Published August 2, 2013
Here’s the story behind our cover: We somehow got to thinking: “For a feature story about street art in Reykjavík, wouldn’t it be cool to make some street art, in Reykjavík, to put on our cover? Like, get some smart, talented, wonderful artist to paint a mural of the entire cover—headlines and all—on a wall somewhere and then just stick a photo of that on our front page?”
(We later remembered that this is pretty much what the lovely Philadelphian Kurt Vile did for the cover of his latest record, ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’ (it’s great – go get it from wherever you get your music from) with the help of street artist Steve Powers. We are inspired by Kurt and Steve—thank you guys!).
Sara Riel was an obvious first choice and, we’re not gonna lie, we were super thrilled and humbled when she agreed to do it. We got even more excited when she proposed to use a piece she had made for the band múm’s new single. “That’s great,” we thought. “múm are great and we can interview them and also feature them this issue!” we thought. “DOUBLE-TROUBLE,” we thought.
We then set about finding a suitable wall. We found a few ones we thought would make a nice fit, and wondered for a while whether we should get a permit or, like, ask the wall’s owners if they were down with our plan. Ultimately we decided: “Our feature story is, among other things, about the legitimacy and legality of street art. A lot of the works we discuss weren’t done with the blessings of the City of Reykjavík or property owners. Most of the advertising we are exposed to while walking down our city’s fine streets doesn’t ask our permission before invading our eyes and headspace. In the spirit of street art, of opposition and of radicalism in general, we’ll just go for it and see what happens.”
We then got started. Sara rented one of those crazy basket lifter car things and got a bunch of paint and a few volunteer helpers together and set out creating the cover for Reykjavík Grapevine issue 11, 2013. The thing was a full two days in the making (let no one tell you that street artists are a bunch of lazy do-nothings—that’s some hard work!). As soon as Sara Riel painted the final stroke at a little past one AM this Wednesday, she went home to take a brief nap before heading on a hike across Iceland’s highlands (let no one tell you that street artists are a bunch of lazy do-nothings!).
Meanwhile, we keep going over there and just gawking and admiring that work of art Sara made. It’s gorgeous, and it is a reminder of all the beauty, fun, wonder, humour and awe we have been privileged enough to experience thanks to Sara and her fellow Reykjavík street artists over the past years. Their efforts are important, and we are thankful.
As downtown Reykjavík keeps turning more and more towards blatant commercialism and salesmanship—puffin shop by Viking bar by luxury hotel by tour provider, all clamouring for your attention, all desperate to cash in on TOURISM FRENZY, all trying to lure you in so you can be properly harvested—as our scenery and surroundings get increasingly covered in advertisements and attempts to sell you goods and/or services, as competition for our attention increases and our mindspace becomes more and more besieged by unwanted intrusion (“COME HERE! BUY THIS THAT OR THE OTHER!”), street art becomes increasingly significant and important—especially when it is of the unsolicited kind. Doing stuff just for the fuck of it is important. Decorating, making your mark on the environment, making your voice heard regardless of your lack of capital, despite your not owning walls, despite your not having anything to sell—that is important.
Here’s to Sara Riel and all the others making their mark on Reykjavík’s walls, delivering their thoughts, ideas, arguments and messages in an aesthetically pleasing manner, enriching their environment and asking for nothing in return (often running the risk of arrest or fines in the process!). While we’re at it, here’s to all the writers, photographers, illustrators, designers and enthusiasts who fill our pages with their thoughts, ideas, arguments and messages.
Here’s to free expression, expression that’s unconstrained by capital and free of the market’s demands.