European Mobility Award Report | Lauren Bickerdike
Recipient of a European Mobility Award, Lauren Bickerdike used the oppertunity to compose sound pieces and conduct an in depth research into the cultures of Iceland’s towns and cities along with the effects large amounts of tourism has in altering the countries soundscape, mainly inspired by the community centralized around an Icelandic, North Western village, Skagaströnd.
is a Limerick based multimedia artist from Laois, Ireland. She has recently finished a four year course in Limerick School of Art and Design focusing on Sculpture and Combined Media where she received a BA honors degree in Fine Art. Lauren has recently exhibited in Chapel House Limerick in April 2017, in LSAD collaborating with LIT Music Technology in February 2017 and in the Irish Museum of Modern Art December 2016.
My travels to Iceland has been a vital experience to my practice. From the minute I stepped foot in the country I was immersed in sound and culture foreign to what I am used to. Having produced work in countries throughout Central Europe and North Africa this was my first time in a Nordic country.
I arrived in Reykjavik on the 2nd of January where I stayed for two days before getting a bus 4 hours up North to a large Icelandic village of 500 people, Skagaströnd. My two days spent in Reykjavik involved collecting audio of urban life and tourism in order to work on a project in Skagaströnd. The project would look at the influence tourism has in altering natural landscapes and contributing to noise pollution. After getting the bus up North and arriving in Skagaströnd I was introduced to my new home and studio for the next two months. There I began editing my audio to compose sound pieces and conduct an in depth research into the cultures of Iceland’s towns and cities along with the effects large amounts of tourism has in altering the countries soundscape.
My stay was strongly influenced by the community centralized around a North Western village, Skagaströnd. There, I stayed with the Nes Artist Residency program. The program hosts up to 12 artists, at one given time, from various countries and disciplines throughout the world. The artists are spread between 3 houses donated by the locals throughout the town. One house, near the donated studio, housed six artists, living as far as Argentina to Mexico to Italy. On the other side of the town, two houses held 3 artists in each, from Canada to South Africa to Switzerland and Ireland. These accommodations sat near Biopol, the marine biology institution, which donated its top floor to Nes as a performance studio. Near is also a guest house which houses short term artists looking to stay a maximum of two weeks. With multiple facilities and connections around the town, the program is very supportive in giving time and space to artists to do their research.
This proved useful to me in making connections with the locals in order to find out more about their culture, interests, lifestyles and history. The small remote town exposed an element of Iceland embedded within the rural landscape, hidden from the more touristic areas of the country. I was given opportunities such as ice fishing with locals. Through connections given by the director, two of the local men brought myself and one other artist, a Canadian illustrator, up the Skagi peninsula to a remote frozen lake. There they showed us how to ice fish and told us about the surrounding landscapes and traditions. I was also given contact details to join the local choir. There I, along with an Irish photographer and Australian writer, were given the opportunity to sing Icelandic songs with the choir. We were also given the opportunity to tour Biopol. There we were told about the research happening in the labs on Lump fish, extracting the chemicals from cod liver oil from the source of the plant and aging a fish. We attended the towns annual event, Thorrablot. At it we tried the local cuisine of fermented shark, whale, ram’s testicles and sheep’s head. The event involved music and plays about town events. The juxtaposition led me to research into both aspects of the island, looking into tourism's influence in altering the landscape.
I was given opportunities to talk about my work through monthly artist talks to new groups of artists. These talks centred around the artists current practise and the intentions of their time spent at the residency. Each artist was given approximately seven minutes to talk about and show their work, demonstrating their practise and how they plan on using their time at Nes. The rest of the month was given to developing their projects leading to an opening for the public to see their work developed in Skagströnd. The open house consisted of all 12 of the artist’s work developed over their time spent at Nes, consisting of art work, performances, music and readings from writers and playwrights. Here the public could see collaborations between artists and with the public throughout the last months. The opportunity is given to the public and artists to see how their work has progress over the month within Skagaströnd.
I was presented with any information needed in order to access other towns and facilities. Through that I was able to go on day trips with other artists on the residency. By renting a car I was able to see cities such as Akureyri, with American, Irish and Australian artists. I was able to collect audio on tourism while experiencing the cities with people from different nationalities. I was able to access a bus to Reykjavik where I could rent a room and stay for a few nights visiting tourist attractions in South Iceland to collect audio on tourists for my project. I was given a midi board, speaker systems, instruments and mics which had been donated to the residency by artists in order to work with during my stay. This led to me being able to experiment with space and equipment I don’t usually have.
My expectations of this project has been beyond satisfied as I returned with a more concrete outcome of my project then expected along with developing new skills and relationships
throughout my time with Nes. The ability to work with people from different backgrounds and communities all over the world proved to be beneficial to helping me move on my practice. I was able to work on a more personal level with the residents of the town. This led me to navigate my way around using the voice in an audio piece and the structures behind using it. I was able to collaborate, exhibit and experiment with my work in new settings giving the work more life and new directions.
Thanks to the structure of this residency there was time for the artists to focus solely on their projects. It has been fundamental to my practice as I have had the tranquillity to focus fully on what I wanted to achieve. There is little funding in Ireland to participate in residencies abroad, especially in African countries, so to be able to get a grant to spend time developing my practice in Iceland means a lot, both for actual financial support and the belief in importance of my project and my general practice.