Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Interest in Iceland Began Here

Roni Horn, Untitled (A Brink of Infinity), 1997 from the exhibition Sea Change curated by Trudy Wilner Stack at the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Arizona

The first time it ever occurred to me that Iceland may be a place I would like to visit was during Roni Horn's lecture in conjunction with the Sea Change exhibition at the Center for Creative Photography. Unfortunately, my primary memory was that Horn was soft spoken and my friends were snoring in the seats next to me and it was exceedingly difficult to stay awake. It was here that I learned about You are the Weather and saw endless images of hot springs and various rock formations. She discussed the Ring Road and an exhibition in Akureyri and I was intrigued.

Olafur Elliason, Iceland Series, 2002

Later on, I discovered Olafur Elliason whose parents were Icelandic but he grew up in Denmark. Much of his work focuses on returning to the homeland, incorporating the natural landscape, air, water and even caves into grids of photographs or sculptures. 

Olafur Elliason, Contact is Content at Seljalandsfoss

Ragnar Kjartansson, The End, 2009

I have mentioned Ragnar Kjartansson's video work (specifically The Visitors) on this blog before and it is even more compelling returning to his artwork after spending time in Iceland and fully understanding where the isolation and loneliness comes from.

Juergen Teller, Bjork and Son, 1993

Teller photographed Bjork and her son, Sindri, at the Blue Lagoon in the early 1990s and I had not thought about that photograph for years until recently. This was the first time I saw the color of the thermal baths depicted in print and the first time I recognized the colors in Iceland are different from anything that exists anywhere else.

Last summer, I read Rebecca Solnit's The Faraway Nearby while on the residency at Surel's Place. Solnit was the first international writer in residence at The Library of Water in Stykkisholmur and wrote about it extensively in this book. Also, at this time, Ian Van Coller's photographs of Iceland infiltrated my Instagram feed and the seed to visit this country was planted.

Ian Van Coller, from Fissure: An Intimate Portrait of Icelandic Ice

I photographed meltwater in Jasper National Park and thought that writing a grant to visit Iceland (where this specific type of water is plentiful) was a good idea. Little did I dream that I would receive the summer stipend. The turn around time from learning in April to visiting in June was stressful. After a lot of research and making a rudimentary map, my cousin and I met at JFK, we drove over 3000 kilometers into the peninsula and the Ring Raod and managed to visit everything on the list except for Hofsos.

I was expecting greatness and Iceland did not disappoint. I have not felt so overwhelmed and in awe of a country since my first visit to New Zealand and cannot wait to see how I process this and incorporate it into Autobiography in Water.

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