In September 2014 I had the possibility to spend 10 days in Iceland as a part of my master programme "New Audiences and Innovative Practice." This experience was very meaningful for me, since it was something I had never experienced before. Together with many other students and teachers from around the world we spend most of the time in a small fisherman village called Stykkishólmur. The town is situated in the western part of Iceland, to the north of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. The scenery was just amazing, and I was really charmed by this small, but very friendly and open community.
During this 10-day intensive course we explored different ways of engaging with the local community, and at the end of the course there were around dozen music performances all around Stykkishólmur. Many of these performances were done together with the locals, such as children from the music school or people from the elderly home. I was involved in a project where we made a "short film" based on a legend about a hill situated nearby. I was introduced to this story by an Icelandic student. In a small group (altogether 7 people) we made a script, shot the film, made a music score and performed the piece in the white church which you can see in the picture above (a kind of alien-like shaped building.)
This small project was quite time-consuming and labore-intensive, but it was a really fun experience, and I enjoyed working together with all the creative and open-minded people, especially film-maker Chris Daniels. And, there's a nice sounding grand piano inside that church...
There was no shortage of stories to be found in the Stykkishólmur area. It seemed that every house, standing on those hills and resisting the merciless weather conditions, had a story to tell. One of the most interesting places to visit in the town is the Library of Water a long-term project by artist Roni Horn.
Besides glass columns that contain water collected from some of the major glaciers around Iceland, you can find there for example a book titled "Weather Reports You." The book is full of spoken testimonies from people living in the Stykkishólmur area, describing how the weather affects their everyday life. I was quite impressed to witness so many changes in the weather conditions even during one day.
There was also a bus excursion arranged during this course, the bus ride took us to some amazing spots mostly near the cost. The bus tour guide was telling with humor some stories about trolls and other other-worldly creatures that are believed to inhabit these areas. Regardless of whether or not you believe in trolls, it's easy to understand why people have had a big respect and fear when confronted with the force of nature. And even today, talking with Icelanders, it seems the environment, and especially the weather conditions, are a big part of the everyday discussions among people. This experience in Iceland made me think about ways of connecting my artistic work with local communities and the stories all of them have. It's just a matter of having the curiosity and time to listen and to discover...