Posted by: jeanne | March 23, 2013

north iceland residency, more nuances

this is the fourth post in this series.  the previous post is here.  see the first one and the second ones here.

i sent off queries to the four residencies i’m considering in the north of iceland.  i asked them just how full they were, and when they filled up, and how they chose their residents.

i’ve heard back from two of the four residencies.  by the way, i’m very happy that i can turn my curiosity into information for other people who want to go on residencies.  i used not ask these questions, because as a lowly residence applicant, there’s not much room for being picky, so my reasoning used to go.  but give me a blog and all of a sudden i’m an investigative travel reporter.

at the moment, listhus in olafsfjordur is waiting on two confirmations, but is otherwise full for this year.  they use an open call system, meaning you can apply when you feel like it, there’s no deadline.  but they like to settle the schedule four months in advance, especially for the summer.  in judging who to take, they look at the needs and expectations of the applicants, and ask a bunch of questions if they’re not sure.  it seems to me that they want to make sure the artist really needs to be precisely there at that particular residency.  i asked how they figured out whether an artist was serious, and evidently the first test is if the artist responds to the request for further information.  (well, i guess so.)  they examine the artist’s proposals to see if it fits in with the environment (for example, they would pass by someone who wanted to sit indoors and do technical writing about something unrelated, in order to take someone who wanted to make art about the light on the fjord).  as for how many applications they get, listhus has only been in operation for a year or two, so they’re still becoming known, and still treating every enquiry as a serious one.  even so, they had 36 applications the first year, and turned away almost half of the requests for various reasons.  this year there were almost 50 applications.  they’ve added an apartment, so now there are 5 rooms, which means 60 residencies a year, and out of the applications they’ve gotten, they’re still running at around 50% acceptance.  i can understand this.  you wouldn’t want to take anybody, you need a good mix, you need people who can deal with the particular demands of a residency away from home, there are all sorts of considerations.

gamli skoli on hrisey island has been a working residency since 2009, and fills up as the year goes on, because they take applications at any time and make their decision right away.  you can come for one month, or four, however much time you need, and you can be working indoors or out, during the day or all night long – as long as you’re productive and enjoying yourself, they’re happy.  they’ve been getting lots of applicants lately, so they’ve had to turn some down, which isn’t a bad place to be in (better than having not enough residents and having to take anybody (because there’s nothing worse when you’re isolated on a residency when the people around you are batshit crazy)).  they don’t care what your art is (which is refreshing to hear), because it really has nothing to do with it.  since everyone’s art is different (way different), whether they like your art or not has nothing to do with it.  they’re offering you an opportunity to make it, no matter what it is.  rather than letting people into the residency by the quality of their work, what counts is when you get your application in.  so, rule number one is, if it’s an open call, the early bird gets the residency.

at this point (march 2013), altho the rest of the year is still unfilled, july 2014 is already full at gamli skoli (which is when i want to go).  they sent me a grid showing availability, which i thought was very helpful.  all residencies keep this kind of scheduling grid (often in pencil).  they also mentioned, as did listhus, that people cancel, even if they’ve paid a deposit, so there is always a waiting list, and you can ask to be put on it for a last minute residency opportunity.

this is more practical for local artists.  when i was on residency in kerry, when someone didn’t show up, or did a runner back to civilization, they would call an irish artist who would then just pack her stuff in the car and toodle on over the mountians to occupy the cottage for a week or two, until the next residency period.

herhusid, in siglufjordur, is the residence that is only a single space in a cottage.  it’s for single artists or couples, or maybe small teams.  they run on a february 1st deadline, and get 100 applicants for 12 (24) residencies.  this means they’re turning away 3/4 to 7/8 of the applications out of necessity, not just because the proposals might be unworthy.  so it’s far more competitive.

and even tho the odds are against me getting a residency in herhusid, the landscape there is calling to me loudly, especially the uninhabited valley hedinsfjordur between siglufjordur and olafsfjordur.  i’ve been reading hilariously translated icelandic about the history of this valley.  here’s a paragraph about an avalanche:

As can be seen clearly signals that a lot of surging occurred south Skollaskál in February 1830. Rock and soil steyptist across town Ráeyri. The locals ran away and björguðust except an old woman who went to retrieve their cats and became a crawl.

here’s someone’s blog post about travelling around in hedinsfjordur.  and a hiking/running report.  lots of videos.   webcams.  here’s an exploration of the area.

however, no matter the residency, i will have good maps and hiking shoes.

yay i finally found largescale maps 1:50,000 of iceland that go back to world war 2.  they’ll show the old roads.  for hiking.

for my purposes, june, july, and august are the months i’m interested in.  i want the midnight sun, and i want the weather to be fair.  (when i was in ireland, as close as i could get to midnight sun was darkness from 11 pm – 3 am, and for fair weather, it might be better in september, but it might well rain all fecking summer.   you take your chances year to year.)  in north iceland, june is likely to be the cooler month or late evenings, and has the solstice right in the middle of it, and maybe there’re iceberglets in june, i have no clue.  i do know there’s snow predicted for this easter, and that part of the country just had an avalanche that closed the main road.

i’m still talking by message and email to the various residencies, so i’ll post more later.  of course i have been neglecting my regular work to become obsessed on this topic, but that’s how i roll.

see the next post here.

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