From Iceland — Three Years Ago

Three Years Ago

Published October 8, 2013

Three Years Ago

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 2010, Haukur S. Magnússon’s second year as editor. Read on from some reflections from the man!

What you are reading is an instalment to a series of articles celebrating each of Grapevine’s ten years of existence. As the magazine’s tribute to itself inches closer to present day, it might seem absurd to spend precious time and pages reminiscing about something that happened only three years ago. However, as this spring’s parliamentary elections revealed, Icelanders have maybe never been very good at remembering their immediate past or taking particular lessons from it (this also becomes evident reading through this issue’s ‘FIVE YEAR COLLAPSE ANNIVERSARY’ articles).
Reading through the eighteen Grapevines published in 2010, one can learn a whole lot about some of the issues we faced at the time, many of which remain unresolved and continue to haunt us. In 2010, the collapse was still a fresh wound; financial vultures circled the island hoping to make a deal (or steal), as its tiny nation attempted to come to terms with WTF had happened through the SIC report and a constant exchange of ideas. A clown became mayor, a volcano erupted, a tourism initiative was launched and a whole lot of concerts were staged.
It was, mostly, a rather good year.
The magazine got a notable addition to its writing staff in February of 2010, when a young student called Anna Andersen signed on for a three-month internship. Anna quickly proved herself a skilled and attentive writer—so much in fact that she’s currently Grapevine’s editor. Her first article was published in March, and it was certainly an indicator of the good things to come. Entitled “Iceland’s Post-Crash Sale – 30% OFF!” the article is a thorough investigation of how the economic collapse had affected the cost of living on the island that collects and contextualizes widely available information that local journals had refrained from reporting on. Anna’s first feature article appeared in issue sixteen, when she had graduated to the post of full time journalist. “The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark” lambastes the Icelandic media for its ignorance and complacency leading up to the collapse, and remains an excellent read.
Issue four of 2010 makes for an interesting read for several reasons. Many of its articles are sprinkled with references to “a tourist eruption,” as—at the time of publication—a small volcanic eruption had started happening by some glacier called Eyjafjallajökull. Volcanologist James Ashworth contributed an article that basically explained that we had no idea what was going on, while A. Rawling’s review of Peaches concert at NASA was loaded with volcano references (fun fact: the volcano started erupting the night of that concert).  It seemed harmless and exciting at the time, a small, nicely contained volcanic eruption that would hopefully serve to lure a few tourists to the country. Little did we know.
That issue also marked the publication of one of Grapevine’s most widely read articles, a gargantuan interview with musicians Nico Muhly and Jónsi of Sigur Rós, who had just collaborated on the latter’s first solo album. Conducted in Reykjavík’s now sadly defunct secret gay leather bar with the help of two bottles of champagne, to a soundtrack of deep-house and gay porn moaning, Jónsi and Nico’s conversation is delightful to read, and contains many golden quotes (“Nico and Jónsi GO ALL IN!”—Issue 4, 2010). 
By issue five, the Eyjafjallajökull eruption had transformed to a giant clusterfuck that severely disrupted air travel all over the world and had drunk Scotsmen proclaiming loudly on global news networks that they hated Iceland. Still, human lives were never really in danger, and in an attempt to cheer people up and draw attention to the good things that were happening with a cover that announced: “SUNNY SIDE UP!”
Our main eruption article, again by volcanologist James Ashworth, gleefully asked: “WHO’S LAUGHING NOW, EUROPE?” We had some nice eruption pictures spread through the issue, but the most important story of the month as far as we were concerned was the publication of the SIC report, where the reasons for the economic collapse were outlined and examined. The report was a gargantuan one, and we did our best to report its findings and Icelanders’ feelings about them, even asking philosopher Vilhjálmur Árnason (who oversaw the report’s chapter on ethics) whether Icelanders were an “inherently immoral nation” (the answer: mayyyybe?). The SIC report was an impressive feat, and it bears remembering. English speakers interested in the reports findings are advised to read over our feature about it for a hint or two. 
It was a pretty eventful time, all in all. Issue six saw two courses of events start to unfold that would eventually turn into some of 2010’s most pertinent newsstories. The first appeared in the form of a short note from singer Björk Guðmundsdóttir, where she challenged “the government of Iceland to do everything in its power to revoke the contracts with Magma Energy that entitle the Canadian firm complete ownership of HS Orka.” This marked the beginning of Björk’s very public war against the selling off of Iceland’s nature, which we reported in detail. The rest of 2010 saw Björk—among other things—engage in a spirited exchange of words with Magma CEO Ross Beaty through Grapevine’s website, organizing a karaoke marathon at the Nordic House in support of the cause and talking about her passion for nature preservation among other things in an exclusive feature interview with Grapevine (see for instance issue 10, “Björk Speaks Up On Magma Again,” issue 11, “Postcards From The Edge,” “Grand Old Aunt Björk” and issue 12, “An Army Of Us”)
The other story is that of how comedian Jón Gnarr managed to become the mayor of Iceland’s only proper city through a campaign that was initially written off as a poorly thought out joke. It could be argued that Grapevine’s feature interview with Jón in issue six (“What Are You Voting For, Reykjavík?”) was the media’s first attempt to go beyond the joke and take Jón’s campaign seriously—indeed, it was considered so revelatory at the time that someone even went to the trouble of translating it to Icelandic for further dissemination among non-English speakers. In the interview, Jón explains where he’s coming from, expresses his disdain for most if not all of Iceland’s institutions (“They are all dead.”) and calls for cultural revolution. We interviewed Jón again after he had won (issue 7, “He Really Did It”) and a few issues later we debuted the mayor’s “WELCOME TO REYKJAVÍK” address to tourists, which made its way around the world a few times over as word started spreading about Iceland’s comedian mayor.
Three years after his joke campaign, Jón Gnarr remains mayor, and his Best Party is currently the highest polling party in Reykjavík. Time will tell if Jón will run again for mayor in the coming municipal elections, and whether his bid will be successful, but in the meantime it’s safe to say the comedian pulled off one hell of a joke while appearing more sensible than most career politicians can ever hope to be. 
Stuff kept happening through the year, most notably a continuation of the horrid Icesave dispute and the Constitutional Assembly election, which we reported on at length. It’s all there, on-line, if you’re interested.

Four Years Ago
Five Years Ago
Six Years Ago
Seven Years Ago

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