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There Will Be Flood

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Jónsi brings a figurative “flood” to Hafnarhús as he explores creativity beyond music

“I don’t know anything about how to be an artist,” says Jón Þór Birgisson, or Jónsi, as we meet at the Reykjavík Art Museum Hafnarhús. Less than a week before his first solo exhibition in Europe, FLÓÐ, opens its doors to visitors and simultaneously kicks off the biennial Reykjavík Arts Festival, Jónsi seems stressed.

As we stand surrounded by half-assembled works, he confesses, “I haven’t tried anything yet, haven’t turned the light on, haven’t heard the audio yet.” It’s been a full month since he arrived in Iceland from his sunny home base in Los Angeles, and he has spent every day since at the museum, methodically piecing together components for the immersive visual, auditory and olfactory installations. “It’s way more work than you think somehow,” he admits. “I want to see it work, but it’s going to happen slowly.”

Creative alchemy

Before Jónsi the artist came Jónsi the musician. 

“I’ve been a musician forever — been in the band for 30 years now, Sigur Rós,” he says modestly as if his decades with the seminal band need an introduction. “I’ve just always been interested in visual arts. When you live in Iceland, you’re surrounded by artists. It’s something you can’t avoid.” Seven years ago, when Jónsi moved to LA, he suddenly had more time and space for experimenting with other creative projects. It was through his collaboration with renowned artist Ólafur Elíasson that Jónsi got connected with gallerist Tanya Bonakdar. 

As someone with a trained eye for visual art, Tanya saw potential in Jónsi’s creative explorations beyond music. “I started telling her about my ideas and installations I’ve been working on and she suggested we try and have an exhibition and see how it goes. That’s how it started.”

“I just want to move people a little bit in some way. It’s nice to be moved.”

Initially commissioned for the Nordic Museum in Seattle, this is the first time FLÓÐ is coming to Europe. Jónsi explains that his original conversation with the Reykjavík Art Museum revolved around another piece, his Obsidian installation from 2021 — a simulation of a volcano brought to life through a 16-channel composition played through 200 speakers. “When it comes to shipping, it’s an extremely impractical, non-logical piece — so heavy and awkward and big,” he says of the Obsidian piece. Since it wouldn’t fit at the museum, Jónsi proposed bringing FLÓÐ instead, along with other ideas. Installations SAD and REK will occupy other spaces within Hafnarhús, while Jónsi’s wind harp will adorn building exterior.

FLÓÐ started as a simple idea, with Jónsi contemplating the ocean and the similarities between Seattle and Reykjavík — sister cities, both coastal and surrounded by the vast waters. The concept, however, soon took a more existential and urgent environmental tone. “Then it went further into us being on social media, doomscrolling and seeing all these climate change things happening.” With a tingle of sadness, he adds, “We live in interesting times because it’s very obvious what’s happening, but nobody’s doing anything about it. [FLÓÐ is] about the big wave that, when the ocean rises, is going to sweep us away.” 

Photo by Atli Freyr Steinsson

With an art book fair happening next door and temporarily slowing down the installation process, I’m left to imagine how things will look here in just a few days. The now white room will turn into a complete blackout space with 50 speakers adorning the walls to play a 25-minute sound piece with Jónsi’s transcendent chorals — pure and powerful. A lone, flickering strip of light will cut through engineered darkness. The air will be thick with swirling smoke, Icelandic black sand and a distinctive, haunting scent.

A sensory adventure

“When I started this art adventure thing, I wanted it to be multisensorial a little bit — you walk into a room and you hear something, you see something and you smell something,” explains Jónsi, who’s been successfully dabbing into perfumery for the past 15 years.

The nose behind Fischersund, his family-run perfume house, Jónsi purposefully curated a scent for the exhibition. He ventured to a nearby beach to harvest seaweed, from which he created a tincture. This, combined with 30 other aroma molecules, resulted in “an apocalyptic, kind of briny, salty, seaweed thing.”

“The scent is a little bit brutal,” he smiles, adding, “Not really, though.”

Together with his siblings, Jónsi is also working on a limited-edition fragrance that will be sold at the museum, turning FLÓÐ into a stimulating sensory journey.

“I just want to move people a little bit in some way. It’s nice to be moved,” he says. “When you go to a concert usually — or hopefully, if you like the band — you come out inspired, full of life and energy. Sometimes when I go to galleries, it is kind of boring,” he admits, adding that modern art often hides in overly abstract concepts that fail to evoke any emotion. Rather than wrapping his art in layers of abstraction, Jónsi embraces a more grounded directness. “I don’t know any of these buzzwords. I never went to an art school. Things are pretty basic, straightforward,” he says. 

“Some musician is having a show at the Reykjavík Art Museum? They are going to be angry about it.”

