Yes, there is art here, but I have this report to share that is of more cultural relevance at the moment.
Like any good wanna be armchair cultural anthropologist, I watched more Icelandic television last night. As it turns out, it was the season finale for Islenski bachelorinn, a show so clearly rivaling American reality TV in clichés that it elevated its self above and beyond any language barrier. I was transfixed! However, it was apparent in flashback sequences that they competitive sequences had been played out in the Icelandic wilderness and caves, adding a different allure to the entire show. I have never watched the American version, but can easily see there could be similiar plot lines.
I have not really taken a moment to comment on Icelandic television. From a visit 5 years ago, I know they have the capability of all the same cable tv we have back in the States. Thankfully all I have access to are 2 stations. There is actually one other station, but it mainly shows stills of shopping advertisements while music is played in the back ground. About once an hour a news break comes on. The news is astounding as people are given full airtime to voice their stories, opinions and even their school Christmas programs – in their entirety.
After being here for two weeks the oddity to me as someone used to American sound bytes and high production values is not as apparent. I much prefer this homespun version, and find the programming a wonder – every timeslot brings something completely different- whether a rerun of Law and Order or a highly amusing Icelandic game show called Poppunktur, which is a trivia game show (similar to Jeopardy I gathered) between two teams of Icelandic rock stars, of course the focus of the show is Rock Musak! There is a show host that keeps the quickly paced show moving between questions, activities of skill (the long jump anyone?) and of course each band gets to perform before they enter the final face off. There is another man who stands behind the host with an intimidating muscle man mustache, whose role I could not decipher for the life of me (maybe he is a DJ?). I found myself rooting for the huskier looking band Geirfuglar, with the guy in the red shirt ,the drummer and also the lead singer (much better than Phil Collins).
A few things American TV could use a bit more of:
Full 60 second ads for new books
The airing of British television shows on regular TV, and additionally the willingness to not editing out f words- all are kept intact. Yes, that is how people really talk.
The allowance of people over the age of 40 on television sets that have not been susceptible to the knife of a plastic surgeon. What a concept!
Less or almost no television commercials. Along with the allowance of long monologues on all locally produced shows (talk shows, without slap dash pacing take on a whole other worldliness) this adds a strange twist of time-reality to all television viewing.
Three minute polka breaks!
The first week I was here I had no music and once I found out the television actually worked, I got down to business in comparing and contrasting cultural differences via the airwaves while I painted. I was actually hoping, like the Japanese lady in the 1970’s movie The Boatniks, if I stayed up all night watching Icelandic television I would be fully fluent in the language in the morning. No dice.
The poor Icelanders are unfortunately susceptible to high amounts of American television shows. All TV is shown in its original language, accompanied by Icelandic subtitles. This has thrown me for a loop when what I think was Swedish programming came on. I am sure I am missing gobs of information, especially during their own news broadcasts. It’s a very pretty language, and one I wish I could speak. Speaking of, almost no American news makes its way out here either via the airwaves (there is no English televised news so I could be fooling myself) or in their newspapers. This has been very refreshing, I can’t even explain how good it is to take a break from hearing about the non stop baloney back home.
Finally I would be completely remiss if I did not mention the Miss World competition. A week ago, this came on and of course I left it on, mildly amused by the schlock value that any beauty pageant radiates. Little did I know until the end that I was witnessing an event that has made the front page of the newspapers here for the last week: Unnur Birna Vilhjalmsdottir, Miss Iceland was crowned Miss World.