Music and art intersect in the Eastfjords
Set in the glacial crevasse town of Seyðisfjörður, the music and arts festival LungA is a buzzing hive of creativity and pure, weird art. The weeklong festival is packed with different workshops held during the week and then topped off by a final presentation of the art and music on Saturday.
The presentation starts off with a mysterious team building exercise led by the Performance/Interaction workshop that culminates with an arm wrestling match and then waltz. Next, we’re shuffled into the auditorium/cafeteria to listen to the concert given by the members of the Automata workshop, all performed on instruments made out of anything but actual musical instruments. Then the dance workshop puts on a show of choreographies cherry picked and mashed together from YouTube videos like Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and Yelle’s “A Cause Des Garcons.” Sometimes the music blasting matches the video it’s from, and sometimes not, overlapping to create unexpected results. Objectively, the best part is when the audience is invited to join in the dance to Celine Dion’s classic, “My Heart Will Go On.”
After the breathtaking Titanic dance number we are led outside to gather round a brass band and whale puppet in the tradition of a Chinese New Year Dragon. We’re about to embark on a tour of the work produced by eight workshops held the prior week. The whale that leads us through the sunny East Fjords town is the face of the New Year, part of a mythology created by the Time workshop. It undulates at the front of a mass of people while a trumpet, xylophone and saxophones blare out “When The Saints Go Marching In.” The beat of the drums propel the crowd through one of the few streets of Seyðisfjörður on the penultimate day of LungA.
Our first stop on the tour is the RAFALVAF workshop studio where all sorts of defunct technology and household appliances have been dismantled and reassembled into new machines. An electric stove has been turned into an instrument controlled by touching the burners, and in another room, a complicated box with a curtain that you crawl under houses a simulation of a breezy, sunny summer day.
The crowd filters in and out of the building as the music plays, and we find our first monster. The Beast Factory workshop has been plastering signs all over the town seeking a 1 million ISK reward for any information regarding monster sightings, and Saturday is when they’re finally spotted. A creature that looks like a mix between a barnacle and a Dalek lumbers into sight, and the crowd is instructed to shout, “Hopa!” at it, so we do. The whale puppet circles the beast, everybody dances, and then the monster joins the thoroughfare. This is repeated throughout the parade with the four other beasts, all marine themed, presumably in homage to the harbour based livelihood of Seyðisfjörður.
The town is generally supportive of the festival, even though the parade stopped traffic on the one lane street. As people danced in the street with beasts and drums, the people waiting in their cars seemed nonplussed while they waited to be able to drive through without honking or running anyone over.
The smell of herring permeates the air as we explore the video workshop, which for the past week has been an impromptu television studio. Their YouTube channel, LungATV, hosts the short videos the participants made and Coffee Corner livestream recorded every afternoon. Then we’re off to the edge of the water where we circle around all the beasts and the whale dances through them. The mythology of the beasts and Whale of Time is told to us over a loudspeaker as each beast swaps the heads of their costumes with each other, and then the parade is over.
The Point Of It All
The final show is undoubtedly impressive, but the heart of the festival is about more than the grand climax. The workshops are what make it unique, and the final show is just a way of showing the end results of the whole process. Participants at LungA sign up for specific week-long workshops run by people chosen by the LungA board. The main requirement for a workshop leader is that they are doing something good in their respective fields, and many of them live and work in Reykjavík. Some of the workshoppers are artists who came with some notion of what they wanted to accomplish at LungA, while some are not and just want to be in a collaborative environment.
Despite having variable experience, there is no elitism or snobbiness. Everyone collaborates on their artworks, both with the members of their workshops and with the members of other workshops. The sleeping situation practically forces everyone to get along, what with almost the entire group packed into the classrooms of two schoolhouses, sleeping bags and mattresses lining the floor with only piles of clothing to separate each makeshift bed. Everyone sleeps together, everyone eats together and everyone hangs out at the pool together.
The relative remoteness makes it a perfect environment for art making, as the constant distractions of the big city of Reykjavík are nowhere to be found in this small town on the east coast of Iceland.
LungA was founded in 2000 by Aðalheiður Borgþórsdóttir, Björt Sigfinnsdóttir, Ólafur Ágústsson, Halldóra Malin Pétursdóttir and Stefán Benedikt Vilhelmsson.
From the performance art workshop to the video workshop to the costume workshop, participants at LungA had a lot to choose from when signing up to be a part of the festival.
Some of the 120 participants this summer have been coming for years, while others are here for the first time.
More than 4,000 guests came throughout the week, though most of them were there for the final Saturday, which culminated in a concert.
This year, it ran July 13 – 20, in Seyðisfjörður. For more information, visit their website.