A FOREIGN SUBSTANCE IN NATURE (2015), Iceland, Video: 09mins 34 secs
A FOREIGN SUBSTANCE IN NATURE (2015), Installation Video: 09mins 34 secs
Iceland is extremely well-suited for studying nature. I opted to spend a month (July 2015) in Ólafsfjördur, a small fishing village in northern Iceland. Naturally, the primary trade in the village is fishing. The scenery made me wonder whether this was what the sea might have looked like when it drove the Old Man from Hemingway’s story to finally make the 85th attempt, after 84 straight days of fruitless fishing. The town was always quiet. The absence of noise made me feel as if I could hear the wind and the waves when lying on the bed with my eyes closed, despite the fact that in reality, I was much too far away from the beach to have actually heard these sounds.
Iceland is so far north that during summer, the long days drag on endlessly in what locals call the white night. Experiencing the eerie brightness of the white night for the first time frightened me. Being in a place where night and day become indistinct clashed with my customary manner of perceiving the passage of time. I spent my first week visiting every nook and cranny of the village, although encounters with villagers were few and far between. It was a truly bizarre place for me – long white nights and endless summer days in a town surrounded by imposing mountains and the sea.
One day, I was following a path along the seaside. I reached a beach of black sand, when suddenly seabirds started attacking me. They dived down over my head at absurdly fast speeds and rushed at me as if to charge me while letting out intimidating cries. Thoroughly startled, I made a hurried escape, after which I somehow started to feel very depressed. I kept looking back at the birds for a long while after leaving the beach.
I felt like an unwelcome visitor that had been thrown out by a fearsome guardian. The feeling of melancholy did not go away, even after being told by the folk back at the village that the birds had been more aggressive than usual because they had laid eggs on the beach.
Perhaps the attack was merely a trigger that brought to my attention the fact that I was depressed. Maybe I had already begun to slip into sadness after arriving at the village, while looking at the strange fog-covered mountains and houses. Before I knew it, the thick melancholy followed me wherever I went.
Although July is considered a summer month in Iceland, in the year of my visit, it was particularly cold and rainy. Occasionally, when the fog cleared, the mountains would show eerie evidence of the four seasons. The peaks were covered with snow, while purple and yellow flowers covered the foot of the mountains. However, these moments were short-lived. Icelandic summers, full of fog and the sounds of rain and wind, devoid of darkness, did not portray the kind of nature that I had imagined. I was visited by a completely different emotion than that which I had felt in the desert. Whereas the desert had engulfed me with its sand and reassured me of my existence, this place made me feel as if I were trespassing. Just as the birds on the black sand beach drove me away, I felt that I existed here only as a foreign object.
Copyright 2017. DARAE BAEK All pictures cannot be copied without permission.