I have been in Skagastrond for three weeks now at the Nes Residency. I feel like my projects are starting to be picking up momentum. Since my purpous on this residency is to explore I have been allowing myself to create whatever I had the urge to make. I have ended up with some very strange creations that were not nessicarily what I would call
“successes”. But I feel like it is sometime nessisary to create unnessisary things. Even when I know from the beginning that it is probably not going to turn into something interesting. In the studio everything becomes connected. One thing leads to another and another and so on. Sometimes your brain needs to let go of the pressure of trying to force out a “good” idea and just become engaged in a process. Any process. I find that very often that when my mind in engaged in this way it is able to wander and that is when I find inspiration for new projects. I have been trying to be conscious of this and allowing myself this space and freedom.
Another way to find creative inspiration is through research. Earlier this week I had the privilege to meet with Mr. Halldór Ólafsson, founder of BioPol, a marine biotechnology company here in Skagastrond. BioPol is involved with a variety of projects studying marine life that live in the water in Húnaflói Bay. Industry in Skagaströnd has always revolved around the sea, but over the last few decades fishery after fishery has had to close their doors. BioPol’s goal is to find new ways of creating sustainable industry through the sea. It was fascinating to be shown around the facilities. There is even an experimental kitchen–something between a scientific laboratory and a chef’s day dreamy clean kitchen. Halldór showed me around the different rooms of microscopes, people in lab coats and specimen containers. One research project that they are working on is trying to discover the lifespan of lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus). What? You’ve never heard of the lumpfish before? Don’t feel bad if you haven’t, I hadn’t either.
Female lumpfish are caught commercially for their roe which is sold as caviar. Actually a pelagic fish (living in the open sea), these fish come into the bay annually to spawn. The males arrive first and seek out the best place for a nest, often in kelp forests. Later the much larger females arrive and choose the most attractive partner and nest. She lays her eggs and heads back out to sea, leaving dad to fiercely guard the nest and helping to circulate oxygen-rich water over the eggs. BioPol is trying to discover how long these fish live. To do this they are using a well known fish-aging process: counting the annual rings laid down on otoliths–like counting growth rings on a tree. An otolith is essentially an ear bone of a fish–acting similarly to our inner ear as it is used for balance.
Depending on the species otoliths come in a broad range of shapes and sizes. In this image on the right Halldór is holding a range of specimens from cod. This labour-intensive work of counting otoliths is difficult when it comes to lumpfish as they have particularly difficult rings to distinguish between. It is absolutely fascinating! Thank you so much to BioPol and Halldór for allowing me to come and see what you are doing. =)
While we are on the topic of learning and discovery, I just wanted to share one more thing with you. Yesterday as the winds of the current storm were beginning to pick up we spotted a strangely glowing cloud in the sky (centre in the image above). I have seen this a few times already since coming to Iceland. It is a rare nacreous cloud, also known as an “iridescent cloud” or a “mother-of-pearl cloud”. The cloud turns into a rainbow of colours as light passes through frozen waterdropplets, skattering the light.