This book is finished. I’m giving most of the edition of 50 away to people in Skagaströnd this week. It feels so good to hand the object over, to pass it on, to be able to leave it behind.
The experience is similar to what happened with Weymouths, but 530 is different for a few reasons. I created this work on-site, in and around the chance encounters with people in town, so there’s already a familiarity with the work (and me), and certain expectations.
Also, 530 is much more accessible. The entire work is embodied in a single book, and easily communicated. The power of the object. With Weymouths, I could only give away parts. And the mass and expense of the project—12 books in a custom-made box—meant that very few people were able to fully encounter Weymouths. Of course, Weymouths wasn’t really about that total experience—it was more about the value of the ephemeral encounter, conversations, fragments, a glimpse.
530 is a complete poetic work. A place-based book work that serves as a particular expression of my experience with this place. It works as a solid brick of connected encounters that can be recreated or re-imagined by the reader, or not, in any number of ways. Framed like this, I can easily hand over the object-based work and leave the rest up to the recipient, and this feels very satisfying.
The final 39 movement-parts of 530 (Sá veldur sem á heldur), written as a score and ordered by chance:
1 Navigation. 2 Depths. 3 Take three, three cards. 4 1815. 5 Bank sea hermit. 6 The box is a battery. 7 Quota. 8 Light. 9 Fiskisúpa. 10 Island. 11 Einbúi. 12 Outlaws. 13 ____________________. 14 Yeah, we are just. 15 Earth. 16 Just in front of me. 17 Mayor. 18 Hafrún. 19 Mirror. 20 Town. 21 Water. 22 Back to God’s Country. 23 We have our families. 24 Fjords, on the sea. 25 Scientist. 26 Bensín. 27 We have our connections. 28 Those transparencies. 29 1964. 30 Horse. 31 Strong. 32 Old friendship ties. 33 Þórdís. 34 Self. 35 530. 36 There’s one bird. 37 Mountain. 38 Rabbarbarabaka. 39 Grandfather.
Starting the reading of 530 for our self-organized group show “Rauði Klefinn” in the red fish freezer at Skagaströnd harbor, 23 August 2013. Photo by Liz Dunn. Darr Tah Lei’s view (she filmed the entire thing, which I’ll post if/when I edit it). More here.
Take three, three cards.
You have to choose wisely
A lot of people around you
Good card, very good
I start here
Is it about navigation?
Last night someone walked over to my desk and I showed her the 530-page blank dummy and we were talking about the differences between a bound book and a loose deck of cards, like tarot. And I explained that the pages of this book will be minimal in appearance and open to interpretation, and that the sections are ordered by chance, and that I leave it to the reader to experience the book as he/she desires (front-to-back, back-to-front, flipping through, random encounters). “The one who holds it is the one responsible (sá veldur sem á heldur).”
And she said “oh, you mean bibliomancy?”
The use of books in divination. “Divination can be seen as a systematic method with which to organize what appear to be disjointed, random facets of existence such that they provide insight into a problem at hand.” The I Ching, famously.
I’m not sure I could better describe my practice here in Skagaströnd. A systematic method with which to organize what appear to be disjointed, random facts of existence. The problem at hand is unstated; the problem at hand is what the reader brings to the work. A specific question or a feeling or none at all.
It could be a question of identity.
How can we read the daily route of a fishing trawler at sea. The boat follows the whale. The whale follows the fish, who respond to the currents, the temperature, the light and salinity. The route marks itself, an automatic trace, the Orvar’s (arrow) pattern as it searches for the creatures. A drawn dance, a choreography of the town’s survival.
The ship draws its pattern each day and forms its historical archive of itineraries, but only fourteen days of data are saved. As the ship moves through sea time, the archive regenerates itself and disappears.
Late last night I used chance operations to order the sections of the book, 1–39.
If it’s a book. This morning, the printer told me that he made a dummy book and has doubts about the binding. I don’t know what he means, but I’m picking the dummy up later today and I’ll take a look.
If it’s not a perfect-bound book, I might create a set of 530 unbound cards instead. Each card would contain an image or text, and could be shuffled, dealt, spread, read. I love this idea of a reader-determined reading. Like tarot.
The cards could be wrapped simply in paper and I could hand-write a title right on top.
Earlier this week Steindór walked into the studio and was telling me about the town’s future, its quest for new resources, and wrote down a saying in my sketchbook: sá veldur sem á heldor. He translates it as “the one who holds it is the one who is responsible.” A lovely idea about a book—the reader is responsible. The reader holds it and the reader creates the order, makes a structure, interprets, reads, brings associations and dreams, gives meaning.
Orvar. Depths. Take three, three cards. 1815. Bank sea hermit. The box is a battery. Quota. Light. Fiskisúpa. Island. Einbúi. Sá veldur sem á heldur. ________. Yeah, we are just. Earth. Just in front of me. Mayor. Boat. Mirror. Town. Water. Back to God’s Country. We have our families. Scientist. Fuel. We have our connections. Those transparencies. 1964. Horse. Strong. Old Friendship ties. Þórdís. Self. 530. There’s one bird. Mountain. Rabbarbarabaka. Grandfather.
Is this the title of the work?
Or, sá veldur sem á heldor.
I’m tempted to say that this project is finished. Or, that this is a project that should never end. Somewhere between those two thoughts is where I am right now, exactly half-way through this residency in Skagaströnd, Iceland.
