Exhibition Day at Gamli Skóli in Hrísey, Iceland

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Gamli Skóli

Gamli Skóli

After three weeks of working alongside one another, the five artists living in Gamli Skóli (myself included) decided to host an exhibition. In the weeks prior, when we were not making art, we were busy befriending island locals and inviting them to our open house. I woke up on exhibition day to find that the dense clouds from prior days had lifted. It was a sunny 50ºF, with a moderate island breeze.

Living on a small island off the coast of another island, acquiring anything is a bit of a hassle. For me, obtaining something as simple as string became a week-long ordeal. Thanks to the local grocery woman, our dear friend Claudia, blue-tac and string (for hanging artwork) arrived safely on the day of the exhibition. That afternoon, I hastily hung my work along the hallway walls and hoped the makeshift system would endure through the night ahead.

Finally, after hanging my work, I was able to step back and witness the product of my efforts. I had created 12 new pieces inspired by tales told by the locals. That night, following a devastating World Cup loss for Iceland, island residents filed into our house-turned-gallery. Despite the national upset, the evening was lively with both friends and food. Fellow artist, Susan played the fiddle, while we all tapped along.

My artistic practice heavily relies on intuition and production (ie. I work, then think). Only now, being a few weeks removed from the body of work, am I able to recognize the meaning of this work. During my time in Hrisey, I read Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis. In his novel, Amis tells the story of a former Nazi Doctor in reverse chronology. The narrator, partially removed from the inverted narrative, further enhances this sense of disillusionment. Amis reestablishes the horror of the Holocaust as a mass phenomenon of righteousness. Amis’ reimagination of death greatly informed my body of work in that I utilized island folklore to create new visual narratives.

My fellow artists worked in a range of mediums. Susan, from Belfast, created exquisite collages inspired by the birds of the island. She utilized an antique typewriter, playing with the dichotomy of words and images. Melody, an artist from Brooklyn, New York, used a coding platform to create soundscapes. For her culminating project, she turned her bedroom into an installation piece entitled, “Memory Room.” Lydia and Clint, both from the US, worked alongside one another to create an installation piece utilizing video and sound. The piece presented the image of deer in the forest, disappearing in light of viewer generated noise (eg. footsteps). Having been able to experience the work in person, I know my synopses does not do these artworks justice. Only in-person can one fully appreciate these works.

I am grateful to have met and worked alongside such intelligent, creative and kind individuals. My four weeks in Hrisey resulted in a new body of work, new friends and bountiful memories.

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Rebecca Pempek

Rebecca Pempek is a studio art major from Putnam, Connecticut.

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