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Heimkoma

- an investigation of places left behind

by The KnitKnot Collective

*Heimkoma means “homecoming” in Icelandic

Heimkoma

- an investigation of places left behind

by The KnitKnot Collective

*Heimkoma means “homecoming” in Icelandic

Homecoming

Homecoming/Heimkoma is a project run by KnitKnot, a small collective of artists and audio producers dedicated to knitting and knotting stories from threads of disappearing reality.

On our travel around Iceland, we visited three random deserted farms to conjure up images of the people who had lived there.

We documented real stories, but also our impressions and the fantasies ignited in us by the houses and the objects inside them. Our music makers took in the
sounds of each place and recorded raw material for creating music and soundscapes. The houses became their instruments.

For this project we produced three 50 minute pieces for the Icelandic radio Drama and an exhibition for the National Museum of Iceland.
See http://www.thjodminjasafn.is/dagskra/nr/3526.

The National Museum of Iceland exhibited a condensed version our investigations visualized by artist Cecilia Westerberg.

The abandoned farms featured are Sveinhus in Vatnsfjordur, at the bottom of Isafjardardjup, Heidi in Langanes and Selsstadir in Seydisfjordur.

Recordings, interviews, editing and manuscript: Rikke Houd and Jón Hallur Stefánsson
Music and soundscapes: Ylva Bentancor and Gustavo Bentancor
Songs: Jón Hallur Stefánsson
Mixing: Rikke Houd
Animations: Cecilia Westerberg

 

Hús 1

Sveinhús

Sveinhús, part turf house, overlooking Vatnsfjordur. The house seems to be slowly sinking into the ground We entered the house from the back, through a fissure between two walls. That´s where we saw the little doll, holding a finger to her mouth as if to tell us to be quiet. A neatly folded pair of woollen pants on a rusty metal bed in the attic. We imagine that the man who owned these trousers had big hands and that he often put his hands in his pockets and looked over the water. There´s a childs crib. Playing-cards scattered over the floor. Cosmetics and shampoo bottles from the 1960´s inside a small cupboard.

We start putting together a story from what we see inside the house. A widower living with his teenage daughter and his grandchild, conceived one Icelandic summer night. The teenage mother dreams of something more, something different. The old man drinks a little too much (there were empty bottles under the sink). The little girl plays with her doll outside in the grass. Then something happens. They move. The little girl leaves her doll behind. We imagine.

We imagine things for a while and then it´s time to ask around. Another story slowly emerges and changes and turns every time we talk to someone new.

A man called Jóhannes lived in this house with his parents and his sister. His parents passed away, his sister moved, Jóhannes put an ad in the paper, to find a housekeeper. Rannveig was a single mother of two, but had lost one child. She moved into Sveinhús with her son. After a few years Jóhannes asked for her hand and they married.

Rannveig loved lipstick. Gold. Beautiful things. She bleached her long hair and plaited it every day. No day would pass without her putting on her red Estee Lauder lipstick. But Jóhannes couldn´t see her, he had turned blind. He knew the surroundings by heart and walked as a seeing man. He was a kind and quiet man with big hands. Rannveig wrote poems full of longing. Her last wish was to wear red lipstick in her coffin.

In our sound piece we try and let the imagined stories meet the remembered stories. Our narrator began singing. He sang about beetroots, lipsticks,waterfalls and memory. Little haiku songs.

Deserted Icelandic farms intrigue us with their gloating windows.

Hús 2

Heiði

A stark place Langanes, rocks, fog and a few farms facing the open sea. An old horse-drawn harvester sits in ground, like a strange animal.  The farm Heiði seems to have been built with hopes for a bright future, though: a house three stories high, full of rooms, still standing high and proud. The sheep have moved into the basement, the birds nest on the top floor. The kitchen is big and bright, it feels like the heart of the house. The walls are pink and purple. Did some hippies move in? “Love room” is written in English over the door to the only room with no windows. The three story farm house is surrounded by old turf houses. A big family used to live here. They lived from the sea, from the land, they were drifty, ambitious. We imagine.

