“Wind Harp” Sculpture Unveiled at Harpa Concert Hall

Elín Hansdóttir Harpa sculpture Himinglæva

Himinglæva is the name of a new stainless-steel sculpture by Elín Hansdóttir that will be officially unveiled outside of Harpa Concert Hall tomorrow. It’s a work of art that is not only meant to be seen, but also heard. An “Aeolian harp,” the sculpture is designed to produce sonic overtones as the wind travels through it. Its name comes from Norse mythology, and means “transparent, shining, and small wave.”

In Norse mythology, sailors who sensed the power of the wind and waves around them assumed that the mythical figure Himinglæva was embodying the water and propelling their vessels across the ocean. Alluding metaphorically to this legend, the harp is designed to attune the viewer to the natural forces around them. The shape is based on a Lissajous figure, representing the shape of light beams reflected through vibrating tuning forks. The sounds it produces change based on the force of the wind travelling through it.

A long time in the making

The sculpture has been a long time in the making: back in 2008, before Harpa was completed, a design competition was held for public art in the environs of the concert hall. Himinglæva was the winning entry. Funding priorities shifted following the banking collapse, but thanks to a monetary gift from the City of Reykjavík and the state given to Harpa last year, the concert hall could finally fund the construction of Elín’s design.

Elín’s work often involves visual distortions that heighten the viewer’s awareness of their own presence in relation to the artwork. Himinglæva plays with sonic distortions instead, exploring how a sculpture can filter the natural environment around it.

Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Mayor of Reykjavík Dagur B. Eggertsson will be present at the sculpture’s unveiling in front of Harpa at 4:00 PM tomorrow. Elín is currently completing a residency in Berlin, but will travel to Iceland for the unveiling of Himinglæva.

“Góðan dag, this is Volodymyr from Kyiv”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke directly to the Icelandic Parliament and nation today in a virtual address broadcast in the chamber of Alþingi. In his speech, Zelenskyy underlined the centuries-old ties between the two countries and urged Iceland to continue supporting Ukraine in the ongoing conflict, saying that “the size of a country is of no importance when fighting for democracy.”

Started speech in Icelandic

Before Zelenskyy took the floor, President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson addressed the Ukrainian President in English, commending the Ukrainian nation’s strength. He added that Iceland and Ukraine share values and that Ukrainian refugees are welcome in Iceland, even adding a few sentences in Ukrainian.

Zelenskyy, in turn, began his speech with a few words in Icelandic, saying “Hello, this is Volodymyr from Kyiv.” He emphasised the ancient ties between Iceland and Ukraine: Scandinavians settled the area that is now Ukraine as early as the 8th century. He thanked Iceland for taking part in sanctions against Russia and encouraged the country to continue to put pressure on Russia. The Ukrainian President stated that Icelanders’ expertise in energy could come to good use in rebuilding Ukraine after the war is over.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

A few dozen Ukrainians and supporters of Ukraine were gathered outside the Parliament building while the event took place, brandishing Ukrainian flags.

Prime Minister mentions women and children

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Iceland’s Prime Minister, took the floor following Zelenskyy’s address. She condemned Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons, saying that military action should be resisted and assuring Zelenskyy that the Icelandic government would do everything in its power to help the Ukrainian people. She stated that Iceland wanted in particular to provide special protection for women and children who were survivors of sexual violence due to the conflict. The Prime Minister ended her address by asking those present to rise for a moment of silence on behalf of the Ukrainian nation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Inflation Response Measures Target Renters, Pensioners, and Families

Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson

Renters, pensioners, and families with children are the target groups of government measures intended to reduce the impact of inflation on the most vulnerable demographics. The government approved the measures at a cabinet meeting this morning. They include raising social security benefits, income-related child benefits, and housing benefits.

Housing benefits raised by 10%

Almost half of households on the rental market receive housing benefits, according to estimates from the Housing and Construction Authority. Around 70% of them have index-linked leases. Housing benefits will be increased by 10% from June 1, and the income limit for receiving housing benefits will be raised by 3%. The cost of rent has doubled in Iceland over the past decade.

Additional ISK 20,000 per child

Families receiving income-related child benefits will receive an additional ISK 20,000 per child [$153; €145], to be paid out by the end of June. The child benefit system is being reviewed “with the aim of addressing various shortcomings in the system,” in order to better achieve the objectives of reducing child poverty and supporting parents, especially in lower income brackets. From June 1, disability benefits and benefits for old-age pensioners will be increased by 3%.

Inflation continues to climb

Inflation measured 7.2% in Iceland last month. The Central Bank instituted a sharp 1% hike in interest rates in response. Íslandsbanki analysts have predicted that inflation will continue to rise in Iceland, peaking in June at 7.7%.

The notice concludes by stating that the government will “focus on tight fiscal policy to support the Centra Bank’s monetary policy.”

Bigger and Deeper Pool for Seals at Reykjavík Zoo

seal

A new seal enclosure will greatly expand the space seals have for swimming at Reykjavík Family Park and Zoo. Reykjavík City Council approved a motion today to being the construction of a new pool and service building at the zoo. There are four seals currently in the enclosure, which is also used to rehabilitate wild animals in distress.

The new pool will connect to the older one, where the seals are currently kept. It will be significantly deeper, allowing the seals to dive to a depth of four metres [13 feet]. It will include large windows along one side that will allow park visitors to see the seals from a new perspective.

Reykjavíkurborg. The current seal pool (bottom right) and the planned extension and service building.

“This addition will greatly improve the zoo’s ability to provide educational services in addition to taking better care of the animals, including reception of wild animals in distress in connection with Reykjavík Animal Services,” a notice from the City of Reykjavík states. The pool is expected to be completed by November 2022 and will cost an estimated ISK 125 million [$955 million; €904,000].

Most of the animals at Reykjavík Family Park and Zoo are domestic animals such as sheep and goats. Keeping seals at the park has been controversial. In 2019, Marine biologist and Reykjavík Family Park and Zoo division head Þorkell Heiðarsson argued that pups born in the enclosure should be released into the wild. Icelandic law, however, does not allow seals to be released from captivity.

Zelenskyy to Address Icelandic Parliament and Nation Today

Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address Iceland’s Parliament and the Icelandic nation virtually at 2:00 PM this afternoon. It is the first time a foreign head of state makes a speech in Alþingi, according to a notice from the Office of Parliament. The address will be broadcast into Alþingi in a special ceremony involving the Prime Minister and President of Iceland.

Speaker of Parliament Birgir Ármannsson will preside over the event and will be its first speaker. After Birgir, President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson will say a few words on behalf of the Icelandic nation. Zelenskyy will then speak after Guðni, followed by Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

Icelandic authorities have condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and expressed support for the Ukrainian nation and government in the ongoing conflict. Iceland has participated in international economic sanctions against Russia and received nearly 1,000 refugees from Ukraine. An Icelandic airline has participated in transporting equipment, including military equipment, to Ukraine.

The address will be streamed live at althingi.is as well as by Icelandic national broadcaster RÚV.