Talk About The Weather:
In Conversation with Marble Crowd
Marble Crowd performing Eyður, photo by Owen Fiene
Marble Crowd performing Eyður, photo by Owen Fiene
No matter how cliché the topic is elsewhere, talking about the weather is practically a sport in Iceland. In a place with such volatile meteorology, it's impossible not to be affected and informed by its overarching and incessant presence. This is what the Marble Crowd collective are forging into on their new project. Each bringing diverse elements as unique as weather patterns, Marble Crowd is comprised of Katrín Gunnarsdóttir (choreographer), Kristinn Guðmundsson (visual artist), Saga Sigurðardóttir (choreographer), Sigurður Arent Jónsson (theater artist) and Védís Kjartansdóttir (dancer). Since their first work as a collective, Moving Mountains in 2017, they have been defining and refining their practices and continue to do so as they move towards exploring new territories. Now they have begun the research process for their new piece, meeting at Dansverkstæðið to chart out their course.
At this point, what is the main concept or theme or idea behind this piece?
Saga: Weather and emotion. It's the third piece that we make together in this constellation as a collective. We always thought it would make a trilogy about landscapes. Our first work dealt with mountains—symbolically, materially and ideally. Then we dealt with the island in our latest work, Eyður. For this third work we knew we wanted to still work with some kind of landscape or natural phenomena.
Have these types of ideas been with you for some time?
Siggi: This landscape idea, definitely. And weather. It was just coming from this island where people talk a lot about the weather. It felt like something we couldn't talk about. It shapes the landscape, it shapes the people. It felt like something that people have dealt with before, like the Romantics, but we also like to start with something that is kind of accessible for everyone to come in and generate a lot of ideas and material in regards to it, and then hopefully the final product will not be very clichéd. It will still be dealing with these ideas but we are here so it will be a contemporary approach.
Story: There's been some development in our work as a collective. In our first work we were really exploring what it meant to work as a collective. Then in our second work we had established our working relationship and our working methods and then we also started to look at the individuals in the collective. Now we wanna go even deeper into that and maybe get more personal and more emo and then weather is somehow a sphere that makes sense for us to frame some relationship with emotion. Because here in Iceland it's very often a filter for speaking about something more personal. It's almost a placeholder for talking about the real stuff. And we're really interested in that.
Siggi: People came up with personal anecdotes which contributed. I can't remember if it was from someone's personal relationship to their parent, but somebody always just talked about the weather with their father and this was their way of spending time together. It becomes a technique of just spending time together. You have to say something. It's not about what's said but what's not said.
Does weather have a special place for you on a personal level?
Saga: That's what we are exploring. What does it mean for us, and how we are affected by weather and how we relate emotionally to weather. So we are basically looking into that.
Can you elaborate a bit more on how this new piece will connect in the trilogy relating to the previous two pieces?
Saga: We are willing to take further some of the methods we have developed that has a lot to do with playing with material without designing meaning but somehow allowing meaning to emerge through transformative play. We want to keep on deepening that process and that method, but also to give us new challenges so we're not repeating ourselves. This time we want to work more with text as an element. We have worked with text in both previous works, but now we want to give that more focus. In our last work we kind of exhausted this material play. Somehow to be minimalist is a challenge for us and we want to at least keep that warm.
Védís: And also there's a thing of having all these landscapes on a big stage. That was a big thing for us in the first piece Moving Mountains, because we were in residency in Hamburg and we performed on this huge stage. There's only five of us so it was also this challenge of how do we somehow conquer this space or at least be equal to it. And this is also somehow on the side with other pieces. How do we fill up these spaces that are huge? So we also want to have it on a big stage.
Saga: So maybe this time the challenge is how do we meet a big stage without filling it with a lot of stuff and a huge spectacle. We want to work with spectacle still but if we can do it... differently this time.
What stage of development are you at now? What's going on at the moment?
Siggi: This process is at the very beginning but we are also trying to plan further performances of previous work, so we are looking for spaces where we can meet the collaborating artists and we're looking for funding to support that. Creatively we are still kind of rummaging around in what this world can be and what avenues we want to go down. So even though we started talking about the weather and emotions then we're very interested in puppetry in an expanded sense, and shadow puppetry. We also started thinking about—because we're dealing with nature and landscapes—the supernatural. Like vampires and stuff like this. We are trying to lay out this huge map like we always do at the beginning and then we use our knowledge and expertise to read this map together and see what are the strong threads here and what makes sense for this space in particular—the stage we will hopefully perform on.
Saga: And still fishing. The nets are quite wide and we're fishing for inspiration. We're trying to organize a band rehearsal through zoom with Kristinn, the weather band.
What helps you in the experimentation process?
Siggi: For me it's definitely to have a lot of time. I'm not the kind of person that sits down and... I have a really hard time just because of other engagements and my ADHD or whatever to sit down for eight hours a day and work. So I need a lot of time to think about things and to allow the inspiration to come and then when it strikes, to really hammer the iron while it's hot.
Saga: Something that's also really important for us as a group is hanging out together, like quite unfocused hangout but in working hours is very helpful and motivating. For instance we had this work week in February where we met here and we made the effort of getting Kristinn over from Belgium. Before that we were like, 'why don't we just meet on Zoom and do some stuff long distance?' But then once Kristinn was here we realized that this is how we function. We need to be in the same space, hangout, start weaving our spiderweb. So that's something we couldn't make work without.
Siggi: For Moving Mountains, the first production, we really wanted to translate or find a way to have the same kind of energy and atmosphere from the studio, onstage. Each part of the performance didn't have to be super set, it was the feeling or energy that we wanted to transfer to the stage.
Védís: Yeah, the dynamics. Cause we're very very different colors and it's somewhat very necessary to be together for it to work.
It must be interesting to be planning for something that's so far off in the future.
Siggi: It's the same thing as maybe with the big stages. It's a little bit of a rebellion to also say, you know, we need all this time and we're trying to find avenues to sustain us as creatives along the way. So it's not like, okay you have six weeks here, and you just make it [claps] and then you have two-three shows and it's over. With the big stage—they usually allocate the side spaces or the back-stages for these experimental works—so like Védís was talking about before, it was a conscious idea like, okay why don't we just pitch it to the big stage. The success of the first piece meant that we could do it again in Þjóðleichúsið. We were kind of trusted. The ideology of this group of people is to go big.
Saga: Go big or go home. [Laughs]
Marble Crowd, promotional image for Eyður by Owen Fiene