culture · Dee Jay · iceland

making connections

Art in the cafe where I sat yesterday taking in Reykjavik. How, what, where and why I observe and how, where and why I am observed, and by whom, figure into the work before me here. Along the way, I am drawn to things and people who reflect me.  This image is one example of this.

I made it back to Reykjavik for tonight’s screening of The Grant Green Story. While walking to the guesthouse for artists where I am staying yesterday, I saw a deejay in front of a store on a street with a lot of foot traffic.

I was struck by how modern, global and “street” Reykjavik is. I saw once more people of African descent walking as I did two weeks ago when I first arrived here (One of them was a tall, older gentleman wearing an orange woolen cap who did a quick dance for me. His foot steps reminded me of South African movements from my UNCG dance days. Another was a sister walking with her husband and daughter. This sister and I smiled briefly at each other. I love it when sisters greet each other with a smile).

My most urgent thought, however, concerns that dee jay who was improvising beats as he played music. I just read about article about Virgil Abloh,  an Illinois fashion designer of Ghanian descent who receives inspiration from French writer and curator Nicolas Bourriaud. Bourriaud has observed how a growing number of artworks since the early 1990s have been extensions of  preexisting works. He calls this “postproduction” a response to the messy information age, which has seen a rise in the sheer number of things created.

View outside my room at the artist guesthouse in Reykjavik.

Yesterday, I posted on Facebook a select list of hip hop artists who have used the music of Grant Green, the late jazz guitarist whose life is being recovered in the film being shown tonight. In the documentary, his son and my former husband Grant Jr., remarks on how the very funky music that his father turned in the late 1960s and early 1970s to pay the bills is the music to which producers, dee jays and a new generation of listeners are drawn. Some people, he says, say it’s not jazz, but others say it is another form of jazz.

Whatever it is, it manifests in that young man I saw spinning yesterday (and will manifest in my lesson plans for my Bebop to Hip Hop course next fall at the University of Alabama).


There’s more I want to say (especially with recent events in this troubled world), but still processing it all as I live my own thesis during my time here in Iceland. That thesis concerns how I move through space as a person constructed as black, woman and American.

I saw a group of young people walking into Reykjavik’s punk museum. One of them asked me how the museum was. I told him it was “effin-incredible” and he looked puzzled. I said, “I can’t say the f-word in front of students.” He laughed and told me had a friend who attended my university. Glad I showed decorum as he asked for my name. Ha!

The entry point was textile work. In other words, fiber arts created the path to be here, to learn and fellowship with other artists, but observation is the key goal. I have learned so much in this country to which many people are drawn as evident in the attendance at the many music festivals, including one that begins today.

It was great seeing my hometown representing in Reykjavik. Walking up to this young man and his family and saying, “Can I take a photo of your sweatshirt? I am from Miami and I went to the University of Miami” was a highlight. Their reply: “The U!”

Next week, my fellow artist in residents at Textilsetur in Blonduos will exhibit our work in the nearby gallery and celebrate the solstice led by Connie Gardella, German photographer-artist who will record the solstice view images and interviews over an hour. We represent several countries.

Love this graffiti in Reykjavik!

I look forward to that and the screening tonight. And I look forward to seeing my dear friends who will arrive from Clarksdale, Mississippi, tonight – especially the one I have renamed Miss Sippi. Love you, Fran. A shout-out also to filmmaker Hronn Sevinsdottir of Bio Paradis for your support and Swedish artist Kerstin Lindstrom for getting the DCP to the theatre. You all rock and make this thing we call art so worthwhile. Here, I am Mittie Andrews’ great grand-daughter. I am black, a woman, American. I am also just me.


Postscript: the trumpeter who played during the Knitting Circle last week is Skarphéðinn Einarsson. More to come. I hope I meet him in Blonduos.

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