From Iceland — Young Hearts

Young Hearts

Published July 29, 2011

LungA turns eleven

Young Hearts
Photo by
Alisa Kalyanova

LungA turns eleven

This July 10 to 17 marked the 11-year anniversary of the LungA young artists’ festival in the far-eastern town of Seyðis-fjörður. Following a weeklong workshop process in visual and performance art—hosted by some of this country’s leading artists—the festival culminated in a weekend of art openings, performances and concerts. We sent our two youngest (and brightest) journalists to report on their experiences at the blowout celebration.

LungA- Alísa Kalyanova_2

12:00 We follow the one winding road that zigzags over the Fjarðarheiði mountain pass. Meandering onto a downward slope where the small town sits cradled like a pearl in the clasp of a clam. Narrow tumbling waterfalls appearing in chorus as the matted black rocks caress the water’s base, like burnt embers embracing a fire. The fog hovers just above my line of sight. We have finally reached Seyðisfjörður. ML

18:00 The festival has rounded up a collection of houses throughout the town, provided to official participants in LungA. The house allocated to us is a tan, modest home, nestled about a three-minute walk from the main festivities. The living room—with its autumn coloured floral rugs and upholstered club chairs—has the feeling of a cosy 1960’s artists’ hangout. A handful of musicians including members from Jón Þór and Muted, are staying in the house as well. Bjarni Rafn Kjartansson (of Muted), who was one of the last to arrive, commented: “when I first walked in, I thought you guys were all close friends.” Though most of us had just met, after only a few hours of lounging and conversing the feeling of camaraderie was unavoidable. The premise was buzzing with friendly faces, like a dorm building on the first day of college. ML

22:30 At Herðubreið community centre in the heart of town, Árni Sveinsson’s documentary, Backyard, is screened. There is not an empty seat in the theatre, and the audience is effusive, roistering after each musical interlude. The pacing of the film matches the stamina of the audience—which is to say, the spirit of the festival—and immediately the air takes on the jovial, furry feel of life in the wake of one’s first beer. It was as though the tempera-ment of LungA—and the anticipation for the nights to come—had been distilled into 70 homemade minutes. VÞ

23:45 I ask a boy from Akureyri what he thought of the movie. “Reykjavík hipsters,” he says, “act like everything is so effortless. Like, ‘oh, I have a cold, but I’m just going to perform this concert anyway!’” I’m not sure what the problem is. Isn’t feigning effortlessness what being a hipster is all about? VÞ

00:00 The police car yields as I amble across the street, sipping on a plastic glass of wine. I lift the glass upward as I pass—as if to brazenly indicate, ‘cheers, officer.’ He raises his hand in turn, as if to say, ‘cheers, young, drunk person.’ VÞ

01:00 A party in a neat, spacious house at the top of the hill. With a view over the inlet, and the community centre below, where four Danish DJs—advertised as “foreign”—are holding court. A member of the lucky band awarded with this, the homeliest of donated accommodations, describes the town’s charm in terms of its abundance of waterfalls: “The hills,” he says, “are lactating.” VÞ

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13:00 Heading towards the main street along the inlet, I can see and hear the improv workshop group running in a chaotic huddle, dressed in matching white T-shirts. “Generosity!” they shout in chorus as they cross the street suddenly, causing cars to stop and pedestrians to shuffle to get out of their way. Björn Thors, the group’s instructor, follows from a distance with a notebook in one hand, his son in the other. Two young boys on bicycles also watch from a distance, not interfering, perhaps used to it. VÞ

14:00 Instead of the yellow brick road we are commanded to follow the yellow helium balloons, but the journey is equally magical. Everything comes together in the form of a vintage glass bottle, to which a string is tied to harness the balloon’s freedom. Stepping into Rakel Gunnarsdóttir’s exhibit feels like a porthole into her personal nostalgia. Girlish extremities, from pink glitter and Hello Kitty, to painted women with flowers, decorate each installation. Her portrayal of memories preserved in the form of a Ziploc baggie, denote a decaying of innocence, with a tinge of exaggeration. ML

16:00 The musical portion of the festival has just begun. The first musician is our laidback comrade and housemate, Muted. He performs his equally relaxed DJ set created on his Macintosh laptop, featuring down-tempo electro lounge good for head bobbing and cigarette smoking. The loitering crowd, though hung-over from the previous night, seems to slowly be crawling out from their dwellings, music over the PA system serving as their alarm clock. ML

17:00 Sardine sauna, layered with hipsters. Through the windows of the pool I can hear Klive begin to play. Outside in the concert area, people pass through: in and out, stopping in the grass to drink a beer, off again to prep for dinner. VÞ

17:30 At Samkaup to buy a single-shot grill because my brother won’t lend me the one he and his friends are using; “It’s out of my hands,” he says. There are plenty of grills in stock, which is more than I can say for the ostensibly waning condom reserves behind the counter. VÞ

