Posted by: jeanne | June 22, 2013

iceland countdown begins

it’s just over a year until i go to iceland, and this is how i’m preparing at this stage. i’ve gotten myself a pair of waterproof boots, i’ve rewaterproofed my (sister’s) wax jacket, i’ve got a travel towel, and a sleeping bag. i’ve got some high-tech long underwear. i’ve got my suitcase and backpack.

so, i’m ready to go.


i’m going to be making a book to take with me and donate to the residency. this book will have all the maps and hiking routes and bits and pieces of information i’m collecting at this point. i’ve got a stack of printouts on my desk that i will be binding up into a travel book. being an artist, i’ll be making this book myself, so i’m in the middle of learning how to make paper, and will eventually learn to bind it myself as well. i’ll be using transfer techniques to put the maps on my handmade paper, but we’ll get to that later as well. right now i’m still assembling materials. it may happen that i make my travel journal as well, or i might just put everything down on my blog and have that stand as my travel journal.

i’m going to be making a book there as well, and have sourced some nice leather for the cover, as well as having found a bookbinding shop in reykjavik. i’m doing the research to see what icelandic plants will make good paper, and am preparing a more portable papermaking mould/deckle to take with me.

i’m learning icelandic. it’s a bit of a joke, but i’m seriously studying. i’m working thru a beginner’s grammar, and running n4 i beinni in the background while i am on my computer. that way i’m always listening to people speaking in the background, and sometimes i’m looking at the channel so i can read along with the ads. i’ve got an icelandic author on my facebook feed, and every time he posts i copy it over into google translate. unfortunately, google translate makes spaghetti out of icelandic-to-english, so it’s almost useless for finding the meaning of what i’m reading. but it does have the handy audio feature, where i can get the mechanical man to read it to me aloud. and the only reason this is worthwhile is because i can hear how to pronounce “ae” and “ei” properly (eye and ay). if i put a period after every word, the voice will read it to me at a speed i can almost keep up with, and if i copy and paste, i can get the machine to repeat the same word ten times, and by the end of it i can almost say it along with the machine. it’s a great help, as long as i balance it with actual speech from the tv station. and i’ve got to say, this is a really good way to pick up the language. for me, that is. it’s the same method i’ve always used to learn a piece of music. eternoplay.

i’ve been studying about the place i’ll be staying. i’ll be in olafsfjordur for a month, in july of next year. so i have found a webcam, and a weather station, a tide table, the iceland met office, and a currency converter, and constantly make use of them. right now, the solstice (happy summer!) and full moon, it is always light in iceland, and has been for awhile now. people are out and about way late, there are families fishing on the docks at midnight. since march, when i decided on this residency, i’ve been watching the town daily. i’ve seen the snow melt and the days lengthen and everything turn green. i hope they don’t think i’m stalking them, but i feel very attached to the town already. i’ve learned the landscape of the town, i’ve studied the maps, topological, areal, historical. i’ve read everything i could find on the internet about it, about the area. and there are huge enormous holes in my knowledge because i’m getting it from the internet. for example, i have no idea what the town looks like from a different angle than the webcam. and google translate often renders the name of the town as ‘staircase’ (someone please tell me how olaf’s fjord could mean stairs).

i’m also working on developing a public art project. i’ve been making contacts with specialists across iceland, talking about supplies and logistics and feasibility. everything about any project i do has to be laid out in advance, so i’m in the beginning stages of figuring out what i could do. one of the previous posts is a casual proposal for a project, and it’s pretty much been superseded by a recent round of discussions between me and the head of the residency program there. first i thought of putting up a mural, but they’re doing that at the moment.

then i thought of doing something with plants, because i love working with plants in my art, and have designed gardens before. but there are issues. one of them is that iceland is at the edge of the arctic and only certain things will grow in the short, sharp summer (and come back the next year). i originally thought of a wildflower field, designed to be seen from the webcam and making some sort of form celebrating the town and place. but given the conditions, which would make successful germination and growth problematic, and the fact that i will be there at the entirely wrong time for starting a wildflower garden, it might be too much trouble to do something of this kind.

for the second version of a public art piece, the wonderful residency program director is going way past the job description to talk to people about my proposed project. in order to do anything, i’m going to have to arrange all sorts of things with the city planners, for instance, and somebody’s property is going to have to be used, and i’m going to need volunteers to help, and even some company’s donation of supplies and logistical support. so much more goes into public art than just an artist with a brush.

one of these contacts pointed out the difficulty of a garden project, and suggested rocks instead of seeds. they’ve just finished building a tunnel down the street from the town, and there’s lots of rock available, so why not use that? i thought about it for a moment, disappointed that a huge reverse crop circle wouldn’t be feasible. but then i saw the possibilities. iceland is one of those places, like ireland, where fairies aren’t just fairytales. fairies are real, i have experience of them myself, and have developed all sorts of private rituals in order to acknowledge their presence and help/interference (especially on this solstice full moon night). one of these days i must write down a few of them and put them up as posts. like how to get things back when the fairies have…borrowed them.

anyway, this immediately brought up a related idea. people build houses for fairies in iceland. they live in rocks. it might not be offensive to build some fairy houses from some of these tunnel rocks. i would want to involve someone who can communicate with fairies in any project of this kind, because you don’t want to mess around with fairies if you don’t know what you’re doing. but if it wasn’t a horrible idea, we could build a housing estate for the fairies as a public art project. we could build a replica of the town, with streets and houses (flagstones and big square rocks), or we could design a small fairy village, with painted rocks, little wildflower gardens around each one, a few street signs. velkomið að huldufólks fjallið byggðar! (thanks google translate).

i’m also working on my novel. the whole reason i’m going to iceland is because i’m writing about antarctica after the ice has gone, and iceland is where i need to go to see what i’m writing about. it’s as close as i can get to my science fiction antarctica, and in my mind it is the place itself. but the antarctica part of this novel isn’t until a ways further down the plot structure, and i have not written the preceding chapters as fast as i need to in order to be at the right place when next year rolls around. so i have a lot of writing to do in order to be ready to go. and here i am writing a blog post instead. that’s a factor, where i let the planning of my trip take my attention away from writing my story.

all of these things have to be taken care of before i go, and i have just a few days over a year to prepare. but i figured i’d set down this part of it as a benchmark.


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