Erstellt am: 26. 2. 2012 - 12:19 Uhr
Freed by Spandex: "The Weird Girls Project"
People are often very surprised when I tell them how often I've been to Iceland (four times in the last two years). They just don't get how someone could willingly go somewhere so cold, so often. I try to explain that the island is not nearly as cold as they think it is, and especially the southern capital Reykjavik can be quite moderate; usually they don't believe me.
Then I try to explain that the majestic beauty of the Icelandic landscape is like nothing else I've seen on earth; that usually is greeted with some credulity, but only some. Talking about the brilliant flashes of Aurora Borealis (the "Northern Lights") in the sky is usually more effective.
James Maddison 2010
My ace-in-the-hole - either because the argument is so convincing, or because it's too abstract for the uninitiated to imagine - is when I try explaining that the country is a creative hub, like a massive Flash Mob waiting all the time to be organized. People are just simply open to artistic projects, be they music, film or otherwise. Extraordinarily talented people make up an insanely high percentage of the country's 300,000+ population, and unsurprisingly a lot of creative foreigners end up living there.
One of these creative foreigners is Kitty Von-Sometime, raised in Devon/Exeter (UK) but relocated to Iceland since 2006.
"I think the only reason that I can do this Project is because of where I live," she said in a video doc (see below). "Or the only reason that I have done this project, is because of where I live. I really don't want to sound like a cliche foreigner, but I'm going to. [...] There's such a sense of 'fuck it, why don't you just do that' about everything. [...] And that is very special about this place, along with the fact that you have this immense pool of creativity, which is again the cliche, but it's a cliche because it's true."
From Special Episode Shanghai of the Weird Girls Project
By this stage, I suppose you are wondering what the Project is.
According to Kitty, the Weird Girls Project started as a one-off blend between a photo shoot, a video shoot, and a fun party concept. With the first episode, the approach was "light-hearted and very naive indeed," and although the Project has evolved to become a lot more serious over the course of going from one to sixteen episodes, the spirit of fun remains.
* - And since the last episode (in Shanghai), the concept has expanded to potentially include the rest of the world too.
To the uninitiated, the Project is usually a fun, choreographed music video involving at least a dozen women in bizarre and colourful costumes interacting, dancing, roller skating, and occasionally even fighting with fencing swords. The videos last between three and five minutes typically, and take place somewhere remarkable, or stunningly beautiful, in Iceland*.
What many people don't know, however, is that each episode's participants are left in the dark until the last possible moment as to where the video will be shot, what the costumes will be, what sort of themes or interaction there will be in the video. According to the website of the Weird Girls Project, [t]he main element of the project is ‘release to the unknown’.
Hördur Sveinsson and Kitty Von-Sometime
I interviewed two former Weird Girls, one of whom (Karolina) has been involved since the very beginning of the project in 2008, and appeared in as many as ten episodes to date. The other Weird Girl is a New Zealand-born documentary filmmaker by the name of Adrienne Grierson; along with actually appearing in one recent episode, she is also in the early stages of making a movie about the Project, and how it transforms peoples' lives.
We met in Adrienne's downtown Reykjavik apartment, to discuss what it means for both of them to be a 'Weird Girl'.
Adrienne: The reason that I like the idea was because I got to perform and do something that would get me out of myself, but at the same I got to hide behind a mask, with everybody else, [...] and sort of be indistinguishable. There was something very appealing about breaking out and yet being able to hide, at the same time.
Johnny: Coming out of the closet, dressed in the clothes that were in the closet.
Adrienne: Exactly! Completely obliterated by what you are wearing. And one of the nice things is that you don't have to be thin or fat, or tall or short, or old or young...
Alive or dead...
Adrienne: Living's preferable! But apart from that, it's a free-for-all. I did it to meet other women and have a fun time in Iceland. The result was that I ended up living here completely, and abandoning nearly everything else.
So the 'Weird Girls' project was actually responsible for you living here.
Adrienne: Yeah, it was! Which over-shadowed the transformative experience of being a Weird Girl itself, because the actual transformation was my entire life. You know, if I'd come here for the weekend, been Weird, and gone home, it would have been like, 'Wow! That was amazing, being [a Weird Girl]' but now, what is [most] amazing is that I've lost nearly every other life I've had, and now I live here. That's weird.
What was the design when you did it?
Adrienne: It was harlequin. Harlequin costume with harlequin make-up, and lots of streamers, out in the mountains [surrounded by] waterfalls. It was very poetic. [Kitty has] also done a nude one, which I would have been quite scared to do, but that was really beautiful too.
Why did you choose to get involved in this project?
Karolina: It was a way of facing something, a kind of challenge, to get more and more undressed, and feel comfortable in some very tight clothes, and develop some kind of self-awareness. There were a lot of girls who had eating disorders, and different "look" disorders that we have in modern society, so it became some kind of a ... healing, a remedy.
From Episode 7 of the Weird Girls Project
Has this changed the way you dress and carry yourself?
Karolina: It did do something, I think, because suddenly you get to look at all this footage of yourself, and develop some awareness of how you look, and then I remember this moment that I started to like some photos of myself, and it would not have been like that in my teenage times and later on. I would have a hard time to look at my own pictures. But at some point in Weird Girls, I was like 'OK, I like that', and I started to develop some sort of confidence.
Ok. And a question for both of you. What was the most provocative point - or most challenging point - while being involved in this project?
Karolina: There was this episode, where we [got] completely undressed in the forest. With a few other women, we stood completely naked in front of cameras, and of course it was the most powerful experience, and kind of the biggest challenge to go through.
Very vulnerable, I guess.
Karolina: Yeah, very vulnerable! But so satisfying [at the same time]. The outcome was very beautiful, and I think we were all very proud of it.
Adrienne: I think it's confronting to wake up in the morning and put on a spandex costume, and just go and be told what to do, out in the middle of nowhere, in a country you don't really know, with people you don't really know, and just trust that you're not going to look like a... a pillock, really.
I personally found the cold quite challenging. It was really frigging cold, and you're standing there in spandex. I was [also] quite scared about how much I was going to have to do some sort of Isadora Duncan freeform dancing routine through a field...
But the actual camaraderie of the experience, you know we all went on a bus, and we went all the way out to the middle of nowhere, you do look at yourself, and you see every bit of your body, and how your face looks under six ounces of white pancake make-up. You see yourself under a scrutinous eye of the lens, and you're praying while you're doing it, "please God, I'm not going to look like a weirdo."
Please God, I'm going to look like a Weird Girl!
Adrienne: (laughs) Okay, wrong choice of words. But you just hope that everything looks okay. But you know at the same time, that you're being ... hidden. I look the same as all the other Girls. And that's what I liked here, this paradox of self-expression.
Should there also be a 'Weird Boys' Project?
Adrienne: Yeah, people apparently have asked [Kitty] quite often if there should be a 'Weird Boys' Project, and there probably should! But, it might end up looking a bit... dunno... with a lot of men in their underwear, or something. It could just end up looking like some Calvin Klein ad, I don't know. Which wouldn't be ideal.