The New York Times has a profile of Jón Gnarr, the Icelandic actor, comedian, conceptual artist, and sometime punk rocker, who last month was unexpectedly elected mayor of Reykjavík. I met Gnarr in 2004, when I went to Reykjavík to interview Björk. As the Times piece points out, Gnarr is married to Björk's close friend Jóga Jóhannsdóttir, who inspired the song "Jóga." Einar Örn, Björk's former bandmate in the Sugarcubes, also gained a seat on the city council in the recent election. Here is the relevant passage from that 2004 article, which is republished in my new book Listen to This:
On the day I was to leave Iceland, Björk decided that I should see something of Reykjavík’s art scene. Jóga, one of her oldest friends, is married to the actor and artist Jón Gnarr, who was having an opening that afternoon. We drove in another taxi—if Iceland has limousines, Björk does not use them—to an old Lutheran church in the center of town. The show was titled INRI, and it consisted of a series of photographs of G.I. Joe and Ken dolls acting out the Stations of the Cross. The resulting evocation of Christ’s last days was unconventional—only four of the attendees of the Last Supper wear clothes, and the best-dressed one, in khakis and a sweater-vest, is Satan—but if any conservative Christians were scandalized they did not make themselves known. The mood of the piece was whimsical rather than provocative. “Judas looks like a rave kid,” Björk said, giggling approvingly.
In the church, everyone seemed to know Björk, but no one made a fuss over her. I had a hard time telling whether the people who greeted her were relatives, old friends, fans, or simply extroverted strangers. At one point, a blond boy walked up to Björk and said “Hi, Björk!” Björk said “Hi!” in return, whereupon the kid casually sauntered away. Two older teens were dressed in tattered, oddly festooned military-style greatcoats; they looked like stylish deserters from the final Army of the Tsar. Outside the church, a television reporter was interviewing Gnarr. On a nearby lake, swans made a noise that sounded like an anarchist brass band, or so it seemed in this context. The snow and ice melted in the weak glare of the sun. I said goodbye to Björk and took a cab to the airport.
My incoming flight had landed after dark, and I had seen nothing of the landscape around the city. Now I stared in wonder at the miles of blackish lava, at the volcanic boulders that had dropped from the sky, at the conical peak of Mount Keilir, in the distance. I had gone from a fashionable modern place into a charcoal sketch of an unfinished world.