Constructing Iceland

For the last month, I have devoted almost my entire time to completing my Iceland project about Gunnar in World War II. The whole effort is like fitting together a puzzle, or the way in which on my last day in Reykjavik, I witnessed some Icelanders attempting to build a forest in the middle of the city …P1590085

A Forest in Process

Sometimes words just won’t do.

Canada is not a country in which art is so closely combined with public and private life, and that’s too bad for Canada. It speaks to the kind of wealth that comes from a colonial history of buying things, rather than building them. Iceland has a good dose of the same colonial disease, but, the outcome of the election this project was designed to influence aside, has a better chance, I think, of coming out the other side into the earth and greater human richness than does Canada.

P1590078 Danish Post-Colonial Dining Room Furniture Taken Outside for Some Fresh Air

Over time, this forest construction effort brought many thoughtful and happy onlookers. The whole process filled people with delight. And why not. Look at how trees and scrap wood are brought together to make a model (a kind of 3D map) of Iceland itself, right in the middle of the city…

P1590027 Look as well how the effort requires fashionista colour coordination between man and tool, and the union of hiking footwear with workman’s gloves. Reykjavik mornings can be like that in the spring time! In fact, isn’t that an image of the Icelandic economy as a whole?

P1590015It is also the work of a community, of which there appeared to me to be no leader. It was as if the sculpture itself, the new forest, was directing the humans…
P1590016I had to get on a plane and leave, but these are the images I took away with me, and which I continue to expand in the work. I believe that the images show something uniquely Icelandic. It is a kind of creative energy, with very specific roots deep in Nordic culture, on the one hand, and in the Icelandic settlement experience on the other, which is ongoing, and not historical. “History” is just a word. This is a living thing. In the next few weeks, I plan to show some other examples of this energy at work in modern Iceland, and by then I think it’ll be time to show you how I have been fitting them together, like a delightful jigsaw puzzle, into my story about Gunnar. Bless bless!

 

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