“The most beautiful thing is when the events unfold. They’ve been in your phone and your excel sheet for so long, but so much of the worry goes away when people come together and meet each other,” Ása Dýradóttir says, her eyes lighting up with anticipation.
Ása is standing in the middle of Iðnó’s main hall, surrounded by banners, signs and ladders. In just a short space of time, however, the space is set to be transformed into Reykjavík Arts Festival’s “Hub”, of which Ása is the project manager.
“The Festival Hub was a part of the Arts Festival for decades,” she explains. “It went into hibernation for a while but it was reinstated in 2018, and is now a really big part of the festival itself.”
“It’s become a place that you can always come into,” Ása continues. “Every event is free and it’s open for everyone.”
An Icelandic institution
Reykjavík Arts Festival has been a highlight of the city’s calendar since its inception in 1970. Constantly seeking to push boundaries, challenge norms and raise the bar of artistic excellence, the biennial event aims to strengthen the relationship between Icelandic arts and the international community, often through the commissioning of new works.
Ása sees the Hub as a seamless continuation of the work of the festival as a whole, extending concepts and encouraging discourse. “A lot of the events are linked to the main schedule, like artist talks, or panels related to bigger events,” she says. “But we have also developed a model for artists takeovers, where we hand over the space to different groups or artists for 13 hours, and they can programme it however they want.”
The range of artists participating in this takeover scheme are broad, including choir/art collective Kliður, youth dance group FWD, grassroots minority arts collective, R.E.C. Arts, and kids organisation Kidarchy. The latter group will be holding down the fort on June 17th, Iceland’s national holiday, and hosting an event that sounds the stuff of every child’s dreams, featuring a food fight, live music, a water pistol battle and—most importantly—“no boring speeches or rules.”
The other side
It’s a packed schedule, and one that has been in the works since October 2021. Alongside all the fun and frivolity—or perhaps it all goes hand-in-hand—the Festival Hub will also provide a space for talks and discussions on more serious topics. One of the planned panels is on ‘Art In A Time Of War’, while another tackles the subject of climate change. Ása describes the role of the Hub in providing a platform for this kind of discourse as, “very dear to us, very important.”
“The theme of the festival this year is ‘The Other Side’—which you can interpret in many ways,” she elaborates. “But we want to emphasise the role of The Festival Hub in giving minority groups a platform to experiment with their artwork and their projects, and to meet other people and have a discussion about them.”
“Especially today, everyone is thinking, ‘what can we do?’—we’re trying to respond to the horrible things that are happening,” Ása goes on to say. “It doesn’t matter if it’s war, the pandemic, violence or poverty—you’re always asking, can we use art in this? The only way to do so is to come together and use what we have, together.”
Reykjavík Arts Festival Hub opens on Friday 3rd of June. More information available at listahatid.is/klubbur
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