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Matt Willen Matt Willen | Monday 18. May 2009

Real and Surreal

I am going to try to make this one quick as it is getting on into the evening, and a lot has gone on in the last few days. First, expect a change in appearance and location of this blog and a new website. Ágúst has been working on the Focus Westfjords website and it looks great. We just need some DNS information and we are going to get a site domain. We spent today planning out the next week, and have several interesting projects and interviews to do. Trying now to focus on individuals, around the Westfjords. Tomorrow we head towards Djúp to the east. We have decided that Ágúst and I will speak only Icelandic all day tomorrow. We will either have little to say or I will spend a lot of time with my nose in my orðabók. In any event, here is a slide show from the past two days (10 photos). Click on the photograph below.Just a note about that photo : it is a deliberate attempt to create a photo based on one taken by Ágúst, actually one of my favorites taken at the same spot but looking in a different direction. His is much better, but the way of seeing is compelling.

OK, the photos in the flash show include several shot at the pier out in Holt on Önandarfjörður south of town, some from a sheep farm to the west (the lambs were a week old) and then many from a marathon drive through the Westfjords with Peter Weiss, his wife Angela, and Annika, his successor in German linguistics and literature at the University of Iceland. We were on the road for almost 16 hours so it is hard to recount all. So, the key thing: we visited two culture sites, actually one cultural site and one cultural event.

The first was the home site of Samúel Jónsson, an artist who lived on a farm along the coast west of Bildadalur, a rather remote section of the Westfjords. If I have the story straight, after working on farms for most of his life, he retired and started collecting the small pension provided to retired people by the state, at which time he started doing artwork, most of which was in concrete. He moved out to Séladalur and spent what little money he had on supplies to do his work, which is rather surreal in nature, as the photos demonstrate. He was less concerned about what others thought of his work than doing his work, and so he just did it. Interestingly, he made an altar for his local parish church, which the church declined to accept. So he built his own little church to house the altar. Unfortunately the altar was not there because the site is undergoing restoration, but the photo with the three clay heads shows the inside of the church.


The other bit of artwork we encoiuntered was described to me by Peter as a sort of ´´happening´´ which was taking place at the lighthouse at Lautrabjarg, the western most point of Europe, know esepcially for its bird cliffs which, during the summer, are home to large colonies of puffins, guillemots, fulmars, razor bills, and other nesting bird. The event was a sort of performance art called ´´Sliceland: The Westest Pizza in Europe.´´ In effect, the event consisted of the artist cooking frozen pizzas in the lighthouse and embellishing them with slices of puffin meat (often eaten in Iceland). Ironically, when we walked along the bird cliffs later than afternoon, we saw not a single puffin,which of course led us to speculate about the source of the meat used during the event.


So in the past three days I have experience three distinctly difference artistic events in the Westfjords, including the Megas cover band o Friday night, all of which have been rather surreal experiences. Part of the surreal character of them all stems I am certain from the language issue (compounded yesterday by the fact that my travel companions were all native German speakers) and so, again, I am never quite sure of what really is going on; but my sense of surrealism is that it in fact has everything to do with things that challenge our understanding of what is real and what is not. So that said, tomorrow should prove to be nothing short of an adventure.

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