In Washington DC, Faroese artists leave a footprint at a Kennedy Center festival highlighting Nordic theater, dance, music, visual arts, literature, design, cuisine, and film.
In February this year (2013), Faroese artists, musicians, and designers traveled to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to participate in the center’s Nordic Cool Festival. The month-long event featured art installations, performances, and panel discussions from eight Nordic countries and territories — Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland Islands.
Eivoer thrilled a large crowd during her performance at the Millennium Stage, mixing old and new material for an audience that was equal parts devoted fans and curious onlookers. Later that same week, Kristian Blak’s band, Yggdrasil, played a pair of shows in an upstairs venue that was christened “The Cool Club” for the duration of the festival. Blak, who is well into his 60s, showed no signs of slowing down during the shows, at one point jumping off the stage while impersonating a sea bird.
The Faroe Islands were also represented in a panel discussion on Nordic design. Gudrun Rogvadottir talked about the environmental concerns that caused her and business partner Gudrun Ludvig to start the knitwear company that bears both their first names. Rogvadottir also answered questions about the snowflake jumper (sweater) made famous by the character Sarah Lund in the Danish crime-drama “The Killing.” A pair of Gudrun & Gudrun knit dresses were on display in the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Gallery.
Faroese students were featured in a display that became a part of the festival almost by accident. The Kennedy Center put out a request for videos from students in all Nordic countries on the subject of preserving the environment. These videos were to help engage the students in the individual countries and not intended to be part of the Terrace Gallery exhibit. But festival organizers were so impressed with the videos that came back that they constructed a display space in the gallery so the public could view them. One Faroese entry showed a student painting a boat and then throwing the paint-thinner in the Torshavn harbor. The remainder of the short video tells the story of how the paint-thinner makes its way through the food chain and onto the student’s table in the shape of a locally caught fish.
Perhaps the most striking Faroese contribution to the festival came in the form of Trondur Patursson’s “Migration.” The installation featured about 90 of Patursson’s stained birds hanging from the windows in the Kennedy Center’s Grand Foyer.
The birds were shaded in blue, green, orange, and red and almost appeared to change in appearance as the sun moved across the late-winter sky. They provided a visual focal point in the center’s massive foyer (tour guides are fond of telling guests that the Washington Monument, if laid on its side, could fit in the Grand Foyer) and were often remarked on by guests.
In total, Faroese artists participating in Nordic Cool by far exceeded their home country’s small size. Of the countries represented in the festival, the Faroe Islands only represents 0.2 percent of the population, but it was hard to miss the country’s impact on the festival. The performances, exhibits and discussions were the first exposure many festival-goers had to the Faroe Islands — and it left many at the festival hoping it wouldn’t be the last.