At the beginning of my time in Skagaströnd I felt quite removed from interaction with any Icelandic people. The Nes residency space is run by, and full of, foreigners so I felt like it wasn’t easy to meet local residents organically, except for a polite hello at the one shop in town. It was only until I started visiting the town’s hot tub did I begin speaking to residents directly, learning many of the intricate local details about place.
On my second visit one of the fishermen told me to come to the docks the next day and he’d give us fish. As promised he bestowed us with two (giant) fish, cod and haddock. In the hot tub through my exchange with him I had learnt about long line fishing, fishing stocks and the rough seas.
I quickly realized the way to meet more Skagaströnd locals was by spending more time in the hot tub. Hot tubs really are a quintessential Icelandic social space to experience - people do come here to relax, gossip and even do business meetings. There’s obviously a history to the hot tub culture that grew from the naturally heated geothermal nature baths throughout the country. Conversing in the warm water as the outside temperature rapidly got colder through my residency felt like I had cracked some kind of code to begin understanding this small fishing village. Rather than set up numerous meetings with people in town who have probably been interviewed endless times - the residency hosts up to 18 artists per month so I could just imagine the repeated conversations and artist fatigue that must occur in a population of under 500. (That said, the people who I did set meetings up with early on were very generous and open).
Interestingly, most of the conversations I’ve had in the tub about Skagaströnd all seem to link back to the fishing industry and naturally continue my interest in the politics of space linked to food culture and displacement.
After each encounter in the hot tub I have been writing a series of texts called Things I learnt in a hot tub (in Skagaströnd), these texts are specific and subjective knowledge related to place gathered directly from these informal conversations with locals. These texts and encounters will form the basis of my work for spaced 3. I also hosted some drawings workshops with the local primary school kids who illustrated some of the reoccurring themes in the conversations.