Fossdalur: Walking-with place

Everyone has a story about place. Places they have been. Places they hold fast in their memory. Places they would like to go. Invented places.

WalkingLab lead an Itinerant Reading Salon today on the theme of PLACE. The walk navigated the coastline of the fjord, towards the lighthouse. At the lighthouse we could see Grimsy Island, which marks the arctic circle, and we watched whales jump and splash. At the start of the trail we met a local man who told us some stories about his family home. Most houses in small towns in Iceland have proper names. At the entrance to Kleifar, the town where we started the walk, was a sign with a map. Each house was labeled and located on the map (as opposed to numbered addresses). The Icelandic man talked about his family home’s name, which when translated means: “where the plain meets the river.”

On the walk we posed questions to our group of walkers:

What is a place? What does place mean? How does place matter? How do Land, geology, geography, borders, strata, and topology create place?

We provided the group of walkers with small ‘books’ we had printed with excerpts of text (journal articles, poems, quotes, and narratives) on place, which we read along the route.

We talked about the collapse of the fishing industry in Ólafsfjörður, the town where the residency is located, in the North West of Iceland, and the current influx of tourists, and how these geographical and social contexts shape place.

The indeterminacy and emotional materializations of place became a focus of our discussions, as participants on the walk came from Northern Ireland, Mexico, the United States, and Canada. We discussed the intersections between walking and borders, desire lines through the landscape, forbidden places, liminality and possibility-in-fugutivity.