“It’s also funny,” he adds, “because in the music world, nothing is very conceptualised. You just do things because they make sense. You don’t have to talk about it too much, or explain your music.” Things in the art world, on the other hand, are the exact opposite. “Everything has some meaning behind it — or not, but usually it does.” Experimenting with linking ideas and concepts together has been a rather healthy process for him personally. “It’s healthy to actually have to think about what it means, why you’re doing it and what the meaning behind it is. Sometimes when you start thinking like that, you connect things together and they start to make sense.”

Photo by Atli Freyr Steinsson

I follow Jónsi to the second floor of the museum, where he’s eager to show me one of his two additional artworks, also in a dismantled shape: six rusty metal plates, weathered outside in Iceland to imitate its rugged landscape. These will vibrate accompanied by a choral arrangement Jónsi again recorded with his voice. “Egomaniac,” he laughs, imitating the sound of moving tectonic motions.

Into the abyss

As our conversation turns deeper, Jónsi opens up about challenges and day-to-day demands of being an artist. Having travelled the world with Sigur Rós for decades, he admits that being an artist feels like stepping outside of a safe bubble. While touring and performing as a musician is demanding, shipping an exhibition across continents, researching materials and adjusting them to fit the space of different museums is a whole new level of complexity. “It’s actually more stressful being an artist than a musician for some reason. I don’t know why,” Jónsi says, pondering that maybe it’s because most of his ideas are big and extremely technical, involving hundreds of speakers, computers and lights (for one of the installations on display along with FLÓÐ, he’s using a whopping 60,000 LEDs). Unlike his established career as a musician, Jónsi finds himself navigating uncharted waters as an artist, without the same support system in place. “Here, nobody knows that I’m an artist and nobody cares,” he shrugs. “Everything is on your shoulders. I don’t have any big infrastructure around me.”

He muses that the home audience might raise some eyebrows seeing him transition from musician to an interdisciplinary artist. “It’s the classic version of a musician trying to be an artist, so there’s probably going to be some interesting comments about that,” he says, admitting, “I don’t know the Icelandic art community very well. But I heard it’s very intense.”

With a hint of self-deprecating humour, Jónsi adds, “Some musician is having a show at the Reykjavík Art Museum? They are going to be angry about it.”

“My motto is you just do stuff and [then] you die”

Though new to the Icelandic arts scene, Jónsi’s artworks have travelled from LA to Tasmania, lending him a bit more insight into the art world. “When you’re in the art world, it’s a little bit disappointing because it’s all about business, money and selling.” Jónsi agrees this is understandable up to a certain point — most artists simply need to make some money to sustain their creative process and themselves. “I’m fortunate,” he says. “I’m using my money from Sigur Rós that I had been collecting for 30 years of being in a band to finance my art practice,” he pauses, before adding. “I’m definitely not making any money off being an artist. It’s just fun.” 

As the preparations for FLÓÐ are slowly coming together, Jónsi is excited, but admits he craves a breather. “After every single activity like this, I always think the next activity is going to be small landscape paintings you can just hang on the wall,” he says with a smile. When asked if he’s being serious, Jónsi responds, “Maybe one day, when I’m older. Something really comfortable.” 

Jónsi’s FLÓÐ opens at the Reykjavík Art Museum on June 1 and will be on view until September 22. 

The post There Will Be Flood appeared first on The Reykjavik Grapevine.



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sillygwailo
9 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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Toronto’s Tree Equity Score

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How many trees do you have in your neighbourhood, and how does it compare to the rest of the city? Now it’s easy to find out by using the Tree Equity Score Analyser for your area. This free mapping tool was developed to identify and prioritise neighbourhoods that lack trees.

In Toronto, like other Canadian, USA and British cities, it’s Black and brown areas that have the least trees. White areas have the most. The tree equity score is an easy way to see and confirm this. The lower the score means the higher the need for tree-planting in an area.

The score is based on multiple factors. It includes canopy cover of existing trees, race, building density, health, income and employment, language, age, and surface temperature. In other words, it uses census information and maps these on the distribution of trees in the city.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was invited to participate on the committee that tested the Tree Equity Score Analyser for the City of Toronto. I know little about the ecology of trees and can identify only about twenty. But I do now something about social nature scholarship, and how race shapes access to nature including access to trees. The tree equity score does not shy away from these discussions – unlike so much of the environmental and conservation sectors.

The tree equity score is easy to use. It is interactive and can be used to map the current tree cover, and to play around with different scenarios for increasing tree equity in a neighbourhood. The maps can be made detailed enough to identify the best places to plant trees on a city street or block.

I used the tree equity score to compare three areas in the same census tract. My Regent Park neighbourhood scored low. It has the highest level of racialised and poor people. The other two neighbourhoods of Cabbagetown and Rosedale are White and whiter. They are some of the richest hoods in the city and they had among the highest tree equity scores. No surprises here.

The tree equity scores confirm the links between race and who has access to nature and trees in the city. Now that the tree inequity is visible, I am curious to see how it will be used. Having the information is one thing. Using it to make change is an entirely different challenge.  

