Frigid, Dreaming Island | Co-Curator | Ongoing | University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art
An overt confluence of culture and military history has deeply affected both the Icelandic and American sense of identity. America is a country locked and loaded. America always wins. Iceland has never had a military of its own, though Icelanders do love their Coast Guard. To Iceland, international military presence and attention was a veritable bridge (rainbow or otherwise) into modernity. Previously an isolated fishing culture known best for nearly-magical knitwear and Nordic ancestry, Iceland was catapulted to the forefront of communications technology during the Cold War. Improbably, the frigid, dreaming island entered a period of international importance and military strategery that has yet to end. Iceland is between, its twentieth century political importance mirroring plate tectonics. So Iceland became the spoiled child of divorce, Russia and America attempting to win the country’s affections through increasingly expensive gifts. Both superpowers wooed Icelanders with film strips, each reel designed to subtly seduce. However, Americans showered the island with surveillance instruments, airplanes, and a new economy. And NATO (the new boyfriend) kept Russia at arms length. For Iceland, military involvement was passive and externally applied. Conversely, the American military complex is the embodiment of nationhood. Regardless, the history is partially shared. These photographs document the former (soon to be re-militarized) NATO base, located near Keflavík.