Iceland has captivated me since I read Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites in 2013…
I’ve long believed if you voice an intention, you own it and have a responsibility to make it happen. Sometimes I’m pushed to my very limits doing this – outside and within my practice.
It’s how, two years ago, I committed to spending time in Iceland in 2019. I simply told people I was going. I figured the more people I told, the more pressure was on me to make it happen.
Iceland has captivated me since I read Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites in 2013 – set in Iceland and written by an Australian, it is stark, captivating, and haunting. Over the following five years I’ve devoured anything Icelandic (as well as Nordic, Scandi and a lot of Vikings) – the good, the bad and the plain weird…like their dark cartoonist/comedian, Daggson, and some musician that sounded like an Icelandic Wiggle.
In some ways, Iceland is a bit like Australia – sparsely populated, somewhat isolated even in a modern world, and considerably rural in geography and culture. However, the landscape and climate, as seen on a screen and through descriptions in books, seems so foreign and vastly different to our wide, brown land of climatic extremes.
Excitingly, Icelanders seem creative to the core – art, music, writing. They read more books per capita than any other country in the world. All of which has my mind churning over new sound and video works, and the possibility to getting back to more writing.
…like so many creatives, there was an underlying crippling self-doubt at play.
When I discovered the Nes Artist Residency in my search for a valid way to explore Iceland through my practice, I just knew this was it. But like so many creatives, there was an underlying crippling self-doubt at play. I went through the motions of applying for the residency and planning my projects for that period at the same time as working on a Plan B.
Why a Plan B at this stage? Because why on earth would I be successful? Nes is an international residency, so why would an artist from regional NSW be considered – an artist who has struggled to create a foothold or credibility for her practice in her own hometown, region and country?
I was building my own brick wall. As if being an artist isn’t hard enough?
It seemed like the stars were aligning.
Then on 12 February 2019, I received an email saying: Nes has reviewed your application and is delighted to offer a residency to you for September and October 2019.
At around this time I was preparing for an exhibition with other regional artists, at a local university campus, where I was installing the first collaborative sound work created in partnership with German artist, Didi Hock, as part of the Arts Territory Exchange. It seemed like the stars were starting to align.
As my excitement about the Nes residency turned to serious preparations for the works I intended to do there, it was evident there’d soon be more brick walls and frozen thoughts that immobilise creatives under pressure.
So the grant writing has begun. It’s tedious, time consuming, and there are no guarantees.
Serious preparations for large scale art works require serious money. I’m fortunate to have been self-employed in a creative industry for more than two decades, but my time in Iceland and the period following it will effectively take me out of my business for six months. Long service leave and holiday pay for periods of more than a month don’t really exist when you’re self-employed. No work = no income. In the meantime, I ferret away dollars at every opportunity and hope for minimal disruptions to the flow of work.
So the grant writing has begun. It’s tedious, time consuming, and there are no guarantees. For all the meetings with arts administrators to discuss applications, amazing letters of support, and positive self-talk, this is an incredibly disheartening process usually resulting in the following response: While unfortunately on this occasion you were not successful, we appreciate the time and effort you put into your application and encourage you to apply again in the future.
It’ll be the biggest, most expensive, most ambitious work I’ll have created in the 17 years of my practice…
Following the two months at Nes in Skagaströnd, Iceland, I’ve got a major solo exhibition to install in Australia. It is the biggest, most expensive and ambitious work I’ll have created in the 17 years of my practice – involving over 12 months of production; 32 thousand kilometres of travel across Australia and the world; a team of production assistants in the shape of drone operators, video and sound editors, curatorial staff and others; plus many hours of lost sleep over budgets, creative dilemmas and self-doubt.
I need to believe at this point that voicing my intention will make this happen. More projects in the interim, more baby steps towards the solo production, and chasing more opportunities is the only way to keep moving forward. The alternative is to be bricked in and frozen forever.