Symphony for the New Migration arose from the need to visit these places, about which we formed certain beliefs or ideas, based on gathered theoretical knowledge or the stories that reached our ears, but which we never seen with our very eyes.
Whilst back in the University, working or researching the matter a student was interested in usually meant spending time within the building of the school, in front of your desk glancing nostalgically through the window, or sitting in the library, gathering information and puzzling things together. In comparison to the time spent in the field or in direct contact with the matter of interest, even though highly encouraged by the teachers, the escapades were seen to be occasional and componential, rather than necessary. At that time both of us, students of the MA Design at the Listaháskóli Íslands, were taking a closer look into topics quite abstract and vague: the relations of a human with mechanized environments and non-biological beings, and of a human with biosphere, its elements and intra-actions forming different living systems. Both seemingly disconnected from the source of our interests, feeling lost and itching to get out of the squareness of the studio and into the vast world, we decided to let go of the secondary sources, list the existing environments within Iceland we were curious of and to rent a car, finally going out there and relating to what there awaits.
My intention in the pages that follow was to describe the rest: that which is generally not taken note of, that which is not noticed, that which has no importance: what happens when nothing happens other than the weather, people, cars, and clouds.
Following an impulse resembling the one of the French essayist and documentalist Georges Perec from An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, we immersed in chosen environments, noticing what happens on a regular day, as if nobody was looking. The spectrum of places we’ve chosen was wide: from tropical greenhouses, hydropower stations, automatized farmlands, through the tiny homemade factory of silk, abandoned turf houses, inland graveyards, hidden rubbish dumps, or omnipresent N1 stations. Some privately owned companies, like a company making prosthetics for humans, or highly secured spots such as data centers, didn’t make it easy for us to access and archive the place. However, most people whom we’ve encountered were helpful and welcoming, even though happened to be little in numbers. Many places, little humans — that was one of our most immediate observations when mapping out the area, all of these environments so closely related to humans in our thinking, such as food production places, were mostly automatized or with overpowering presence of more-than-human beings, such as robots, animals, or plants. Sometimes even to the point, that entering a given space felt like invading it, disturbing the everyday rhythm of its inhabitants. All of these thoughts and feelings we captured in our notebooks, after taking a closer look at what and who surrounds us, alongside with systematically collecting: images, sounds, possible fragrances and one chosen representative object from each place.
This is how the archive grew from one stop to another, leading us to the car filled with objects, notebooks full of symbols and digital folders overflowing with diverse data.
Coming back to the point of our departure, the MA studio in Reykjavik, we were able to look at the archive from a distance, feeling overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we’ve gathered. Questioning our representations of these environments from before visiting them, we felt most drawn to the sound samples collected. It seemed like, only when closing the eyes and being deprived of the most significant of human senses, we were able to come back to these places and deeply connect to them in the form of a somewhat peculiar, meditation guided by the chaotic bio-mechanical soundscapes. That way of mentally accessing the memories and that, what was left of the bodily feelings evoked by the noises, prompt us to make connections between the environments on different, more or less abstract levels. For example the forests, slowly establishing their grounds in Iceland, linked to the gun factory or newspaper printing house, which both are mainly mechanized environments and use imported and processed wood as their resource. Another level of making connections could be looking at common themes reappearing, such as displaced humid microclimates that have to be formed for the silkworms or the tropical plants to grow in such a hostile part of the hemisphere as Arctic tundra, in the country with easy access to the geothermal power. We had pondered on ethical matters; how does a human relate to the rubbish dump, burying objects of everyday use, to ritualizing a burial of their family members in the graveyards? Following the forementioned patterns we composed 11 tracks, the first draft of Symphony for the New Migration.
Alongside with playing around with the raw materials other than sounds — distilling the fragrances from needles of pine trees, inks of the newspapers or dungs from the zoo; digitally bending and distorting the photos; narrating the videos with the thoughts from our notebooks; 3D scanning the collected objects — we had wondered about the role of a few humans we’ve met on our way, on their ghostly presence of caretakers, creators, companions, colonizers.
Starting from the point of a formed belief, a story about a place we’ve never visited before and taking it a step further by actually travelling to the middle of it, we found ourselves coming back straight to where we came from. It is, to the storytelling part, in which the archive serves as a resource for those who had never heard of or visited the places before, or perhaps remember them differently. To keep the story alive and embrace its twisted turnarounds, we asked numerous artists and musicians from within the Island to transcribe the raw soundscapes of mingling environments we composed, based on their own associations.
During Design March 2021, hosted by FLÆÐI gallery, Symphony for the New Migration will be officially released in a form of reality role-play, a game of associations in which all visitors embody an object from within the archive and associate to it based on their own representations and experiences. The game will be followed by the release of the album, composed by the twelve artists coming from different backgrounds such as music, programming, philosophy, fine arts or design.
Attending to the event and embodying a part of the archive, therefore finishing the game, will result in getting access to online archive files and the official album with 11 tracks composed by
Ingibjörg Elsa Turchi,
Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson,
Guðrún Heiður Isaksdóttir,
Jón Helgi Hólmgeirsson,
Marina Rees & Sam Rees,
Marteinn Sindri Jónsson,
Páll Ivan frá Eiðum,
and Sveinn Steinar Benediktsson.