From Iceland — The Pandemic Holiday Diaries #2: Bára Halldórsdóttir & Hrafna Jóna Ágústsdóttir

The Pandemic Holiday Diaries #2: Bára Halldórsdóttir & Hrafna Jóna Ágústsdóttir

Published December 22, 2020

The Pandemic Holiday Diaries #2: Bára Halldórsdóttir & Hrafna Jóna Ágústsdóttir
Hannah Jane Cohen
Photo by
Art Bicnick

How does one approach the holiday season in the midst of gathering bans and social distancing? To learn, we’re sitting down with families all over Reykjavík to find out how they are navigating this peculiar time. For this iteration of the Pandemic Holiday Diaries, we’re talking to artist, disability activist, and #KlausterGate participant Bára Halldórsdóttir and her wife, artist Hrafna Jóna Ágústsdóttir.

Thanks for talking to us Bára and Hrafna! So how has your 2020 been in general? How have you been tackling this pandemic, especially in light of Bára’s disability?  

Bára: The biggest change was that all of a sudden I had to be afraid of other people instead of just making sure I didn’t do anything myself to get myself sick. Usually, I just have to make sure I don’t overdo something or such but now I have to ask when I go somewhere—are people generally wearing masks there? If the answer is “No,” then it’s, “Ok, I’m fucked!”

Hrafna: In our daily lives though, a lot hasn’t changed. We stay home a lot and aren’t super social anyway, so it feels like the only difference is that we wear masks while going shopping.

Bára: Of course in my daily life, there are some things that have gone away. Some of my physiotherapy and other medical appointments were cancelled. When you are somebody that is already dependent on the healthcare system and that healthcare system is dealing with a pandemic, it hits you. You’re lower on the priority chain.

Both of you have had art exhibitions over the past year. Bára’s ‘This Is Not A Show’ and Hrafna‘s current photography exhibition at the Reykjavík Museum of Photography. How did the pandemic influence that? 

Bára: My art exhibition was about the pandemic. I had planned on doing an exhibition for Reykjavík Fringe Festival, but because of the pandemic, I had to re-arrange things. These were things that wouldn’t have normally ruined someone’s art exhibition, but because I’m disabled, they totally ruined mine. Now people like me will usually abandon something if they can’t do it, but I decided to create something from the incompleteness of it. Show the incomplete work. See, I had to watch people with my same disease deal with the pandemic in America and there was a certain number after which I just stopped counting when they would disappear. I just stopped counting. I am very lucky to be in a country that uses science as the measuring stick in how they deal with the pandemic.

Hrafna: Yes, right now I have an ongoing exhibit at the Reykjavík Museum of Photography. It’ll be on until the 1st of February.

Photo by Art Bicnick

Do your holidays look different this year due to the pandemic? How so?

Bára: Ish. It’s basically the same but our big family bash has been delayed to become an Easter bash. Otherwise, it’s us and our grandson for Christmas Eve.

Hrafna: I will be doing the cooking!

What are some of your favourite holiday traditions? How are you adapting them for 2020?

Hrafna: I have a Christmas song that is always the first one I play. It’s “Fairytale from New York,” and I usually don’t play it until the first of December. This year though, everyone decided to start everything early—decorate and so—which I really love because this year has been fucking hell for everyone.

Bára: I like this decision. I have my songs too. The first is “Last Christmas.” I always play Whamageddon, which is when you try not to hear “Last Christmas” until Christmas. As soon as you hear it, you lose, but I personally try to fail as soon as possible. My Icelandic song is “Jóla hvað?

Hrafna: Also, every Christmas my Mom makes these layered cakes that have rhubarb in them. They are, of course, the best. Store bought cakes cannot compare! What happens is that I usually finish them before anyone else gets a chance to have a taste. 

Bára: I got one piece I think.

Hrafna: There’s some left!

Bára: You haven’t finished it? What is that?

Hrafna: Self-control!

Photo by Art Bicnick

What’s your advice on how to have a good COVID-safe holiday season? Or really, what’s your advice on how to ride out these (hopefully) last few months of the pandemic? 

Bára: Go see Hrafna’s exhibition.

Hrafna: Haha! But just try to create a memorable Christmas at home. Keep on enjoying what you have been doing.

Bára: Christmas isn’t about the glitz and glamour. It’s about that moment over dinner when you sit and go, “Wow this is quite nice, isn’t it?”

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