18:00 Between acts I decide to stroll down the main drag Austurvegur, and pay a visit to Arní Sveinsson (director of Backyard). People huddled together between vehicles; the scene is reminiscent of a tailgate—the guzzling of booze and blasting of disco beats. There is a small fold up table littered with beer cans, cigarette fixings, and mittens surrounded with foldout chairs and stolen seats from the guesthouse kitchen. I had joined them with the as-sumption that dinner was next on schedule, but once the pint of vodka is introduced, the bad stories and ski gear keep piling on. Though the sun pro-vided light, the evening air had an unforgiving nip. The idea of a steadfast meal was no longer a main concern. Following a bout of banter about Arnþrúður’s attire and her illogical choice for fashion over comfort, we finally conclude to venture to the local restaurant and hotel, Skaftfell. ML

20:00 A group of four bickering, mid-fifties women occupy the table next to ours, and are clearly at home amidst the buzzing energies of small children and drunken customers. They are all residents of Seyðisfjörður, and welcome me whole-heartedly to join them. The festival is something they had seen grow from a small gathering established by bored art-deprived teenagers, into a full-blown festival attracting Icelanders from across the country. “I think this festival is wonderful,” one woman comments enthusiastically. “To have so many young people come here for a whole week and work on art has really created quite the hype for this town,” she adds. “Yes, but it would be interesting to see how much it costs this town in the end,” argues the sceptic of the bunch. “Last year there was a lot of drunken partying going on and I know it cost a lot to regulate and fix damages.” ML

00:00 People are desperate to forget, aren’t they? I mean, entire countries are founded on a certain historical forgetfulness. The washing away of the blood spilled the night before. And isn’t it just so that we dive head first into the deep end of alcoholic oblivion? Where we can adopt a new persona, discover an internal landscape where the world melts into something bigger than our tiny, muddled heads—something more expansive and exotic than this tiny island? VÞ

00:30 Outside Herðubreið, I witness a ‘balloon shakedown’ as a young man climbs onto the roof of the awning and snatches the string of one of the yellow helium balloons fastened to the house. A woman in red—a red fleece—comes tearing through the crowd, grabbing him by the collar and shaking him as she presses her face to his. VÞ

01:00 Horseplay and drunken buffoonery are indeed major themes of this festival, and provide an easy playing field for singles. Come the A.M. hours smooching and ‘knúsing’ envelope the premises, especially at the local bar Lára. It is jam packed and even offers special LungA cocktails, which natu-rally include a double shot. ML

02:00 At Láran—the ‘kaffibarinn of the east’—someone is shouting: “I’m not backwards, you see. I’m not backwards like a sailor!” Outside there are ‘security’ everywhere, not cops, but men walking around in vests, patrolling parking lots, picking up bottles from the street. The sound of breaking glass somehow manages not to be sinister in this environment. VÞ

03:00 The bridge serves as a kind of runway as people drunkenly pass back and forth between the dance at Herðubreið and Láran, on the way perhaps stopping to greet friends, perhaps looking for a moment out at the still water. A man passes by me with a beer in every available pocket. He eyes me and everyone around me leeringly, as though looking to pick a fight. A moment later a very drunk girl, being carried by one of her friends, accidentally kicks someone in the face. VÞ

03:30 Back from smoking a cigarette at the dance, my friend looks visibly agitated, and says he has just been told that he deserves to be punched for being from Reykjavík. VÞ

04:00 Daníel Ágúst performs the 1999 GusGus song ‘Ladyshave’ with support from the Hjaltalín band. Urður Hákonardóttir, Sigríður Thorlacius and President Bongo singing backup vocals into a single microphone, swaying in tandem, snapping with one hand, drink in the other. Everyone is dripping with sweat, clothes drooping off them, sexy, serious. VÞ

05:00 Not being aware of the track record, someone else attempts to nab the helium balloon as his friends watch on. Yet another player on defence shuts him down, this one clearly a civilian. VÞ

06:00 A group of spun motherfuckers are gathered on a patch of grass. Avoiding sleep is like a teasing game at this point. We join in belting out Sub-lime, and rolling around on our backs.

“What time is it?”
“Uh, I think almost six”
“Shit. I got a plane to catch at 11:00”
“Want some magic mushrooms?”
“Fuck it, why not?” ML

LungA- Alísa Kalyanova_4

13:00 The rain finally fell. Sitting at the kitchen table of the old lady’s house—the woman we had never seen but who had graciously donated us her space; the woman we had probably been keeping awake for two days now—I look out the open door. The fog, which had been blanketing us for days, has finally come to enfold us, and my eyes can’t reach beyond the inlet. The water still, the campsite abandoned, nothing left in the house but an empty 2 Litre Coke bottle. The door unlocked as it had always been. VÞ

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