In Between the White And the Dancing Green


Photo by Lara Morais

By Lara Morais


Up, up North.
Where the white reflects the day and the green appears at night.

I arrived one day later; by that time almost everyone had already presented themselves and their work. Only three participants would present their work with me the following night.

Late night while entering the space, I sensed a profound silence. Upstairs, behind the door, my first perception of the space was its length. When entering the door, one could see at first, the “girls” room, next to this room there is the kitchen. Beside the kitchen one can find the corridor where the “boys” sleep, separated by a curtain with a mezzanine on top of it. Continuing walking there is a large space, an open space studio with a panoply of materials, tables, cabinets, chairs, sofas, books, painted canvases, tools and so on. In the middle there is a shared bathroom. The windows are along the left side of the space, from the first room, along the kitchen until the end of the studio. Large windows to the white mountains. No curtains.

In the morning and after my first contact with the daylight coming in through the windows, I had a different perception of the space – there are spaces that look much better with the sunlight and places where the light is much different – I also had my first contact with the smell of rotten eggs in the shower and after this sensory input I finally met everyone during breakfast time while drinking coffee.
It was the safari day – a “safari” on the snow is a very warm word for the cold it was outside. We had several exciting experiences in our safari through the white mountains, such as having to push the Land Rover out of a road covered by snow, walking on top of a huge frozen lake – at least trying to maintain verticality, being amazed by the stalactites inside a little cave – near the lake, seen and smelling the source of the rotten egg odor that one feels in the shower – the bubbling yellow mud, walking near the sea under the falling snow. Freezing outside, falling on the ice, warming up with a vegetable soup at a cozy house and at the end of the day, going back to the studio.
All the senses were stirred on this day, from smelling new odours, tasting different vegetables, feeling the cold, experiencing the landscape and some awkward moments, seeing a different topography and hearing some known and unknown sounds. Everything was new, so much information to apprehend, so much to capture, so much to memorise.
Dinner was almost ready, veggie chili.
This day ended with the remaining presentations followed by music and exchange of opinions about each other’s work and ideas around the workshop.

Waking up on the second day, the daylight was invading the room. Half of the group was having breakfast while the other half was queuing for the shower. After the morning routine we danced with each other beneath an energy rain with tickling sensation, and to finish the group morning meeting, we had our first work discussion. Discussion about what should we all deliver at the end of the workshop, several ideas related to a possible group presentation, what type of presentation we could make, what type of thoughts and also how to work together or solo. The meeting finished with an idea of making a presentation within 3 days where everyone would have to present their work inspired by the environment, by the theme “Edges”, by each one’s practice and each one’s fears.
During the afternoon, there was time to reflect on the work, time to visit some coffee places, time to walk under the rain and against the wind and finally time to dive in to a hot and bubbling swimming pool under a snow storm.

We began the third morning dancing, followed by our second group discussion. Everyone had already one or two ideas – a piñata, serendipity experiences, a found object and its fictional story, a kaleidoscope effect, thrown objects – a composition in real time, whispering the string theory, situationist walks, challenging one’s edges through singing or dancing, and more to elaborate on.
One more day – to concentrate, to brainstorm, to walk around the city mingling with locals and tourists in local bars, trying the fish and chips at the corner of the exhibition place.

The day after started with group exercises: in a circle, one sound to be passed and reproduced by everyone randomly and with demanding concentration in order to re-echo each other’s vibrations. Various reproduced sounds – few soundless moments – followed by the last exchange of ideas prior to the final presentation.
Some of us stayed inside, writing, folding, gluing and admiring the blue sky outside. Others went out to the city, took the bus and walked around. Opposite to the beautiful and pleasant weather during the day, the usual cooling down at night was for us a good reason to get warm with a typical Icelandic meal at the harbour.

After five days of work the presentation day finally arrived, the culmination of this workshop – the reason for all the discussions on ideas, exchange of knowledge about Iceland and all the different cultures represented by each one of us and also the reason for all the negotiations around the available materials and equipment, something that challenged us to think and rethink each work.

The exhibition started outside with the aurora borealis dancing over our heads. During the natural spectacle interval, inside the building the “edges” started to be broken, folded, transposed and maybe at the same time also being created.
Inside the two-storey building situated in the city center eight artists were presenting their work on the ground floor. Three performances presented at the same place, one after the other, starting with three serendipity stories read by three voices of three different countries. Immediately after, a description about an apartment followed – a body perception from that space during a certain period of time, right after a real time dance composition conducted by three hands – three persons throwing different objects, such as rocks, coffee, fish, cans etc. towards the fourth person. On the same floor, on the right side of the door in front of one of the three large windows, there was a table with six folded papers, kaleidoscope style, forming a phrase “the girl with the kaleidoscope eyes”. Beside the last window there was a little projection, a walk around the city where one can see the grid dividing the moving images, a dérive through the urban landscape. Near one of the two pillars there was another table with a found object and its contemporary story; ahead near the second pillar – some mirrors lying down on the floor next to a cardboard box expelling a smoke that invaded the room and mixed with the other pieces, leaving a white haze all over the room. Still on the first floor, there was a sound piece inside a small room where one could hear someone speaking sotto voce, whispering a secret, the string theory.
On the top floor everyone was lining up to break the resistant piñata, after the confetti rain, other edge was about to be broken, a video and a dance routine, a shadow of a shadow. Last but not the least, a spoken word concert, in Icelandic, fired up with a lot of colour, movement, glitter and strength.

The night came to an end as it started, with the dancing green.
The visualisation of this natural phenomenon was an unspeakable event, something that with no doubt we were aiming to experience. The night was clean and extremely cold, as expected. After tidying the space a little, we went as a group from one bar to another until we reached the building with a terrace on the top floor. Already on the last floor, someone shouted from outside: “Come! Hurry up!” The terrace floor was covered with slippery ice, we carefully reached the edge of the terrace, looking up and trying desperately to maintain equilibrium. Suddenly, our effort was rewarded, it was absolutely amazing to contemplate that moving bright light, as it was a routine made by various silk fabrics flowing with the wind. Perhaps what I felt at that unique moment was similar to the experience of walking through a forest covered with snow under a lucent full moon, where the brightness and the darkness dwelled together.

After an intense week, there was a day to rest, to visit the secondhand market, to have a coffee at the same place with the slippery terrace, and also some time to digest the night before and the whole process until that day.
For dinner, some unknown fishes to cook.
For sure the whole process was a challenge – to produce work in such a short time, with few discussions – less than what I usually have – mixed with a growing curiosity regarding the country – something that was filling the time corresponding the creative process.
In the final analysis, maybe it was the solar wind interacting with elements in the earth’s atmosphere (aurora borealis), or the group energy or even the deadline feeling, the end presentation flowed, from one work to another without any trouble, in a very pleasant pace, from one “edge” to another until its end.