Artistic Residency in Iceland: I

I have arrived in Iceland! The journey was a bit of an experience, though mostly a pleasant one. It began with the consolidation of everything I could use for work at a residency, while still being able to pack those obnoxious luxuries, such as clothing. After thorough and exhausting packing and organization, I wound up with just two bags.20160131_081128

Since accepting the Iceland residency, several massive technological failures have occurred with my already dated equipment:

  • My “Work” Macbook Pro’s hard drive has crashed, and mandated data recovery, which was completed successfully.
  • My “Play” Macbook Pro has a few keyboard keys losing function
  • My “Work” Macbook Pro has one USB slot that has failed altogether, while the other requires externally powered devices to function.

With these problems, a shrinking budget, and an eagerness to get to Iceland, I did not have the time or the means to pay for anything beyond data recovery. Thus, these bags contain the following:

  1. About 3 to 4 changes of clothes
  2. A large book of blank staff paper
  3. My cheap MXL microphone
  4. Toiletries (minus liquids/gels)
  5. Paperwork
  6. My far cheaper Pyle microphone
  7. Various cables & wires
  8. 2 External Hard Drives
  9. Both Macbook Pros
  10. Mbox Mini

Outside the bags, I had my various winter gear, which I wore onto the planes – pockets stuffed with adapters and whatnot – in order to save space in my luggage. This luggage resulted in an abhorrently slow passage through security – in two airports. As the Mbox, hard drives, and most of the cables were secured in a large metal lockbox, that and the two laptops had to be separated from my backpack and run through security along with all my other gear. In security at LaGuardia, the gentlemen stopped me after the metal detector and referred to the lockbox. For some reason, he seemed suspicious about the heavy metal box full of electrical equipment that I wanted to take onto an international flight. I carefully unlocked the box and walked him through each individual piece of equipment, what it was, and why I needed to bring it to Iceland with me. Ultimately, I was glad I went to the airport four hours before my flight instead of two.

The flight from LaGuardia to Toronto was uneventful, though quite crowded. Upon arrival in Toronto, I had to do the whole song and dance again with the security there, and they nearly made me miss my connection. Luckily, only about 40 people were flying on the giant 200 passenger plane to Iceland, so they noticed I wasn’t there and held the gate an extra 5 minutes for me – such nice people!

The Icelandair flight was quite luxurious, and we took off from Toronto at almost the exact time of sunset – I even snagged a picture.20160131_174455

During the flight, I had all three seats in my row to myself, and noticed that most people on the plane did – a lot of them popped up the arm rests and sprawled. The flight itself was uneventful, though the realization that I was hanging over the atlantic ocean in near-total darkness was an interesting one. Upon arrival at Keflavík airport, there was a bus waiting to take us to the local bus station, where I camped out with the bags for a couple hours. It was roughly 6 AM local time, and the bus I was waiting for did not arrive until 9ish.

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almost everybody there was a fellow tourist

That bus took me to Akureyri, the largest town near the residency. The bus ride was roughly six hours, and filled with all sorts of beautiful sights. It also made me realize, I think Iceland has less roads in the country than it does towns. The place is strikingly bare, and all the more beautiful for it. Also, they have a lot of horses living on farms in the middle of nowhere.

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I could live out there and never have to interact with people again

I had recently been reading George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books (I know, I’m late to the game) and the more we drove, the more I realized that Iceland is, without a doubt, the land beyond the Wall.

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you can’t see it, but there’s a mammoth and two giants playing a drinking game behind that mountain

During the course of the bus ride, I discovered that while english is widely spoken in Iceland, it’s mostly spoken by people in their mid-30s or younger. Most of the older men who drove the buses did not speak english, though there were many teenagers who were kind enough to translate. Ultimately I made it to Akureyri, and after a brief stomp through the town, arrived at a local hostel where I dropped my bags and shared my sweaty stench with the grateful guests. After this – for some reason – they were happy to give me a bed in an entirely empty 8-bed room.

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cheap living!

It remained empty most of the night – though a Scottish gentleman stumbled in around 4 AM. Interestingly, blankets cost a lot of extra money. So I opted to sleep in the bed adjacent to the heater and use my heavy winter jacket as a blanket. However, I did splurge on their lovely breakfast buffet the following morning. There were some other American tourists there, and one of the novelties at the buffet was a recommended serving of fish oil, meant to be drunk straight from a shot glass. They all made a big show of drinking it and being disgusted by it. The oil actually didn’t have a lot of flavor, and gave me a good burst of energy. I was tempted to go shopping for some, but had to rush and catch another bus.

This bus took me to Árskógssandur, which is essentially a few houses and a small harbor. The bus actually dropped me about an hour’s walk from the harbor, though while walking I stuck out my thumb and a very kind gentlemen driving a van pulled up. Turned out he worked for some Icelandic version of Fish & Wildlife, or animal control (though I’m not sure, as he didn’t speak any english), and let me throw my bags in the back and drove me down to the harbor. Upon reaching the harbor, I discovered I had missed the most recent ferry by about fifteen minutes, and the ferries only came every 2 hours.

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the other wildlings and I are waiting to ship out to Hardhome

So, I bundled up and flopped down in a snowbank for a nap, setting an alarm on my phone so that I didn’t stay asleep and die. After about an hour and a half, an elderly gentlemen (who also spoke no english) drove up to wait for the ferry, and after an Abbott/Costello-like exchange, communicated that I was welcome to wait in the warmth of his car until the ferry arrived. The ferry trip was short, and ultimately I arrived in Hrísey without incident.

Hrísey is a very quaint island, the structure of which is analogous to Fire Island with snow instead of sand – also way more animal sanctuaries. There’s one general store roughly the size of a garage, a slightly larger restaurant, and a slew of houses all neatly packed together. Snow rules the day, and from the island there is an amazing view of the surrounding mountains, and apparently we’ll have a good view of the northern lights at some point.

After arriving, I unloaded and set up my poor man’s workaround:

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a studio that fits in a backpack – essential for today’s composer on the go!

My Work Macbook, which has a brand new drive and functions phenomenally except for the two dead USB slots, is run via firewire into my Play Macbook, which then boots from my Work drive. Then everything is run through my USB dock and keyboard, and I have everything I need – though I sometimes miss my large monitor. The two computer speakers were found in the house’s studio space, and after asking all the other artists, it was clear I’d be the only one with any use for them – so yay, nice speakers!

The room itself is quite cozy! The couch can pull out into a bed if for some reason the space is needed, and there was an acoustic guitar waiting for me at the house. Initially I was also promised a digital piano, but it was never driven out from Reykjavík. Hopefully that gets sorted soon, or perhaps there’s a piano in the town I could make part-time use of.

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the typewriter is ornamental – first thing I checked

Well, I have settled in, now to get to work. I’m hoping to go visit Hrísey’s geothermal pool this week, some of the other artists have gone and said it was quite nice. I’ll post with more details on what my serious plan for the residency is once I start forming one.

Iceland is awesome!

  • “Give Me Noise” by New Myths
  • “Repentless” by Slayer
  • “Drowning” from Bioshock Infinite
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About Jacob Minter

My name's Jake. I work in music and media, particularly film and theatre. I am a composer, actor, performer, and all around creative ass. I write songs about ninjas, chronic masturbation, and love, among other things. I also perform in musical theater, play a lot of different instruments, and draw silly and offensive things. View all posts by Jacob Minter

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