Nestled in the picturesque fjord of Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland, talented leaders from all creative fields find ways to bestow their knowledge to young participants over a week long workshop. The old wooden houses built by the Norwegian settlers centuries ago provide a vibrant color pallet, the tents on every lawn tell us that this festival has become a well sought tradition within the art community and proven by the fact that there are people around every corner. Seyðisfjörður has been transformed into the most sought after art hub in the east Iceland, bursting at the seams with talent and ambition.
LungA is an art festival for people from ages 16 to 25 years old. Their main incentive is to make a variety of art forms available for young people from all over the world, by creating an atmosphere where everyone can join forces to create exhibitions, innovative projects, musical experiments and experiences free of all judgment of any kind.
“Anyone can come and join a workshop, pick from various art forms each year. What we have had up until now is different kinds of dancing, dj-sound fusion, theater, circus, visual arts, performing arts, comic strip making, fashion design, photography, graffiti, graphic design, stomp, short film making, animation…” The organizers of LungA say and tell us of all the things we are able to see and join throughout our stay.
Synchronized swimming, naked saunas, sea swimming and so many experiences were made available during this week long LungA festival, we could not wait to try it all!
LungA LAB + Herðubreið
Let us start by telling you a little bit about the organisation, the mecca of the festival is located in the cultural and community center in the middle of town called Herðubreið, which is also the name of the tuya mountain that can be seen from Seyðisfjörður. This center is home to LungA ráðs (meaning LungA bosses) headquarters, the dining hall in which many of the guests meet everyday to eat together, a cinema, LungA community radio and a tiny store among other facilities available to anyone in need. Seyðisfjörður was divided into areas that were all displayed on a map, since the town is small, one can walk to all these places.
On July 15th, a sunday, it all begins with a audiovisual installation by Konrad Korabiewski that is fittingly titled “Fjarðarheiði,” which is also the name of the road that connects Egilsstaðir and Seyðisfjörður. The piece is an interpretation of the extremes of the lightness and darkness in daylight, connecting it to the journey and stages of our human lives. Reflected by how the road Fjarðarheiði has constantly changing conditions do to weather, ranging from a thick fog, storms, winds, rain and snow. This is followed by an opening ceremony featuring happenings by Erasmus+, Reykjavíks fine arts school, the Kaospilot program from Denmark, University of Brighton and the Hyper Island school from Sweden.
Workshop + culture building
The following day the workshops start, everyone meets their leaders and fellow participants and start to learn from each other, working toward the common goal of expressing themselves through various art forms.
Yoga is followed by the emergence of a reoccuring theme, connected to the baseline of the festival of not condoning any type of judgment. This is the general topic of gender in all its forms. Páll Óskar Hjálmtýsson, an Icelandic singer, dj and songwriter, gave a lecture and led a discussion on “kyn” or gender in all its variety, every sexual identity known of today and how to show respect to everyone you come in contact with. He was joined by Alda Villiljós, a person that does not identify with any gender and will be featured on our @thisisniceland instagram account #humansofniceland. They (as Alda Villiljós prefers to be referenced) are a driving force in educating people on gender identification. These interesting discussions are followed by an improv performance by Improv Iceland, an improvisation group that meet and practice their art every week and perform on various occasions, highlighting the usefulness of refining skills that one may draw upon in situations outside of one’s comfort zone. Talking about being outside the comfort zone, the day concludes with a karaoke party at a venue called Láran, a restaurant/bar located on the main street Norðurgata.
Tuesday’s lunch was in Herðubreiðs dining room along with a podcast on gender, followed by workshops and daily yoga. Multi instrumentalist and singer Sóley Stefánsdóttir, better known as Soley, gave a performance in the church, a very well known landmark in Iceland because of its light blue color and fairytale like presence. This little church would later be transformed into a venue for a performance led by Soley and her group. Movie night awaits and the Flat Earth Film Festival was right on point with movies based on gender and gender identity.
FUBAR + Rhiannon
July 18th is here and our friends Sigga Soffía Níelsdóttir & Jónas Sen are set to perform tonight and we cannot wait. But first non binary Rhiannon Collet, a gender identity activist and multimedia artist from the US, discusses how their (as Rhiannon Collet wants to be referred to) art reflects gender self identification, gender education and gender rituals. FUBAR is a dance piece by Sigga Soffía a dancer choreographer that dances to the music of Jónas Sen, formally known for his extensive work with Icelandic superstar Björk. The piece is an intriguing mix between dance, song, music and stand up comedy, that was nominated for the Icelandic awards Gríma 2017 in the categories of music and Sigga personally as dancer of the year. Rina Rosenqvist helped us work to let go of all conventional rules through dance, hypnotics, meditation and other activities all closely related to dance to reach personal nirvana and share our confusion. DJ Hirðmar played an ambient set, appropriately called “Sofðu Rótt” or “Sleep tight”.
Time is going by so fast and everyone is trying to take it all in. It is friday and we have heard more about gender from a couple of people, we listened to singing and went to some exhibitions of Source Material, Sean Patrik O´Brien and Elín Signý, to name a few.
“Norð austur” or North East is a sushi restaurant located in the heart of Seyðisfjörður that serves fresh Icelandic fish straight of the boat after it has been turned into the most delicious sushi in the world. (So good we ate their two nights in a row!)
“Norður Síld“ or North Herring is a place in the east of the fjord, a bit of a walk from town, also available was a free, in an abandoned shipyard LungA has constructed a concert venue under the bright evening sky. LungA concerts go off without a hitch, welcoming the elite of the music scene along with some artists from abroad. The bar is a steering house from an abandoned ship, wooden pallets have constructed a stage and seating area and local parents helped security keep track of everyone on site safe. Beautiful string lights are draped around the area and the world biggest disco ball (note: no scientific measurements were made) hangs from a pole.
FINALLY saturday arrives and everyone has their performances and sharing projects ready for the grand finale. Various locations were taken over, we were truly surprised by an exhibition called “This is not a horror house” They had a stomp playground set up for people to try and create music together, they had a womb room where nets draped all over the room with cozy lighting provided exactly that, a womb or warmth for relaxing. Everything was aimed at positivity, fun and relaxation. Across from the womb room, we found a bathtub full of pillows in which one could lie in and forget the world. Come out and spin a wheel, you have the chance to choose from lemonade, waffles or pop corn, take your snack and walk over to a shopping cart, you get in and receive a crown on your head. All of the sudden something pushes your cart into motion and you are taken on trip filled with puppies, soap bubbles and compliments! To see more you can follow us on instagram @thisisniceland and view the highlights from LungA. A palm reader gives you a positive reading and all that is left is getting the ball in the bucket! (To see what I mean, follow us on instagram @thisisniceland and few the highlights from LungA). After meeting the people participating in the workshops and the leaders that led them, it was evident that people had taken a lot away from their time in Seyðisfjörður. They stretched their imaginations, they had been pushed out of their comfort zones, they learnt by doing and had brand new experiences to build on. They would be leaving with knowledge that would enrich them as artists and also as human beings.
It is incredibly inspiring to see how much happiness and satisfaction is evoked by those who surround the projects. We took interviews with the people we met, the artists and students and will be sharing them with you on our Facebook and Instagram over the next couple of weeks.
If you wish to see highlights from out time at LungA please feel free to look at them on our Instagram @thisisniceland.