From Iceland — Remembering 2009

Remembering 2009

Published September 26, 2013

Remembering 2009

Hooray! We turned ten this year. For a humble street rag like Grapevine, turning ten is a pretty big deal—we barely expected to make it to ten issues (and, indeed, all of our contemporaries from the Reykjavík’s street rag market have long since bid farewell… miss u, Undirtónar!).
To celebrate our decade of existence, we thought we’d get a little introspective and reprint some choice articles from the past that are for some reason significant, accompanied by commentary and even updates. Call it a “blast from the past” or “a look into the dark cauldron of time” if you want to—we call it fun. Thus, for ten issues, expect a page dedicated to a year of Grapevine’s existence, starting one issue ago, with a look back into magical 2003.
This issue is a look at 2009, Haukur S. Magnússon’s first year as editor. Read on from some reflections from the man!

My first issue as editor of the Reykjavík Grapevine was also the magazine’s first issue of 2009. These were urgent times. The dazed shock that Iceland’s TOTAL ECONOMIC COLLAPSE left the nation in was wearing off, and we were slowly starting to grasp the magnitude of what had happened, and the immense tasks we faced in the immediate (and, as it turns out, not so immediate) future.
Those who were around during that time will remember that basically everything was in a state of flux and uncertainty. Did we have a government? Did we have a working currency? WTF happened? WTF is going to happen? Is whatever happened someone’s fault? And if so, whose? In the case of the Grapevine, we also had to ask ourselves: Do we still have advertisers? Can we still afford to print the thing? Will we go under, like so many of our peers already have?
Any self-respecting publication—even a lo-fi tourist magazine—knows that the most important part of its job is to ask questions (and attempt to come up with answers, through JOURNALISM), and there certainly was no shortage of those. Taking a seat in the editor’s chair at the start of December 2008, I knew Grapevine and its contributors had their work cut out. Oh, of course we could have just slid into empty tourist-mag reportage (featuring waterfall-photo essays a plenty), but as a reader and journalist for Grapevine I had come to hold it to a certain standard. I took the job because I was first and foremost a fan of the Grapevine, and I would be damned if I would be responsible for defiling its legacy and letting it slide into boring complacency and pay-for articles about elves and spas and puffin shops (those were around then, too).
Imagine my surprise, then, when I showed up for my first day of work to an empty office. “Where is the staff?” I asked no one in particular. “You’re looking at it,” replied Grapevine’s publisher Hilmar. To survive the economic collapse, the magazine needed to resort to a few austerity measures. They included moving into a tiny office, decreasing the circulation by 5,000 (from 30,000 copies per issue to 25,000) and greatly decreasing the number of in-house staff. We no longer had a journalist, or that other journalist. Or an assistant editor. We no longer had a lot of things.
“Oh well,” I thought. “We’ll figure something out.” And we did. Through the tireless efforts of freelancers and interns and what in-house staff we had left, we managed to publish some pretty awesome and revealing stories during that first post-collapse year as we furiously tried to understand what had just happened and what was about to happen (we also kept a close eye on local music, art and culture, as we always have). And we had a blast while doing it!
I like to think we kept up the standard under some difficult circumstances, although that’s for others to judge.
Now, we published some pretty memorable stuff in 2009. First of all, I’d like to mention the year’s first issue, where we joked about our austerity measures on the cover (tagline: “We are only broke on money”—a quote from artist Gabríela Friðriksdóttir), while inside we surveyed almost anyone who would talk to us (some pretty cool people responded, too) about “What we had/what to expect.” Reading the issue and people’s analysis and predictions now, five years later, is both revealing and fun—it also provides some sort of idea of what being around then felt like.
As we made our February issue, the streets were raging with protest-action. We had spent all of January documenting that stuff, and some of our documentation appears in the issue, including an interview with two cops who were on the other side of the protest lines (a lot of what we did simply went on-line, because everything was happening so quickly). For our cover, we decided to deck out Davíð Oddsson and Geir H. Haarde in martyr gear (we thought their pleas for sympathy were pathetic), a tribute to Muhammad Ali’s Esquire cover.
One of my favourite articles we’ve ever run appeared in our April issue. In ‘The End of Neo-Liberal Neverland,’ philosopher/writer Haukur Már Helgason explored “the re-colonization of the Icelandic nation” in a masterful way. It is heady stuff and great analysis—and I got to put my friend Dalí on the cover! It holds up to this day.
We got to interview a lot of cool people in 2009. We talked to David Lynch (who did a self-portrait for our cover), the Reykjavík anarchist contingent (read Catharine Fulton’s excellent feature on that), rising artist Ragnar Kjartansson, Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson (“The Architect of the Collapse”) and Milos Forman!
But it wasn’t all interviews. Paul Fontaine wrote what was probably the first comprehensive account of the Icesave matter (in English at least), we made our first ever BEST OF REYKJAVÍK issue and then, in what was probably the year’s most important story for us, we examined Iceland’s FIRE SALE in our October issue, shining a needed spotlight on stuff like Magma Energy (now Alterra Power)’s attempts to purchase energy company HS Orka at a discounted price. I like to think those efforts mattered in the long run, and got some people to pay attention that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have.
So many fun articles that year. I might be biased, but I suggest if you have time on your hand you go download all the 2009 PDFs from our website and take some time to read them. I at least would totally enjoy doing that.

See Also:
Five Years Ago
Six Years Ago
Seven Years Ago

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