EXPORTED: Erin Elyse Burns: Part II (Recap on Westfjords Residency in Iceland)

 Seattle artist Erin Elyse Burns has returned home from a magical residency in Iceland at the Westfjords Residency. Today, she is sharing her thoughts (and gorgeous photos) to wrap-up the experience.
I recently returned home and I’m still seeing that surreal Icelandic blue every time I close my eyes. As the Westfjords Residency progressed, I realized that I wanted to learn from the landscape through the body. Climbing, sliding, crawling, slipping, leaping, plunging, rock hopping, and moving amongst long grasses, low-tide seaweed formations, bouldery harbors, and icy winter waters, all gave me a taste of the distinctive impact place has on physiology. Being an outsider and feeling awash with the newness of the land heightened my awareness of its tactility. I wore the knees out of a brand new pair of jeans.
In thinking about what an artist residency is at its best, so much depends on the people involved. The time I spent in conversation with the Westfjords Residency founders and cohort has made such a lasting impression. An exhilarating amount of like-minded yet fresh perspectives on shared interests unfolded with intensity over a short but invigorating period of time. I’m humbled by everyone I met, even a bit speechless by the profound connections I felt.

(A Typical Moment on our Roadtrip from Thingeyri to Reykjavik)

Towards the end of our ten days in Thingeyri, there were a number of exciting resident-lead events. Interaction designer Alex Todaro created an experimental dinner party in which the residency participants, founders, and the man whose land we were near (none other than the Icelandic architect Pálmar Kristmundsson) had a outdoor dinner on the beach by the fjord. Our hands were bound together through a system of knots – each person’s right and left hands were controlled by someone else. My left hand: Yasuaki Tanago, my right hand: Mary Fran Cardamone. We were seated in a circle of wood pallets amidst open bonfires. Our food was buried within the site. We collaboratively unearthed raw halibut and vegetables to cook over open flame. We fed each other bread and drank Icelandic moonshine. Perhaps unsurprisingly, all seemed to agree the feast ended too soon.

(Alex Todaro “Conference Spit” Experimental Dinner Setup)

(Historical Photograph (Postcard) of Local Villagers)

(Re-photographic Portrait of Residents and Founders Based on Historical Photograph of Local Villagers)

(Open House, May 18th, 2015)
On the last day of the residency, we opened the doors to our three work spaces and had an open house. Everyone shared their work with each other, the founders, villagers from Thingeyri, folks from the nearby town of Isafjordur and even a few tourists from England passed through too. In a village of less than 250 people in the off season, having around 30 people in one area was an enjoyable shock! Cafe Simbahollin’s famous Belgian waffles were served (the biggest and best in Iceland) and we had a productive end of the residency feedback meeting. And, poetry was read!

Five of us embarked on a two-day roadtrip from Thingeyri to Reykjavik that can best be summed up by an instance in which we all, in spontaneous unison, shrieked in overwhelmed ecstasy at the 10pm sun, blindingly beautiful over the Altantic Sea. I spent a few days decompressing in Reykjavik, visited some incredible contemporary art galleries, and had an accidental overnight adventure on the island of Heimaey, in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago, due to high seas and gale force winds that made taking the ship back to mainland Iceland ill advised.
I’ll spend this summer working through the video footage and images to shape this new body of work into an exhibition. A note of unsolicited advice: apply next round! The Westfjords Residency is a phenomenal program to be involved in.

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