developed technologies to make our lives easier and more entertaining. As a result of this progression, we have caused much damage to the earth on which we live. Now, people are constantly talking about living lives that are more eco friendly...A feeling of guilt comes along with this mindset. The type of guilt that makes me feel awful about interfering with a natural hot spring and makes me feel that I am adding to the problem. But within the term ‘natural hot spring’ lies an inherit problem. The fact that we see such wonder in an occurrence for being natural and the fact that I have been programmed to feel bad about disturbing them implies that we no longer view ourselves as natural. We have ‘progressed’ to the point where such things are other worldly. The desire to explore unique spaces, such as these hot springs, is entirely natural.Exploring a hot spring and ‘disturbing’ it is much more at the core and simplicity of human life than creating solar energy and wind turbines. Yet, I feel guilty about one and greatly support the other...

...We are doing our part if our children are playing on playgrounds built of recycled materials, but we are only adding to our destruction if they run around disturbing things that are natural and beautiful?

From Open Spaces:

…Firstly, the term openness itself gives an example as to what happens in the human mind as a result of its existence. Imagination. Open for interpretation. Icelandic culture is loaded with folklore including elves, trolls, and dozens of other creatures that exist outside of the human eye. Outside of human space...

...This space seems to be a reminder of a few key things; firstly, the size of the world and the insignificance of each individual and secondly, the difficulties of surviving in harsh environments and the necessity of closeness.

From The Purpose of the Pointless:

...A random encyclopedia of the unrecorded subconscious of humanity, belonging to people of all walks of life, unifying us, separating us, making us all stupid and making us all smart. In the same way that this explanation is ridiculous, our options are endless. That’s all.

Some Current Works in Progress

Much of my work here to date has taken the form of writings and sketches. Now that I live more permanently in Reykjavik, with an apartment of my own, I can focus on making these ideas come to life.

I posted a drawing of this idea quite some time ago and have been collecting items for this smaller version while I've been in Reykjavik. The original idea was for a much larger work, which is still a possibility, but as of now, this piece exists in all of its glory in the middle of my apartment.

It's hard to experience the environment in Iceland without getting the sense that it is alive. A simple concept, the idea is to give life to the rocks that make a wall that line the shore in Reykjavik. By putting trollish feet under rocks that appear to be wandering on to the pedestrian path, these 'creatures' speak to the life of the landscape, the obstacles that the environment can pose, as well as the many mythical creatures that exist in Icelandic culture, some of which turn to stone.

feet maquette


Moss wings concept

Lastly, the town of Skagastrond has expressed interest in a mural to be painted on this house in the town. I am currently trying to organize a meeting among the townspeople to discuss possibilities for the mural. Doing so has proven difficult so far, even though everyone seems very excited about the project. Hopefully, by posting this here, I will be further motivated to make it happen...

The Kreppa Claims the Icelandic Government

I feel a little bad about posting this directly after all the Jól stuff, but who knows when I'll post it if I don't do it now.

As you may know, I am living in Iceland during a very exciting time. The financial crisis hit Iceland in October, one month after my arrival as a result of it's inability to handle its recent prosperity. In a sense, Iceland became too big for its britches. As bad as this may sound, the other grantees and I were less than upset by the situation, as it doubled the amount of krona we received every month, making our lives much more comfortable.

The same cannot be said for many Icelanders. More and more people are losing their jobs and homes, while others are considering emigrating, not knowing what the future will hold. Before the new year, Icelanders held weekly protests outside of the house of parliament in Reykjavik demanding that their government take responsibility for the mistakes that they had made. When the government returned to work in the mid January, the protests became a daily occurrence, culminating in a protest complete with a blazing bonfire and clouds of tear gas on Tuesday January 20. A day which will be remembered by all of you as the day we inaugurated our new president. I am just now realizing how incredible it is that I can say that I stopped watching the inauguration of President Obama to go downtown to join protesting Icelanders that would eventually succeed in overthrowing their government. I did return home, however, before the night got to out of control (unfortunately).

Then on Friday January 23, the Icelandic government called it quits, leaving everyone to wonder what will happen now...

Economics is not my forte. However, this Wikipedia explanation will give you all the information you could want, and more, concerning the Icelandic economic crisis, or the kreppa, as it is referred to here.