Language and writing have been a core element in Horn’s work over the past two decades. Icelandic literary culture is unique, as a predominantly oral tradition persisted until much later than in other Western cultures. It therefore seemed apt that the activity of creative writing be integral to Horn’s vision to give the library building a new life as Vatnasafn.
An annual writers’ residency program has been established at Vatnasafn. A modest but comfortable apartment and writing studio was constructed in the basement of the existing building. Writers are selected by a distinguished panel to receive funding and living space at Vatnasafn for a period of three - six months (from May through October). They may come from the fields of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or screenwriting, or from the natural sciences. The residency alternates between Iceland-based and overseas writers, and began with Icelandic author Guðrún Eva Minervudóttir in 2007.
The residency model is one that has been well developed in the United States and in Europe but until this point there were not any operational programs in Iceland. The writer-in-residence acts as a catalyst for organised readings, both of their own work and that of others: the residency at Vatnasafn is intended to offer not only a place for reflection but also for sharing the experience of writing.
Image: (above) The Library of Water seen from the Vatnasafn harbour, Roni Horn, Library of Water (2007). Photograph: Roni Horn (2007)
Lani Yamamoto was born in Boston in 1965 and has lived in Iceland for over 20 years. She studied psychology at Bryn Mawr College and holds master’s degrees in both creative writing and the study of religions from Oxford University. Lani is the author/illustrator of six children’s books: the Albert series (2004-7), Stína stórasæng (Stína, 2015), and Egill spámaður (2019). Her books have been published in 14 languages and awarded the Icelandic Women’s Literature Prize and the Dimmalimm Illustration Award. They have also been nominated for the Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize, the Icelandic Literature Prize, the Reykjavik Children’s Book Award, and the Italian Scelte di Classe Award. In 2017, Lani was a Benediktson Fellow at the Leighton Artists Colony at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Her first novel, Ours and Others’, was shortlisted for the 2020 Novel Prize.
Image (above): Roni Horn, Library of Water. Photograph: Börkur Arnarson.
Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir is a poet, visual artist, and musician based in Reykjavík. A graduate of the visual art programme at Iceland University of the Arts, her first poetry chapbook, Herra Hjúkket (Mr Phew), was published in 2012. Between 2012 and 2018 her practice focused on the ephemeral, which resulted in a body of invisible artworks, fugitive music pieces, and vanishing poems, as well as a number of cross-disciplinary performances and exhibitions. In 2017, she received the Ljóðstafur Jóns úr Vör poetry prize. Her debut poetry collection, Eilífðarnón (Forevernoon), was published in Iceland in 2019 and is due to be released in Swedish and English translations.
Below, Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir reads 'A Pencil is a debt collector' and 'Gleam and Delicacies', in the Library of Water.
Elín Edda Þorsteinsdóttir was born in Reykjavík in 1995 and graduated as a graphic designer from the Iceland University of the Arts in 2018. She has published four books: three graphic novels and one poetry collection. Plantan á ganginum (2014), Gombri (2016), Hamingjan leit við og beit mig (2016) and Glingurfugl (2018).
Agnieszka Gratza is a writer born in Kraków, Poland, and currently based in London. Her writings about art, performance and film have appeared in frieze, ArtReview, Artforum, Flash Art, Metropolis M, PAJ, Sight & Sound, the Guardian and The Observer. A lapsed academic, she has also published articles on the subject of Renaissance intellectual and cultural history. Her written work often stems from live art and performance: she has collected dreams during an artist residency at a hotel, staged tableaux vivants of the Annunciation, and made a series of edible artworks using saffron in New York.
Kristín Ómarsdóttir was born in 1962 in Reykjavík, Iceland and studied literature and Spanish at the University of Iceland. She has lived in Copenhagen and Barcelona but currently lives and works in Reykjavík. Her first publication was a book of poetry, Í húsinu okkar er þoka (There is Fog in Our House), in 1987 and her first novel, Svartir brúðarkjólar (Black Wedding Dresses), was published in 1992.
Kristín writes poetry, novels, short stories, and plays. Her latest book of poetry from 2008, Sjáðu fegurð þína, (See your beauty), received critical acclaim, was nominated for two prizes and received The Women’s Literary Award. In 2005 Kristín received the Icelandic drama award, Gríman, for her play Segðu mér allt (Tell me everything). Her latest novel was published in 2012, Milla. Her novel Hér, (Children in Reindeer Woods), (2004), was published in the U.S. in 2012. The novel Elskan mín ég dey (I'll Die, My Love) received the DV Cultural Prize for literature in 1998 and was nominated for The Nordic Council Literary Prize in 1999. Her play, Ástarsaga 3 (Love story 3), (1997), was nominated for the Nordic Council Drama Award.
Kristín additionally works within the field of visual arts, and has collaborated with various visual artists.
Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl is an Icelandic writer. Born in Reykjavík in 1978 and raised in Ísafjörður (in the northwest of Iceland (in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (which covers a sizable portion of the globe))). For 21 years he lived in the same house but has since then lived in Berlin, Trondheim, The Faroe Islands, Reykjavík and various places in Denmark, Finland and Sweden. He's published loads of books through various organizations, some of which he helped found, and others he helped bankrupt (see a full list below). He currently lives with his family, a wife and a son who live a bit here and there (they've mostly left Oulu, Finland; put all their stuff in a house in Rejmyre, Sweden; will soon be inhabiting the Library of Water in Stykkishólmur, Iceland; and have an apartment in Ísafjörður waiting for them – and then something will turn up). Sometimes Eiríkur makes (award-winning!) animated poetry and quite often he performs (mind-blowing!) sound poetry at festivals of art, music and poetry.
Novels in Icelandic:
Illska (September, 2012)
Eitur fyrir byrjendur (2006)
Poetry books in Icelandic:
Ú á fasismann (2008)
Þjónn, það er Fönix í öskubakkanum mínum (2007)
Nihil Obstat (2003)
Essays in Icelandic:
Ást er þjófnaður (2010)
Books in other languages:
Gift för nybörjare (novel in Swedish) (Rámus, 2012)
Booby, Be Quiet! (collected essays in English) (poEsia, 2011)
IWF! IWF! OMG! OMG! (selected poetry in German) (Kozempel & Timm, 2011)
Gift fur Anfänger (novel in German) (Kozempel & Timm, 2010)
Julie Ault is an artist, writer, and editor who works both independently and collaboratively.
She has a somewhat open relationship to form and frequently takes on new modes.
She has adopted curatorial activities and editorial pursuit as artistic practice, recently using publication as a medium.
For many years her principal method was the temporary exhibition.
She sometimes explores something or someone that moves her—a sensibility she wants to connect to. She shares these inquiries through writings, books, and exhibitions.
She has engaged the artists Sister Corita Kent, Roni Horn, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Robert Kinmont, Nancy Spero, Wolfgang Tillmans, James Benning, and Alejandro Cesarco among others.
In 1979 she cofounded the New York based artists collaborative Group Material which until 1996 explored interrelationships between aesthetics and politics.
Sometimes she collaborates with Martin Beck.
She has collaborated with Danh Vo and likely will again.
She is currently working with filmmaker James Benning on a book about his cabins project that investigates models of social isolation and inquires into the boundaries between dystopian and utopian principles inherent in varieties of seclusion and autonomy.
She is finishing her doctoral research in Visual Art at Malmö Art Academy, Lund University, on the subject of how histories of ephemeral and peripheral activities in the art field are registered in the archive and shaped into fitting historical representations.
Image: (above) Roni Horn, Library of Water (2007). Photograph: Stefan Altenburger
Thordis Bjornsdottir is a poet and novelist, born in Reykjavik 1978. Since 2004 she has published three books of poetry, a collection of stories, and two novels. Along with her writing, Bjornsdottir also composes music and does artwork, and the novel she's currently working on contains a good number of linoleum cuts. Bjornsdottir is married to the writer Jesse Ball and has one daughter. She lives in Chicago.
Below, Thordis Bjornsdottir reads Into the Night, a short story.
Oddný Eir Aevarsdóttir was born in Reykjavík in 1972. She studied philosophy at the University of Iceland, graduating with a Master's Degree in political philosophy, then completed a doctoral minor degree at Sorbonne University in Paris. She has in recent years worked on her thesis at E.h.e.s.s.-University, carrying out research in the Icelandic museum field as well as working in the arts, lecturing, curating and writing on numerous artists, running a bookwork-edition and a visual arts space in New York and Reykjavík with her brother, archaeologist Uggi Aevarsson. Both Oddńy Eir and Uggi worked on the Artangel/Roni Horn project Weather Reports You.
Oddný Eir has worked in the political field, collaborating with musician Björk on the project Náttúra; about the protection of Icelandic nature and sustainable development. Oddný Eir’s first novel was published in 2004, an autobiographical work named Opening the Hunchback; a piece of puppet theatre. In her second novel, published in 2009, Home to My Heart: a perfume report on a season at the sanatorium, Oddńy Eir extends even further the boundaries between scholarship, fiction, journal-writing and reality.
Below, Oddný Eir Aevarsdóttir reads from a journal entry written during her stay, both in English and in Icelandic.
Óskar Árni Óskarsson was born in Reykjavík on October 3rd, 1950 and spent his childhood in the central Þingholt neighbourhood, an area which figures prominently in his works. In addition to his writing career he works part-time as a librarian at the National and University Library of Iceland.
His first collection of poems, Handklæði í gluggakistunni (A Towel in the Windowsill) was published in 1986. Since then he has published nine poetry books as well as six collections of short prose. He has also published numerous translations, e.g. three books by Japanese haiku poets Issa, Buson and Basho, short story collections by Ivor Cutler, William Saroyan and Raymond Carver as well as a collection of poetry by the Norwegian poet Olav H. Hauge. He has translated stories by James Joyce and Oscar Wilde which have been published as children’s books. He was co-editor of the poetry journal Ský (Clouds), which was published in 1990-1994. His poetry has appeared in numerous other journals and collections in Iceland and abroad.
