Mary Elizabeth Vance
Mary Elizabeth Vance
Reykjavik, Iceland 2015
I am spending three months in Reykjavik, Iceland, living and working at an artist residency with other artists from around the globe. At SIM, the Association of Icelandic Visual Artists, and Gullkistan in rural Iceland, I will develop a body of interactive artwork that responds to the culture and landscape of Iceland and promotes intercultural dialogue. Read More About Mary Elizabeth →

100 Years

Filming in the landscape is such a different experience – being able to now that the weather is much better, and finding myself in more rural and hard to reach towns. I am seeing how ways of thinking/living in communities are different in the city as compared to the in rural Iceland. Even in Reykjavik at SIM I often feel far away from the city, where our windows face the sea and the neighborhood around keeps quiet, far from the happenings of the town, the schedules it keeps, the tourists it welcomes.

Yesterday Iceland celebrated 100 years since the women’s suffragette movement began in Iceland. I made it downtown for the festivities – it was a massive day full of events to commemorate the occasion, even while the topic is being celebrated in various other ways throughout the year. The streets were filled with signs, choirs, balloons; the former female president of Iceland gave a moving speech, followed by crowds even larger than those I saw on the Icelandic National Day joining in with the choirs singing protest songs – and I was incredibly moved to see such a demonstration of dedication to women’s rights organized in great part by a nation’s own government. Iceland was one of the first countries in the world to give women the right to vote, is now considered one of the most progressive in terms of gender equality, and this day further reinforces my awe at how much people care here about one another, how far from complacent the national attitude is here regarding social issues. At the end of the speeches and songs, a group from the nurses union moved to the stage constructed in front of the city hall and were met with cheers as they continued to lead the crowd in song – the entire display was of course in Icelandic, but I did not need to know all the words to understand the impact of the scene.

One of the last big pieces I am working on here is a performance/video piece regarding the history of women’s treatment in Iceland, how times have changed here, how there might be certain things we from various nationalities can learn from this history, these traditions, these people. Women’s rights has been a major topic of conversation in this place since I have been here, one I have been honored to contribute to and learn from in some way.

And, in light of recent events happening in my home country right now, I can’t help but feel both a little sadness and hopefulness regarding the progress of social movements in cultures the world over, even if not especially in those places we take it for granted or do not realize how much change we still need in our respective societies and the global one. In Iceland, it is the people who have made social change – who have changed attitudes in here – I saw plenty of men in the audience at the rallies today – even for those groups who do not see how they are affected by it.



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