Saturday, 17 May 2008

letter from iceland

postal pannier transporting my diaries at the gesthus

hello from iceland - egilsstadir, east of iceland to be precise, where i have joined my young friends paul harfleet and maureen ward on an epic adventure of art, life and nature.

iceland is majestic, bleak and visceral. emerging from its long frozen winter, the contrasts between the signs of spring and new life, the endless migrating birds passing through the vast horizon, the snowy peaks of sparkly black volcanic outcrops surrounding our snug little guesthouse on the edge of the lake, are breathtaking and disorientating in equal measure. this is no picturesque landscape, no
chocolate box prettiness, but a gut wrenching, heart ripping, elemental force of nature, a ferocious and intimidating beauty.

the flight out of the capital across the interior of the country brings home the brutality of this new country - forged from volcanic activity, it seems as though the land has erupted out of the red hot laval underbelly of the earth and is still on the move. everywhere is swirling mud flats or plains, black glittery slagheaps of mountains or vast untidy fields of giant rocks as if pickaxed by mythical armies of trolls
or hurled about by a furious thor. all this and the fierce blinding white of months of winter snow and a tantalising topography of bluey-green veins of frozen fjords, glaciers and geysers....

the pansy project has been selected to exhibit at slaturhus cultural centre, as part of Journey, a joint venture of 3 art institutions in east iceland, part of the reykjavik art festival 2008, details of which can be seen on the following link;

final preparations are in full swing this morning, with artists and curator rushing around putting finishing touches to the installations and preparing the centre for the onslaught of visitors, including the president of iceland and his glamorous wife, a well known art enthusiast and patron. its all a little surreal and everyone is feeling the strain now.

slatturhus is just that - a former slaughter house in this remote town on the other side of the island, a world away from reykjavik and its international reputation; its inclusion in the festival, like the east iceland section as a whole, apparently a little controversial, with the art world being specially flown in for the occasion. like the town, its is unromantic and utilitarian, practical and functional, a working town with a laconic nature, a wry and somewhat dark sense of humour. the slaughterhouse was only abandoned 5 years ago, and like its nearby farms and outbuildings is low rise, concrete and corrugated metal. there is no victorian melodrama about its atmosphere but a rather more matter of fact eeriness, an everyday sense of the business of death and the lingering stench of animal putrefaction still emanating from the drains on the floors, with meat hooks and sluicing pipes for cleaning away blood and shit very much in the eyeline.

events will take place here and also at nearby eidar and skaftfell, an old town in the deep fjord of seydisfjordur.

my cosy retreat by the lake...

for me this is an unmissable opportunity to see the first major exhibition of the pansy project in an international art festival; fulfillment of a long held desire to visit iceland; and the chance to delve into the inner recesses of the contemporary art scene.

i cant wait to embark on this artistic, geographical and emotional journey, 'a trip through the halls of surprises, a journey with the artists to their schools of thought, passing corners of their minds and chambers of their souls...' i go.

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