Quite a dramatic story emerges as we interview former neighbours at the local residence for elderly people, along with a granddaughter and a neighbour who still lives on a farm close by.

Heiði was a very active farm, sheep and fishery being the main source of income. The farmer and his wife had fourteen children, and there was a grandmother and a crippled aunt living there too. Therefore the big house, the many rooms. If they had time to spare they knitted woollen clothes to sell to foreign fishermen ashore. There was a lot of knitting.

The eldest son took over, though his parents still lived. Lárus Halldórsson was recently married and expecting his first child when he set out on the morning of New Year’s Eve to find a lost horse. He didn’t come back on time and the weather got worse, wet snow. The next day a group of searchers found him lying on the ground, his horse beside him and his dog lying on top of him. He was on the right track and didn’t have all that far to go but the weather just got the better of him. His death coincided with the deterioration of farming in the area, the result being that after relatively few years this blooming farm was abandoned.

 

Each house contains a story, many stories, interweaving and branching. Who planted that rhubarb in the yard (and did she – we think it´s a she – ever imagine that it would grow into a rhubarb jungle!)?

Hús 3

Selsstaðir

Selsstaðir lies by a deep fjord – Seyðisfjörður – between the sea and a steep mountain where a waterfall provides an unceasing soundtrack to a life left behind.

The farm is well kept and cared for. The girl who was born here is in her 80´s now and lives just over the hill, in a new farmhouse. They were forced to move after the avalanche hit and buried countless sheep and a youngest son, the oldest was washed out to sea. But is always seemed as if the place looked after them. The hills are kind, she says. The boys survived the avalanche, their father survived driving over the cliff.

She still goes there, slowly down the steep hill.

Who lived there and where did they go? What was the weather like the day they left?
Who left a pair of neatly folded pants on the bed? And what about that doll?

The Video

We wanted SOUND to be primary when portraying these houses and during our our process of discovering their stories. We took snapshots, but mostly as a crutch to our memory.

After producing the three 50-minute sound pieces, we condensed the stories of the 3 houses into a 11 minute sound piece and invited artist Cecilia Westerberg to visualize the story.

This animated sound story was exhibited at the National Museum of Iceland in autumn 2012.

 

The people are gone. Voices and facts are missing. What was their story? Can it be reconstructed?
How do we tell it? What is left to work with?

The KnitKnots

Heimkoma – an investigation of places left behind
by The KnitKnot Collective

Heimkoma means “homecoming” in Icelandic.

KnitKnot is a small collective dedicated to knitting and knotting stories from threads of disappearing reality and the emerging now. We are Ylva Bentancor, Gustavo Bentancor, Rikke Houd and Jón Hallur Stefánsson. We compose, play, sing, write and make audio documentaries.

Gustavo Bentancor has a background as musician, bandoneon and cello, and builds experimental instrument.

Ylva Bentancor works as composer in the soundart-music field with focus on concrete sounds and story telling without words.

Rikke Houd is a Danish radio maker working primarily within the genres of documentary and sound-rich storytelling.

Jón Hallur Stefánsson is an Icelandic writer, poet and songwriter with background in radio – experimental, documentary and cultural.

In this project we invited Danish artist Cecilia Westerberg to visualize the soundstory. More of her work can be seen here: http://www.ceciliawesterberg.com/

Our basic working method

We approached the three farms with no background information on the farms and they were chosen at random. We spent 5-6 days around each farm.

Our investigation began as we stepped inside a deserted farm.

A tale is inseparable from its teller, so we started out by making our own story, as a starting point towards something more tangible.

We would then split into two teams: one investigating and gathering the musicality of the place and the story, the other gathering information by interviewing people and writing.

We produced 3 pieces for radio drama. Each house was a stage. And from these 3 huge stories full of threads we made a short condensed version and this was animated by Cecilia Westerberg.

Heimkoma – rondo for a house with voices