Geographic (and Human?) Diversity:
Exploring Iceland, in Text and Image

"The greater part of this world is water."

"[The fisherman's gaze was] panoramic, comprehensive and...highly mental. A strange view of abstraction....awash in the away, in the elsewhere, in the featureless, ever-changing country, the ocean where everything was reduced to nothing...much."

Serendip is a web site devoted to a sort of science education that is playful, exploratory, self-directed, and generative of the new. Among its recent offerings has been an extensive exploration of questions about
Taking a leaf from each of those avenues of inquiry, this site highlights both the geographical distinctiveness of one part of the world, and the ways in which different sorts of thinking and habits of being may arise in different landscapes. On a recent trip to Iceland, as I recorded the strikingly inhospitable landscape of the island with my camera, I was also exploring a strikingly independent psychological landscape by reading a range of literary texts. I juxtapose those two forms of exploration here, as a means of representing, and inviting further reflection about, possible intersections between the interior and exterior worlds that make us human.

Anne Dalke, June 2006

Text from Susan Kaysen, Far Afield (1994)

"Iceland looked like the moon, or maybe Mars. The terrain--he couldn't call it earth because it seemed to be lava--was red and rippled as if frozen in mid-flow."

"Here silence, shot through with bird cries, and the visual equivalent of silence, these naked scarps of earth, monotomous, magnificent, and empty."

"Pre-Edenic silence and stillness reigned here, in this vegetable and mineral universe....Time was fixed on the fourth day of creation: water, earth, grass and herb yielding seeds, and lights in the firmament...."

"In the animal world [an only child] meant that a species had few natural predators. But humans had so many: fear, doubt, boredom."

"They did not use here... right, left, up down, or any normal designations of direction; everything was according to a compass, as in, pass me that salt on your east, please."

Text from Halldór Laxness's 1946 novel, Independent People:

"You should beware of believing things you see in books...because there's no check on what they can write in them. They can spin lies as big as they like, and you never know, if you haven't been on the spot..."

"It is a useful habit never to believe more than half of what people tell you, and not to concern yourself with the rest. Rather keep your mind free and your path your own."
"...why should people who've been reared on independence describe what goes on in their minds? The mind is just like a weathercock. And just as apt to box the compass every five minutes."

"There's always someone in the valley there who rules over you and holds you in his hand....though Father may be hard, he isn't free. There's someone even harder than he, someone who stands over him and holds him in his power...something that never allows you any peace, something that makes you keep on doing something. It is the power that rules the world..."

The coming of Christianity to Iceland,
as described in Njaal's Saga (c. 1280):

"...this angel...weighs everything you do and...the good weighs more heavily with him than the evil.... I am prepared to claim no compensation for my son, and yet give pledges of peace to those men who are my bring about a settlement between us."
With thanks to Ann Dixon, who said,
"Your pictures make me want to hear the story.
They need words."

| Full Picture Gallery of Iceland
| Making Sense of Diversity
| Science Education
| An Emergent Vision: Revising the World with Images
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