On the last day of my quarantine stay in Reykjavik I was wandering through an area I wasn’t familiar with. I turned down Gretisgatta where I had not been before, and came upon an empty parking lot and a derelict building, the concrete wall filled with street art. Since I had been photographing the unusual and often beautifully rendered paintings that grace many of the walls throughout the city, I began to take pictures of the very cartoonish images. Walking around to the backside of the building I encountered a young woman sitting on a stoop. She was probably early twenties, dressed all in black, with the only color coming from her spiky multi-colored hair. Her attention was buried in her phone, and she was smoking a cigarette. I moved past her without disturbing her, but she saw me and said:
There is plenty more really great art inside the building. If you walk farther down you can look into the opening and see for yourself.
The opening she was referring to was a doorway about four feet above the ground. There was a trashed sofa near by, which I pulled closer to the building, and climbed up to take a look. The scene left me breathless. Every wall was covered with images, many of which were reflected in the puddles that formed because the building had no roof. The floor was also scattered with debris: aerosol paint cans, discarded toys, trash, twisted aluminum, rotted wood, a couple of unmatched boots, a down parka, empty food containers. I was dazzled. Think I spent about 20 minutes inside and took a bunch of photos.
I climbed down safely and walked past the young woman again. She smiled as asked: what do you think?
I told her that I climbed up and walked around and was amazed and thanked her for telling me about the place.
We had a discussion about street art, graffiti, and vandalism. We both agreed that what is often taken as graffiti is merely vandalism.
I wanted to stay and chat longer but she had given me a gift and I didn’t want to take up anymore of her time. I thanked her for showing me such a treasure which is one of my fondest memories of Reykjavik.