Imbuing Matter with Spirit

dieter roth

In 1957, a young, Swiss graphic-designer-turned-artist, Dieter Roth (1930-1998), reached Icelandic shores. Like many men before and since he was following an Icelandic woman. He had met and fallen in love with her in Denmark a year earlier. Roth would become a household name in Iceland and a celebrated figure in 20th-century modernist art and […]

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Take Me to Church

It’s a cold Sunday morning as I make my way up Skólavörðustígur towards the mighty Hallgrímskirkja church, a white, tapered structure that towers gracefully over downtown Reykjavík like a huge upside-down icicle. Very few people are out and about, and from the looks of it, most of them are tourists. None of them, however, look like they’re on their way to mass.

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Domino’s Pizza Group Exits Icelandic Market

The British company Domino’s Pizza Group has decided to exit markets in Iceland, Sweden and Norway, RÚV reports. The company used to own Domino’s Pizza in the country but now intends to sell their ownership. Domino’s Pizza restaurants will stay open in Iceland regardless, says Birgir Örn Birgisson, director of Domino’s Icelandic branch.

On its website, Domino’s Pizza Group’s Chief Executive Officer, David Wild says that despite solid performance in the UK and Ireland “the performance of our international business remains disappointing”. This has led to the company’s decision to exit markets “in an orderly manner”. The company’s measures began earlier this year with its withdrawal from Denmark, but now other Nordic countries have followed as well.

Birgir Örn Birgisson, the head of Domino’s Pizza in Iceland says that even though the company will relinquish ownership, he intends to keep the franchise open in Iceland. “For us in Iceland this doesn’t mean any change to the business. We’ll continue our operations as before, and we are doing well. The other markets have been struggling so [Domino’s Pizza Group] decided to throw in the towel”.

Asked about how Domino’s Pizza Group intends to carry out the sale of the franchise in Iceland, Birgir says the company hasn’t made it fully clear. “But that’s what they intend to do. They’re going to sell it as Domino’s. They need clearance to do that from the Domino’s headquarters in Ann Arbor. This will take some time to sort out.” 

Domino’s Pizza has 24 restaurants in Iceland, with about 800 employees. But Birgir is quick to point out that despite ownership changing hands, Domino’s restaurants will remain open. “For Icelanders there will be no change, we sold our restaurants to Domino’s Pizza Group three years ago and things didn’t change then so I don’t anticipate any chance now either”.

Industrial Hemp Production Discussed in Parliament

Alþingi Icelandic parliament

Þórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation of Iceland says she is willing to look into the possibility of reforming laws around hemp production for industrial use in Iceland, RÚV reports.

Halldóra Mogensen, MP for the Pirate Party, initiated the discussion, pointing out that drug laws in Iceland have made life difficult for companies and individuals interested in hemp products. She also stressed that by hemp, she is not referring to cannabis indica or other products that contain large amounts of the psychoactive chemical THC, but rather industrial hemp that is non-psychoactive and can be used for medication, clothing and many other applications.

Halldóra stressed that Icelandic law concerning hemp is in a “grey area” and the co-operation of various ministries would be needed to rectify the situation.

Þórdís in turn responded by saying that if production of non-psychoactive hemp could produce jobs and prosperity, she’s keen to look into it. Adding that “prejudices that people might have for the drug should not be a hindrance for other types of hemp being utilised”.

Experimental hemp production is already underway in Iceland. In Gautavík, farmer Pálmi Einarsson has been growing industrial hemp. He was among the speakers at a conference earlier this month called Hemp for the Future, where the many uses of hemp and its possible role in Iceland’s future was discussed. It was the first conference of its kind in Iceland.

Iceland Faces Possible Grey Listing for Inadequate Money Laundering Policies

money

The Financial Action Task Force (on Money Laundering), or FAFT, is holding its annual meeting this week in Paris. There, representatives from 205 nations have convened to discuss nations who haven’t taken adequate measures to prevent money laundering and/or financing of terrorist groups. Reportedly, the United States and the United Kingdom are fighting to put Iceland on a grey list for its lacklustre legislature concerning money laundering, Vísir reports.

FAFT is currently debating the fate of countries like Iran, Pakistan and Iceland, all of which are considered to have posed a threat to the stability of financial markets in one way or another. If Iceland ends up being grey listed it will join countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq and Uganda. Further down, on FAFT’s black list, are countries like North-Korea.

Iceland reportedly has full support from the EU, who are keen to keep any EFTA country off the dreaded grey list. The US and UK, however are reportedly fighting hard to make Iceland accountable for its sluggishness in monetary reform. Insiders say that since Iceland is a small country, making an example of it would be a powerful, yet inexpensive, way for FAFT to make its message heard.

Insiders also point out that the situation is a serious indictment of Icelandic governance, which has indeed been slow to respond to FAFT’s demands for monetary reform. If Iceland ends up on the grey list, it could damage the country’s reputation, which in turn might make it harder for Icelandic companies and individuals to do business abroad.

