Artist Luke Jerram Brings the Moon to Harpa

British installation artist Luke Jerram will bring his art piece Museum of the Moon to the Harpa concert hall and conference centre as a part of Reykjavík’s annual Winter Lights Festival and this year’s UTmessan, a nonprofit tech conference and expo.

Jerram’s artwork features an inflatable moon which high definition images of the lunar surface are projected upon, creating an accurate, if miniature version of the real thing. According to the artwork’s homepage, each centimetre of the internally lit spherical sculpture represents 5 km of the moon’s surface.

The UTmessan conference, wholly dedicated to Iceland’s expanding information technology sector, will be open to the public next Friday and Saturday, February 8 and 9. Guests of Harpa, however, will be presented with an early treat, with the Museum of the Moon being premiered to the Icelandic public today, February 4 and remaining open until February 11.

The event celebrates the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing on the actual moon in 1969, when space flight commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin explored the lunar surface for a little more than 21 hours before safely returning back to earth, forever making history.

In addition to Jerram’s piece, Harpa’s own glass exterior will play a part in the installation, with its 714 LED lights complementing the mood set by Museum of the Moon.

The installation is a joint venture between UTmessan, Ský and the University of Iceland.

Sea Cucumber Fever Grips Fisheries

A record number of sea cucumbers have been caught around Iceland during this fishing season, RÚV reports.

This year’s season has kicked off with a bang, with around 2,000 tons of sea cucumbers being harvested from the ocean floor around the country. Last season 5,400 tons were caught during the whole season, which was double the amount caught the season before that.

Sea cucumbers are invertebrates that inhabit the sea floor the world over, serving a useful role in the ecosystem as they break down detritus and other organic matter for bacteria to consume. They are considered a delicacy in Asia and are used in ancient folk medicine, despite a lack of research proving their therapeutic potential. In Chinese cuisine, they are referred to as hoisam and are sold dry.

No fixed quota has been set for sea cucumber harvesting in Iceland. Nine fishing boats are currently given permits, with a quota set for specific areas. But beyond those no limit is set, giving fishermen free rein to fish as many sea cucumbers as they wish.

Luxury apartments in Downtown Reykjavík Remain Unsold

Housing construction in Reykjavík has not been according to demand for the past few years, according to Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson, RÚV reports. Bjarni feels that enough large and expensive apartments have now been built. Many new apartment buildings that have risen in downtown Reykjavík in recent years now stand empty.

Hildigunnur Haraldsdóttir, architect and one of the owners of an apartment complex at Tryggvagata 13 that’s situated in the city’s centre, stated in a recent interview that the supply of apartments now far exceeds demand. She says that she and the team behind Tryggvagata 13 originally sought to build more modestly sized apartments for first-time buyers, only for the city of Reykjavík to deny them this due to the high cost of building downtown.

Bjarni Benediktsson, explains that these big and expensive luxury apartments perhaps haven’t been meeting the real demand of people. However he doesn’t consider the problem serious, adding that “this seems to be a manageable project if we follow the propositions and advice we’ve now received,” he says.

Sigurborg Ósk Haraldsdóttir, the head of Reykjavík city’s Office of Property Management and Economic Development, is not worried about the future. “The numbers show us that we’re also building more small apartments,” she says. “And there hasn’t been as much talk about those apartments, simply because they’ve been selling more easily,” adding that she’s “confident that we’ll eventually reach equilibrium.”

In the last few years, there has been a public outcry for new apartments, resulting in numerous new projects. In addition to new apartment complexes, the city has made a concerted effort to compact settlement by allowing people to turn their garages into small apartments. This move has been welcomed, but might come with its own set of problems, says supreme court lawyer Sigurður Helgi Guðjónsson. In a recent interview, he explains that this might create far fewer new apartments than the city might hope for, and potentially increase problems and legal disputes concerning how to divide properties.

Twenty-three Women Publish Allegations Against Former Politician

Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson

Icelandic diplomat and former chairman of the Icelandic Social Democratic Party, Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson, has recently come under scrutiny for sexual misconduct, Morgunblaðið reports. Twenty-three women have now published a blog site detailing the allegations, with the earliest dating back to the year 1962.

This is not the first time women have come forward accusing Jón Baldvin of harassment. In 2012 Hannibalsson made headlines when Guðrún Harðardóttir, the niece of Jón’s wife, published a number of letters he sent her when she was between the ages of 14 and 17, many of whom are sexual in nature. Earlier this month, Stundin reported additional accounts of sexual misconduct and Jón’s daughter, Aldís Schram, has also been in the media, detailing her fraught relationship with her father in the wake of his alleged harassment of her former classmates.

This morning, 23 women, including the ones who had come forward earlier, published their stories online. The stories range from alleged harassment to sexual coercion and the accusers include Jón Baldvin’s sister-in-law, daughter and former students.

Jón Baldvin was active in politics in Iceland between the mid-eighties and mid-nineties, serving as Minister of Finance and later as Minister of Foreign Affairs He then went on to serve as diplomat in the United States and Mexico, and later in Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Jón has denied the accusations but admits having sent letters to his wife’s niece, with one of them turning overtly sexual as he wrote under the influence of alcohol at an airport when a flight was delayed.

Many of Jón’s accusers have pressed charges, with the police eventually dropping their investigation due to lack of evidence.