The structure of the book work started to reveal itself in the last few days, each collection of artifacts gathered into chapter-like segments. There are 33. Collections, chapters, links, artifacts, voices, evidence of a place. Some are transcribed interviews, or a series of photographs, or data found online (like the daily plots of a fishing boat that was docked here last week), or a list of words, or a recipe for rhubarb pie. The traced ruins of turf houses, the mountain of fish nets at the dump. Nothing more, nothing less.
Powerful language, all of it found in place. Words and images that stand on their own, no explanation required. I’m looking for the open space between lines and pixels where the residue of a particular place, at a particular moment, is left behind. To be read like the impression of a dream.
1 back to god’s country
3 yeah, we have our families, connections, strong old friendship ties
7 the box is a battery
11 those transparencies
16 take three, three cards
19 fjords, on the sea
20 bank sea hermit
21 just in front of me
22 there’s one bird
25 orvar (arrow)
33 hidden world
#25 orvar (arrow)
#33 hidden world
This one was for outlaws.
Ya in the hidden world.
Oh in the hidden world.
Ya the hidden people over there in the cliff over there.
They live in the cliffs.
They live in the cliffs, that was their residence.
And then then they had the outlaws. They put them there.
So that’s einbúi. Einbúi means who lives alone.
I used our open studio as an opportunity to organize the images and text voices that I’m collecting, annotated and bound by clothespins. Book work parts. Twenty-two elements so far:
- back to god’s country
- there’s one bird
- just in front of me
- take three, three cards
- Fjörds, on the sea
- einbúi (the one who lives alone)
- (19–22) yeah, because we are just, we have our families, we have our connections, strong old friendship ties
Up on the wall, the 18 chancewords, and the map.
- svartfugl—common name for alcids
- blikka—flash (the headlights)
- tæmandi—exhaustive description
- flan—rash action
- austar—further east/more easterly
- hornauga—take a dim view of, look askance
- sveipa—wrap up, cover
- samþykkja—agree, approve
I asked Linda Hentze, 18, who lives here in Skagaströnd, if I could hijack her Instagram feed for my project, and she graciously said yes. Collecting voices here.
Fjords, on the sea, which is visible at their original position of two factory direction of a shop, and is a short display of irregular perspection of which, further up, opens in Stranda Syssel, receding houses, a shop, and thrown down, and is pleasantly situated by the to both sides striking resemblance in every now and snow-cappearance in every now and snow-cappearance top of Spákonufell, the summit of the top of a fort, and thrown down, and to both sides striking vallies.
Near Höskuldstad is the H North Cape. Behind to both sides stretch a range of which still occupy they are broken every now and is the north Cape. Behind the rocks; some of which rise the prospection. The factory is pleasantly situated about in every now and is their original position of irregular columnar rocks, you have a fine projections, which rise the opposition of which, furthers a most bears a most beautiful display of which, furthern terminated by into the spacious gulf, where the walls of which is a small creek, fort.
Near Höskuldstad is a striking resemblance in irregular columnar rocks; some of irregular perspect of two factory consists of the summit of which still occupy the promontories and lie scattered about in every dwelling in the summit of a fine promontories and then by the sea, where the factory consists of lower mountain of a range of a ridge of Spákonufell, the rocks, you have a fine prospect of which rise they are broken every now and othern terminated by the sea, which a ridge of which are terminate
Syssel, receding in every dwelling vallies.
Near Höskuldstad is pleasantly situated by they are the bold projections, where termination of which, further up, opens intervening resemblance. From the top of which still the walls of which are broken every now and Hruta Fjords, on they are broken every now and the high mountains into the walls of the spacious gulf, where terminated about in irregular perspection. The factory consists of a fine promontories and to then by the to the spacious gulf, which a Cape. Behind the summit of a fort, and is pleasantly situated at a small creek, formed by into the bold prospect of which bears are terminated by the summit of a stretch are broken every direction. The factory is a shop, and is the high mountains, which still occupy the rocks, the prospective till occupy the spacious gulf, which still occupy the prospect of the opposition. The factory is the opposition. The factory dwelling houses, and is visible at the bold promontories and three or four warehouses.
Markhov chain text generated by Almar Freyr. Seed text from Iceland: Or, The Journal of a Residence in that Island, During the Years 1814 and 1815, Ebenezer Henderson, 1819 (the single paragraph beginning “The factory consists of two dwelling-houses…”):
Today marks the 14th day of chancewords in my studio in Skagaströnd. Every morning, I generate an Icelandic word from a printed Íslensk-Ensk dictionary that I found, like this—
- The dictionary is on pages that are numbered 15–425. Using random.org I generate a number to choose one of these pages.
- Each page has two columns, so I generate a 1 or 2 to select the column.
- I then count the number of words [x] in that column and generate a number from 1 to x to select the chanceword.
The words are of the language and the meanings are of the place. Icelandic is a notoriously closed system with very few loanwords, and it’s not spoken widely outside of Iceland. The chancewords procedure is a site-specific machine to generate meaning. Slow poetry, or chapters, or maybe this is just another voice in the town. I don’t know what I’ll do with these just yet.
The two colors were chosen from this photograph of einbúi, the rock at the harbor that’s named “the one who lives alone” (from my meeting with Magnús the mayor).