Víkingur Heiðar Ólafsson wins Gramophone Artist of the Year Award

Icelandic pianist Víkingur Heiðar Ólafsson won the coveted Artist of the Year award at the Gramophone Classical Music Awards 2019 last night, RÚV reports.

Gramophone is a UK based classical music publication and their awards have been referred to as the ‘Oscars of classical music’. Víkingur accepted the prestigious prize in person during the awards ceremony, which took place at the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms in central London. The publication described Víkingur as having the gift of “making something familiar feel entirely his own, drawing you into a world where no other interpretation seems possible”.

Víkingur is a rising star in the classical music world. In 2017, he signed with Deutsche Grammophon and has put out a few well received releases on the classical label, most notably two albums featuring his renditions of works by Philip Glass and Johann Sebastian Bach, respectively. Earlier this year he won the Album of the Year award and Instrumental Album of the Year award at the BBC Music Magazine awards, as well as the Opus Klassik award for best piano album, all for his album of Bach renditions.

 

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir Pens CNN Article on Gender-Based Violence

Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

Iceland’s prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has penned an article for CNN’s news site regarding gender-based violence, harassment and discrimination in Iceland and abroad, Vísir reports. The article coincides with a conference in Harpa called MeToo: Moving Forward, the first international conference focused on the #MeToo movement and its aftermath, taking place over three days, ending tomorrow. 

In Katrín’s article, titled “Gender inequality is one of the most persistent evils of our times”, the prime minister talks about lessons revealed by the #MeToo movement and the importance of using its cultural momentum to bring about lasting changes in matters relating to gender equality. “Does [#MeToo] represent a permanent change for the better or a small window of opportunity that will shut again, resulting in a backlash? How can we make sure the efforts lead to enduring societal change?” Katrín asks.

When the #MeToo movement first started gaining momentum two years ago, many women in Iceland published their own testimonies under the hashtag, revealing discrimination that clashed with some people’s image of Iceland as a harbinger of gender-equality. “For many of us, the testimonies of migrant and ethnic minority women marked a turning point. They described levels of multiple discrimination that most of us had hoped didn’t exist in Iceland,” Katrín writes.

“They revealed that while Iceland has made internationally recognized progress on gender equality, we have not sufficiently confronted the intersections of gender, racial and class injustices. In this regard, Iceland, as well as the other Nordic countries, have lessons to learn from more diverse societies. Notably, this is one of the key themes at the conference.”

Read Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s CNN article here.

MeToo: Moving Forward will feature speakers from Iceland and abroad, including Perna Sen, the UN Women’s Executive Coordinator and Spokesperson on Addressing Sexual Harassment and Other Forms of Discrimination, playwright Justina Kehinde, former parliament member and artist Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir, Swedish gender equality activist Alán Ali and Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Martin Chungong. The conference will be partially live streamed via its Facebook event, found here.

For more information on the MeToo: Moving Forward conference visit MeToo.is

Man Pushes Woman Off Balcony

iceland ambulance

A man in his thirties pushed a woman in her twenties off a balcony in upper Breiðholt late Monday evening, RÚV reports. The woman was rushed to a hospital and the man was taken into custody by police, where he remains. The woman is badly injured but reportedly in stable condition.

Police responded to a call about a woman who had fallen from a balcony on the second floor of a building in Breiðholt last Monday. However, it was quickly revealed that she had been pushed by the unnamed man, who was promptly captured at the scene by police. 

The man is thought to have violated his parole with the heinous act and has been sentenced to police custody for at least 30 days, while the matter is investigated by the police.

Indecent Exposure in a College Classroom

Háskóli Íslands University of Iceland

A young man entered a building belonging to the University of Iceland yesterday and harassed students and faculty, RÚV reports. At one point the man entered a classroom as a lecture was about to commence, pulled down his pants and began pleasuring himself to the horrified audience.

The building in question sits at Stakkahlíð and pertains to the educational science department of the University of Iceland. The man entered unseen and began by accosting an unsuspecting student, he then entered the aforementioned classroom where students promptly called the police, and chased the man out of the room. The man then accosted a member of faculty at the building’s offices before being captured by police and transferred to the nearest station. The scene unfolded in about ten to twenty minutes, according to witnesses.

Kolbrún Þorbjörg Pálsdóttir, president of the department of educational sciences, says that students and faculty responded in the best way possible and have been offered psychological first aid by professionals. “The following days will be spent taking care of our people and deciding how we address this matter,” Kolbrún said.

Man Survives Plane Crash

Icelandic coast guard

A small plane crashed into the ground at Skálafellsöxl yesterday afternoon, RÚV reports

The single engine aircraft reportedly sent out a distress signal picked up by the Icelandic Coast Guard who rushed to the scene by helicopter around 4pm yesterday. Upon arrival they were met with the pilot who was well enough to walk towards the rescue squad by himself. He was nevertheless transported to an intensive care unit for treatment. The pilot was alone in the aircraft.

Rescue workers had trouble locating the plane’s wreckage at first, but eventually came upon its burning remains around 5pm. The coast guard then transported detectives on the scene by helicopter to inspect the premises.