On the eleven-hour drive from Reykjavík to Seyðisfjörður—the picturesque locale of the LungA Arts festival—the wind and rain blew so explosively that our windshield wipers flew straight off onto the pavement. It felt appropriately dramatic—our team of five was going there to put on a poetry show. Thankfully one of our bards was a scout, and thanks to a precarious yet innovative series of plastic knots, we arrived at the coastal town soaking wet but already full of a sense of adventure.
“The festival is one of a kind. I’ve never been to anything like it,” says Timothée Lambrecq, the official photographer of LungA. Aldís Dagmar Erlingsdóttir, an artist and volunteer there, agreed. “It’s like a bubble but it’s full of super open-minded hippie-like people. Everyone there is always down to try new things and help each other out.”
Upon my arrival, I could already sense that they were right. The town is ripe with a pervasive feeling of possibility. That night I found myself drifting into dreamy conversations with creators of all types: writers, painters, dancers. Everyone there had some sort of outlet and a desire to explore it and share it with others—the ultimate artist’s wet dream.
The festival lasts for a week, over which eight workshops occur, covering everything from acting to alchemy to computer programming. They are joined by art performances, concerts, exhibits, poetry readings, and any other mode of expression imaginable. In a prior Grapevine article about LungA, Vigdís Perla described the festival as “a summer camp for grown-ups.” The label is not too far off—but don’t worry, there’s no colour war.
Each show was inventive and exciting, and therefore it feels almost inappropriate to cherry pick one for this article. That said, Wednesday’s ‘M O N U M E N T’ performance at Herðubreið was a particular standout. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend, but later on nobody could stop talking about it.
‘M O N U M E N T’ was, or perhaps is, a work-in-progress collaboration between Samantha Shay, who taught the witchcraft workshop; Slugz, better known as Áslaug Magnúsdóttir of the band Samaris; and Jófríður Ákadóttir, aka JFDR. The show is a trippy tribute to Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’, during which the audience, sitting inside a circle of lights, is subjected to an intense meditative soundscape. Aldís called it transcendental. “It just took you places,” she said. “It was joined by powerful spoken word, which only added to the transcendence.” Overall, the show had an supernatural aura. “It was beautiful and intense, like a ritual,” said Aldís. “I felt like I was observing a coven.”
Later that night at Tvísöngur—a small sound sculpture only a fifteen-minute hike from the city—was taken over by site-specific audio project ‘Multiverse.’ The potent frequencies of Ásta María Kjartansdóttir, Abraham Brody, and Anna Fríða Jónsdóttir’s collaboration made all the hike worth it. The strangely shaped concrete structure is a natural amplifier specifically designed so that each of the domes possesses a different resonance that corresponds with certain tones. It’s a bizarre aural experience—sometimes painful, sometimes beautiful, but always memorable. ‘Multiverse’ was appropriately experimental, while still being accessible, in a spectacular manner. After the performers left, some of the audience hung around inside and sang together, exploring the sculpture’s bizarre acoustics for ourselves.
But for all its artiness, LungA doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s swimming and parties—LungA attendees seem to be peculiarly fixated on karaoke—capped off with a big concert on Saturday night. The lineup this year was diverse, featuring everyone from trap rapper Aron Can to dreamy pop artist JFDR, to Eurovision dark horse Daði Freyr. “On paper, the lineup didn’t make much sense, but it really worked,” said Timothée. “You could feel that the artists are very happy to be performing for the festival. There’s no pressure—they’re just playing for their friends, and for a lot of nice people in the crowd, and having a lot of fun.”
LungA is a fantastic environment for creation—one that fosters comfort, imagination, collaboration and authenticity. I definitely plan on returning next year, and if you too want to experience the artistic wet dream, I’ll see you there.