Published August 10, 2012
Rounding out their twelfth year of attracting art enthusiasts and novices alike, LungA still remains an arts festival to be experienced by all. Located in the small eastern town of Seyðisfjörður, with a population breaching 700 people, the town came alive for their annual week-long festival held this year during July 16–22. Following a week of guided workshops, the festival concluded with a mixture of performances, exhibitions, music shows and, of course, partying.
Returning to Seyðisfjörður for LungA was a bit like rediscovering the hand carved jewellery box grandma gave me a little too early in life; it remained beautiful, but came with the realisation that it was perhaps initially under-appreciated. Now I took the time to observe the graceful interactions that defined its very existence, down to each etch, spring and screw. This time I sought to investigate the authentic process of each project and put into words the unique aura that encompasses LungA.
“Collaboration is the heart and soul of this festival,” commented founder and manager Björt Sigfinnsdóttir, discussing the essence of LungA. One hundred and thirty participants had spent the entire week toiling away on group projects using various modes of artistic expression, ranging from VJ-ing to fashion photography to instrument building and everything in between. Each workshop focused on a different medium for art and explored the act of reflexivity—turning outcomes back onto themselves and posing questions that led to further questioning, rather than answers.
Ephemeral balloon journey
Nearly every seat in the cinema was occupied by anxious chatter when Dark Matters took the stage as the first workshop on the agenda. Boards of Canada accompanied the ‘Water Compilation,’ a series of abstract images of seaweed and wandering waterfalls with a morphing geometric overlay. Stuttering across the screen, the shots kept a downbeat tempo yet never veered into any sense of narrative or clarity. The ‘Demon Compilation’ was constituted by reds and darker tones and unnerving images of worms and desolate landscapes, but continued using geometric shapes in the forefront, joining both pieces into a tribal-esque whole.
With only a moment for our eyes to adjust we were promptly instructed to follow the yellow balloon bearer to various locations along Austurvegur and Hafnargata for a series of happenings by the workshop No Limit. Our first stop was at a large rock stationed right next to the LungA centre, where a girl was sprawled on top, clinging for dear life, while caressing it with gestures only Gollum could re-enact. Next, we were led to a rectangle quickly established by white ribbon, where two women stood, nipples protruding from the unforgivably chilly July afternoon, and heads fully scarved. They launched into a duet, movements decisive yet simple, working off each other like a chemical reaction.
Our journey eventually led us to an abandoned warehouse, where the Magic workshop and performance took place. Confused about what this Magic thing was, a participant sort of shrugged and told me “the magic of the moment, I guess.” Appreciation of the moment was something I could get behind, but what sort of performance could that possibly lead to? Two men stood waiting, completely decked out in waterproof attire and prepared to quest into the bitterly freezing water on a raft made by LungA’s very own magicians. Sent off with an ode from Edith Piaf, the audience cheered and waved as if this may be the last we saw of them.
Filing into the local church to watch The Expansions Of The Oscillators workshop was an immediate relief from the biting wind. Overcome with a warmth I had been yearning for the past few hours, I started to take in my surroundings: the cosy pews, the sky blue walls that seemed freshly painted, and a gaggle of young people holding an assortment of indefinable instruments. “There’s been a lot of drilling, nailing, and screwing,” explained workshop leader Arnljótur Sigurðsson to kick off the ceremony. A low buzzing of laughter ensued, as his innuendo was seemingly accidental. The orchestra broke into song, easing their way in and out of intensity and finding and losing a groove in a jam band-y fashion. “All of the instruments were made from scraps we found dumpster diving,” explained Jóhann Kristinsson, “it’s illegal in Reykjavík, but not in Seyðisfjörður!”
Madness in the method
Of course one couldn’t entirely disregard the drunken bafoonery, debauchery, indulgence—whatever one chooses to call it—that happens at LungA because frankly, it’s a reoccurring theme at the tiny festival. Saturday evening’s weather was less than ideal, with a snarling cold wind, consistently puttering rain, and temperatures my poor American flesh only has patience for in the dead of winter. However, one puts these obstacles aside to attend the evening’s concerts, this year featuring headliner Retro Stefson. Claiming the stage at nearly midnight, the crowd was a hearty drunk and ready for a bit of enthusiasm. And that’s exactly what they provided, a series of fist pumping, jumping, and ass bumping. Their control over the audience was obviously working for them, as my neighbours complained about my indifference, but eventually I found myself head bobbing with my hips swaying, and forgetting about the vile taste of Koskenkorva.
In the end, perhaps that moment encapsulated exactly what I, and everyone who participated in LungA, were meant to learn: the process of letting go. Letting go of expectations, letting go of doing things one way, letting go of the past, of your usual routine, and just being entirely present in each moment.
Flights provided by Air Iceland. Book flight to Egilsstðir (near Seyðisfjörður) at www.airiceland.is or call +354-5703000