The poetry of Óskar Árni has always been personal, childhood memories and recollections abound, as well as events from daily life. His short prose pieces are full of lyric images, reflections and strange happenings, described by Óskar in his peculiar way. Many of the prose pieces are reminiscent of the writings of the Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges, in the way that thoughts, dreams and memories merge with reality. Óskar Árni has received a number of literary prizes and nominations. In 2004 he was awarded the National Radio’s Literature Prize, in 2006 he received the Jón úr Vör Poetry Prize and was nominated for The Icelandic Literary Prize in 2008, for his book Skuggamyndir úr ferðalagi (Silhouettes from a Journey) in which the author travels around Iceland, interjecting memories, both fictional and non-fictional, about his ancestors.
A translation of Carson McCullers' The Ballad of the Sad Café will be published in 2010 as well as a new collection of poetry, Þrjár hendur (Three Hands).
Óskar Árni Óskarsson lives in Reykjavík. He is married and has four daughters.
Below, Óskar Árni Óskarsson reads from the book, 'Þrjár hendur' (Three hands), that he wrote at the library.
Anne Carson is a professor of Classics, poet, translator and essayist. Born in Toronto in 1950, she studied to PhD level at that city’s university and saw her first book, Eros the Bittersweet: An Essay, published by Princeton University Press in 1986. Notable verse works thereafter include Autobiography of Red (1998), a reworked part of the Herakles legend based in modern times, and The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos (2001), a verse novel set around the breakup of a marriage. Her translations have taken in the work of Euripides (2006’s Grief Lessons: Four Plays by Euripides) and Aeschylus (2009’s Another Oresteia).
Literary awards received by Carson include four Q Spell Awards, a Pushcart Prize, a T.S. Eliot Prize, a Griffin Poetry Prize and an LA Times Book Critics Award. Carson was recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2000 and is currently Distinguished Poet in Residence at New York University. Critics have described her as “unclassifiable” and “one of the most idiosyncratic intelligences at work in contemporary literature”.
Below, a reading is of Anne Carson’s poem Cage a Swallow Can’t You But You Can’t Swallow a Cage, written with Bob Currie during their residency, in honour of Roni Horn. Produced by Iain Chambers, Icelandic field recordings courtesy of Ulfur Hansson and Arnþór Helgason, music from Sigur Rós member Kjartan Sveinsson who composed a musical response to the poem, which was performed at the Church of St Paul the Apostle in New York last year, by The Hilliard Ensemble. A clip from this performance, courtesy of Q2, introduces the piece. Additional performers are Michael Clemow and Penelope Thomas.
Image: (above) Anne Carson reading her essay in the Library of Water, Roni Horn, Library of Water (2007). Photograph: Anna Melstead-Stykkisholmsposturinn
Shortly after her birth in New England to a Russian-Jewish father and Irish mother, Rebecca Solnit's family moved to New Mexico, and then to Lima, Peru, and then to Ohio. By the time she was five, they had settled about thirty miles north of San Francisco, where she grew up until age 17. She has lived in San Francisco almost continuously since age 18, with long sojourns in the deserts of Nevada and New Mexico, and other travels around the southwestern United States. She just finished her thirteenth book, due out next year; the twelve in print include this year's Storming the Gates of Paradise, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender and Art, River of Shadows, Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (for which she received a Guggenheim, the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism, and the Lannan Literary Award, along with the Western Writers of America's Spur Award).
An activist since her mid-twenties, she has worked on antiwar, antinuclear, environmental, human rights, and Native American land rights issues, as well as organizing demonstrations in support of the monks in Burma last fall. She is a contributing editor to the national magazine Harper's, a columnist for the environmental magazine Orion, and a regular contributor to the online political site Tomdispatch.com. Before this journey to Iceland, her last trip out of the country was to the Zapatista rebels in southern Mexico.
Below, Rebecca Solnit reads her essay 'The Blue of Distance'
Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir was born in Reykjavík in 1976 and currently lives and works there. She was raised in several small towns around the coast of Iceland. For her high school years (1993-1996) she was a waitress and bartender. From 1996-1997, she worked as a freelance writer for daily newspaper Helgarpósturinn
From 1997 to present she has been an on-and-off philosophy student at the University of Iceland. She is the author of several books which include a collection of short stories and five novels. In addition, she has written a collection of philosophical stories for children. She also writes poetry and is responsible for the translation of two novels.
She was nominated for the National Book Award for novel Fyrirlestur um hamingjuna (2000); nominated for the “DV” Culture Award for novel Sagan af sjóreknu píanóunum (2002); and she won the DV Culture Award for novel Yosoy in 2005.
Below, Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir reads from her novel 'The Creator' in English and in Icelandic.
Image: Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir reading her essay in the Library of Water, Roni Horn, Library of Water (2007). Photograph: Anna Melstead-Stykkisholmsposturinn