My hunch is that White neighbourhoods will use the tree equity score to ensure that they get more trees, in the few areas where they are below parity. They will be able to do so as they have the resources and connections to advocate for or to buy trees. Black, brown and Indigenous neighbourhoods don’t have the same level of economic or social power. Unless they receive targeted outreach and help with tree planting and maintenance, knowing the tree equity score will be of little use to them.

© Jacqueline L. Scott.  You can support the blog here.





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sillygwailo
27 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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Functional rail service requires more than clever catch phrases and good intentions

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Two steps forward, one step back. That’s how I’d describe the process of getting the Northlander once more on track. For nearly six years, the Ford government repeatedly stated they’re bringing back passenger rail to north-eastern Ontario. Political promises aplenty, the Tories haven’t exactly gotten the job done during their first term. Metrolinx and Ontario … Continue reading Functional rail service requires more than clever catch phrases and good intentions













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sillygwailo
58 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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REPO YOUR ENTHUSIASM (5)

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Harold Ramis's GROUNDHOG DAY
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sillygwailo
58 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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When There’s No Time to Read Books

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Every book is an entire world, waiting to be explored.

My father had a large library. Many of the books were inherited from a friend. That friend had told him that when he was younger, he would worry:

“I rarely have the time to read these. When I find the time, will I be too old to see the words?”

The answer became “yes”. He did grow too old to read them and so gifted them to my father.

Funny enough, my father said the same thing. And once again, it came true.

But for him, it wasn’t for the lack of reading. He’d always had a book in hand and a pen to mark it up with and act as a bookmark. He lamented reading slowly, but I knew he read thoroughly, deeply exercising his mind as he would his body when jogging.

Books Unread

Now, I have many books.

But I’m not reading them at the pace that I’d like. Well, to be honest, they’ve mainly been sitting there.

I brought a book on vacation and began to get into it. I came back from vacation without having finished it, thinking, “Surely, I’ll continue”.

So, I sat it next to my bed, where “Of course, it will remind me.”

And, of course, it sat next to my bed, barely touched.

Two months later, I took another trip, being sure to bring the book along. I got back into it, right where I left off. And once again, I have returned.

This time, though, I’m making a change. Rather than hope the book itself would act as a reminder, I’m adding it to what I’ve come to call my “Honor Guide”.

An Honor Guide

An Honor Guide is much like many other lists, but the structure is unique. It holds 1-3 spaces for the things that I am currently active with, engaging in daily visits at my pace. There is another small area for things that await activation. There is a third area for things I have already well incorporated into my days, no longer taking deep thought to continue, but can still do with a reminder.

It’s a simple structure, but one that has carried me forward for many years now.

The structure affords a direct meeting place for Past, Present, and Future. There, I practice acknowledging what I wish to add into my life and what I would need to set aside to do so. Things that can wait, can wait. Things that cannot, come forward.

Decisions, big or small, can be difficult. But having a structure to support your decisions, so that it is no longer forced, strained, so that you don’t have to hold onto them in some chronic tension, can make all the difference.

– Kourosh

PS If you are interested in learning more about the Honor Guide, you can read its beginnings in the Navigation section (p565) of Creating Flow with OmniFocus and its latest version in Module 7 of the Waves of Focus.

The post When There’s No Time to Read Books appeared first on Kourosh Dini.

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sillygwailo
62 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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Listening but Not Listening

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I have a white noise app on my Mac laptop that helps me focus. I noticed it doesn’t have “on” and “off” modes. It has “play” and “pause” modes. Apparently it’s never “off.” You will always listen again. If you’re not listening, you are simply preparing to listen.

As of this writing, these are the available sounds:

Airplane
Beach
City
Crickets
Fan
Fan 2
Fan 3
Fire
Ocean
Pier
Rain – Light
Rain – Heavy
Rainforest
River
Shower
Thunderstorm
Wind
Wind Chimes

Blue Noise
Brown Noise
Pink Noise
Violet Noise
White Noise

I use the “airplane” noise mode, myself. I’ve become so accustomed to its tonality that I’ve been known to use it while on airplanes, which is ironic given that I usually use noise cancelling headphones on planes to block out the actual airplane noise. This is to say, I both eliminate the sound of the plane and then pipe in the artificial sound of the plane. The action is, from one perspective, the sonic equivalent of tearing out your backyard and laying down astroturf. Though of course, it’s nothing like that.

As for the other options, I appreciate the cicadas, but it mostly makes me think of camping, which is not on my personal list of ideal situations. I’ll take a non-reclining coach seat on an airplane over camping.

Of the “color” noises, I occasionally opt for brown, which is essentially airplane noise reduced to a mathematical formula. Brown noise is the airplane noise of a low-polygon simulation of flight.

One thing the app lacks is café chatter — better yet, café chatter in a language I don’t understand (which would be any language other than English, though I’m coming up on a year-long streak in Duolingo German, so who knows). Perhaps chatter will come with a future upgrade.

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sillygwailo
72 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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