Tag Archives: Reykjavik

Seeing in the Dark

One of the great pleasures of Iceland is to walk up a remote canyon, followed by ravens hoping you will slip and break a leg, and to know that they are your thoughts.

These thoughts.

It’s a northern thing. Of course, a country where a bell rope can serve as an improvised noose is a fine place to wander, too.

Darkness is everywhere, but it’s not black. It’s red or something, like blood.

The eye touches the earth as a bodily organ, as much as it does as the hand of the mind.

The mind is as much a heart as it is a muscle. It swims in blood.

Humans can’t see darkness, I read all the time. In Iceland, this illusion just doesn’t wash.

Maybe you can’t see it, but you can touch it, and enter through it the world behind the world.

And what is there?

Why, you are.

This doesn’t work in Reykjavik.

There, under the effect of the outside world, this sense of presence is called art.

One can live there, too. Between worlds.

Trying to catch the attention of passersby. Don’t worry. The world still sees you.

And you still see past it.

The old paths still wait.

Teaching Art in Iceland

First a teacher’s kit for student artists, 5 years old. Note the empty chamber to right!

Then a bit of what they’re going to have to deal with as adults with the skills learned from those tools. Note how the empty chamber has almost completely won. Then a reinforcing lesson in applying foreign tools as training mechanisms.

And some of the cut-and-paste consequences.

And again, this time in downtown Reykjavik.

A closer view of early art education is shown below. Please compare it to the image above. Note how the colours are used to train young minds into cut-and-paste and construction techniques. The stuff is even called “construction paper.” Keep your eye on the black stuff. An adult helped with that!And, finally, an image of that black diamond above, when written out on the land.

In Iceland, children are herded, and in their herds they are free. 1100 years of herding culture drove this lesson home.

The Strangest Thing About Iceland

Well, maybe not the strangest, but pretty endearing nonetheless.

In a country with virtually no trees, and most of those looking like this …

… or this …

… it has the most robust wooden scaffolding imaginable.

It’s not that there isn’t metal scaffolding.

Even more amazing: when you cut up Icelandic trees, as the Green Party did in the election of 2013, they look like this:

(They didn’t win. It’s really too bad, with a platform like that!) Some things are just unhinged.


And that’s that!

In a Country With Little Sun

In a country with little sun …

… holes are set in walls …

… but not to let in the light.

Sometimes the old word is best …


… window.

The wind’s eye.

It’s the same for the hole in your skull.

The skull’s eye.

It’s best not to let the wind into that one!

Just the sun!

Island Life

This is Iceland. It’s not so friendly to human life, really, but it is sold to tourists, who want “real experience.”

The image below, made out of the experience above, is “art” in Reykjavik. It is sold to tourists, who want to be warmly received (and want to stay warm in a place not so friendly to human life.)

That’s the art of Iceland: remaining hospitable. It is a kind of mercy. Art and beauty are reduced to a line of thought here, in a language of “eye” and “body” but not so much of mind, and that line is reduced to gentle gestures, lest the bodies of visitors scare.The language of mind (below) might just scare them off.

I’d love to see Iceland market it. Such beauty lies there.

Why aren’t shipping containers, repurposed as homes, sold in souvenir shops in Reykjavik? I think it’s because Icelanders want to give people the experience they came for. They’re generous like that.

Not that there are polar bears in Iceland, but what the heck. The practice speaks to a tremendous self confidence, and the secrecy of all islanders: everyone is the island.

All who come remain within the gesture of arrival, until they choose to either leave or stay. Everyone gets to decide for themselves. No one will help you… unless you get lost. Then you will be brought back and warmed up, and will be once again within the gesture of the island itself. It’s the same if you try to leave. You might find  yourself leaving and staying all at the same time.

The island is the one doing the speaking here. Humans are almost speechless in its face.