I had a clear intention for my time at NES—and was surprised by the opposite direction my work took this summer. New synapsis in my brain seemed to happen. New forms of expression. I am a PhD researcher and writer @Aberystwyth University in Wales, and former Fulbright Fellow in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I stepped away from my academic work in literature this summer to focus on a new project. I created The Foss and Moss Puppet Theatre to support the epic absurdist poem I have started writing. I cultivated stanzas by utilizing textiles from the natural world, such as Icelandic wool roving, to create individual characters who represent surrealist ideas about what it is to exist as a human in a meaningless/meaningful world. Through this practice as research and the use of interdisciplinary modes of expression, I was able to generate new creative impulses in my writing. The intense natural environment of Iceland, the mountains, sea, wind, arctic terns, sheep, unseen elemental beings, and the opposing force—the human being—was fertile ground for a delve into existential questions for my Puppet Theatre of the Absurd Poetry Project. I also began to read and study the fiction of Icelandic writer, Sjón, who inspired me immensely, as well as the poems of Gerður Kristný. I have been deeply moved by the imaginative landscape, both in Icelandic literature, as well as out the door on foot, miles and miles of wide expanse.
Side event: I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate with fellow artists for one week on a concert, where, besides reading from my book, Firewalking, I performed two pieces musical theatre pieces—one dramatic, one joyful. I was trained as a soprano and performed for many years but had not done so in more than almost two decades. So, I was thrilled to work together, especially with Galina Dimova Georgieva, the gorgeous classical pianist and composer from Cyprus. https://kelleymckenna.com
I’m a dutch novelist and poet. The novel I published in 2014, As a tiger, as a snake, is told by a poem. In Skagaströnd I worked on a novel about a dutch sailor who’s buried in the Arctic in the 16th century and who’s now, while the permafrost is melting, waking up. The image is of the cover of a book that will be published in September, about my morning talks with a crow.
I came to NES to complete a draft of my book, The Principle of the Fragility of Good Things, an investigation into my obsession with plane crashes following an engine explosion and subsequent emergency landing. That obsession led me to the most comprehensive “fear of flying” clinic in the world, to a series of large-scale air disaster drills in which I participated as a “professional survivor,” and ultimately to the National Transportation Safety Board’s training center, where I trained to investigate Survival Factors in Aviation Accidents, and where at long last I beheld the reconstructed fuselage of TWA Flight 800, the Paris-bound 747 that exploded after takeoff over Long Island Sound in 1996.
The mysteries surrounding that disaster (the FBI believed the plane was sabotaged; the chief metallurgist believed the cause was mechanical; eyewitnesses saw a “ball of light” hit the plane) make it the centerpiece–and the ostensible subject–of my obsession. After spending the past three months in Iceland, I am nearing the completion of a long leg of a journey that has asked me to accept a world that is neither scientifically ordered (as my mathematical side tells me), nor cosmically chaotic (as my new-age mantras tell me) but sublime in its random logic.
Alexandra Ivanova is a composer, musician, researcher and writer, mentored by Lebanese-American composer and pianist Tarek Yamani. Through her writings and music, Alexandra aims to recreate connection and relatability between cultures that are othered in present times. Alexandra is working on new compositions and deepening her study of Azeri and Cuban folklore.
During her NES residency, she also discovered Icelandic folkloric songs through the history of the forgotten Icelandic Fidla. Alexandra sheds light on possible links of certain Icelandic folklore to Oriental influences and is creating new arrangements that celebrate these unlikely connections.
When not on the keys, Alexandra is researching and writing about identity, belonging and privilege. Her activities and interviews with Skagaströnd’s local community are part of her process creating an interactive theatre piece that questions social norms.
Building on her recent debut concert in Vienna, Alexandra is also combining her spoken word poems and compositions in live performances that spark questions around current social and cultural topics.
Follow her on Instagram: @a.i.jazz
(1)Group in Skagaströnd: http://ludwignikulski.de
(2) Solo image: Sam Adutwum (@samadutwum)
Live video credits: Amin Ebrahimi (@amin_embrahiimii)
Scott Walden arrived in Skagaströnd with plans to photograph vernacular architecture in the long summer twilight and write a philosophy paper interpreting Terrence Malick’s films as investigations into what it means to be a person and what circumstances are corrosive of such status.
But the Iceland twilight wasn’t what he was expecting and he’s now photographing local buildings and other structures in the silvery Icelandic daylight.
The writing’s going well, especially thanks to help from the other artists, who are taking part in a screening of Malick’s Badlands (1973) followed by a discussion of its themes and metaphors.
WRITER IN RESIDENCE – Sonja Sophie Kreis is a writer and artist from Switzerland, where she also works as a lecturer for art and art history. Her writing is very much inspired by art. She writes novels, but also experimental texts and texts about art. Her last book – KEIN SCHNEE IN VENEDIG/ NO SNOW IN VENICE – was published in Spring 2019 by edition pudelundpinscher.
Currently she is working on a novel with the title THE BIG ICE, inspired by a painting from the Swiss artist Adolf Dietrich (1877 – 1959), that shows the frozen Lake of Constance in the 1940’s. Today there is no more ice and snow at that place, so Sonja Sophie Kreis does some research in the winter landscapes of the north.
Last winter she spent some time in Greenland and now, in february 2020, she is experiencing the extreme weathers of Skagaströnd, writing in a room in the wonderful Salthuis, while observing the rapidly changing sceneries over the sea. It is a wonderfully inspiring place for someone interested in snow and ice in all possible forms and colors.
Indigo Perry is a writer and artist from near Melbourne, Australia. She is a Senior Lecturer in Writing & Literature in the School of Communication & Creative Arts at Deakin University. She writes memoir in poetic, experimental forms. Her first book, Midnight Water (Picador) was shortlisted for Australia’s National Biography Award. Her second book, Darkfall (University of Western Australia Publishing) is due for release in April 2020.
At NES, Indigo is working on her third book, Midnight Fire. It’s a memoir about the profound effects of grief. Since she has been at NES, and after seeing the phenomenon of iridescent nacreous clouds (glitsky), she has become interested in diffraction: the bending of light around objects. This is influencing her imagery and form in writing. She has also been inspired by the stormy weather, the changing skies, the rhythms of the wind and by Icelandic music during her residency.
Indigo also writes live in performance as part of a performance art duo called Illuminous. In that work, her writing is digitally projected over herself and her collaborator in a performance space as they improvise live.
At NES, Indigo has carried out a series of text projection experiments with another artist, Sinéad Bhreathnach-Cashell. Some of those experiments in the NES studio and at the Skagastrond swimming pool are shown in the images below, along with some fragments of writing from Midnight Fire.
Sarah Thibault is an artist and writer based in San Francisco. She has been traveling since the summer of 2018, living as a nomad and attending artist residencies. Her paintings and creative non-fiction essays are inspired by her travels and the people she meets on the road.
Her paintings and drawings investigates the feminine inconography through self-portraiture, portraits of other female artists and representations of the female in historical painting traditions. Her work can be found on her website: sarahthibault.com and her Instagram at @sarah_thibault.