Eyewitness Alma Mjöll Ólafsdóttir, about Gardabaer Comprehensive Secondary School

Alma Mjöll Ólafsdóttir is a performance maker. Alma attended Lecture For Every One at Gardabaer Compresensive Secondary School.

FG - mathematics 2 bright

Fjölbraut i Garðabæ. High School. A grand building. Corridors. Students. This is a universe of its own. You feel that as soon as you come through the door. I am with two girls. Both of them high school students. Me, I am a guest in this reality. Not a teacher. Not a student. A witness.

We are invited into the school’s library. By a friendly woman who seems happy to meet us. Happy to encounter a visitor to this reality.  Can I offer you coffee? she says. She takes us to the teacher’s cafeteria. It is almost empty. As she is introducing the reality of the school to us two teachers approach. Are you a student teacher? one asks. Trying to situate us within this reality. No I reply. What are you? Silence. Marta, one of the girls replies: we are here for a lecture. For ,,Everybody’s Spectacular”. Lecture For Every One.

Theatre enters this reality. A rupture. A meeting.

The friendly librarian takes us back to the library. On the way back she explains how they are renovating the library. Making it more suitable for current times. Adding space for the art students to practice their studies. There is beauty in the way that she knows that we are there for a short visit but even so she feels the need to introduce us to her reality, this institution that she is proud to be a part of. We enter the library again. Take a seat by a table, waiting for a professor to come pick us up. On the next table there are students discussing current events on Instagram. They are quite loud. I have a feeling that there are three different realities at least sharing a space in the library at this very moment. The proud and friendly librarian who is doing her job, gets paid and has a great passion for her job at this institution. Then there are these kids on the next table. Students. Temporary inhabitants in the reality of the librarian. I suddenly remember how I felt in high school, there was this awareness of the temporary embedded with the feeling like the whole world existed just within the building of my high school. This kind of temporary foreverness. Then there is reality number three. Us, the guests. A mixed crowd. Me, having left the temporary foreverness and now acting as a visitor in it and then the two other girls traveling from one temporary foreverness to another, guests within the space in time that is high school.

The professor enters the library, finds us and asks us to follow him to his classroom. The classroom is a whole new realm in this reality.  A new body enters. A body of experience. A body of work.  Bryndís, the lecturer takes a position in the front. Me and Marta head for the back of the classroom.
I am intrigued. I am excited. To see. To witness. To listen. To listen to the room that listens. To witness the room that encounters.
A line of student in the far back. Laughing. How should we engage with this encounter? is a question that fills the air. A decision of not engaging is taken on the ground. This message is brought to you via art. It is easy not to engage with art. This message is brought to you via a body. A teenage body. A girl. She does not demand your attention but you can not, not listen. You can not, not hear. Some of the words you do hear create a space for you to be influenced. I can read it on your temporary curiosity, on one of you leaning a little bit forward in his seat, a decision of putting the phone away. Putting the phone away these days is one the biggest indicator of the willingness to be present or listening. A great sign. But are the others listening? At one point the listener looks at his friends and sees that they are not engaging, picks up his phone, enters the reality of social media and looks at the lecture with one eye. As if he does not want to stand out as a listener.
Next line of students. There is one listener. She can not see the line in the far. She is looking at Bryndís. Unaware of the computer or the phones behind her.
Front line of teenagers. Three listeners. They can not see the line in the far back and they can not see this one girl who is listening. They only see Bryndís. They can not not listen. They are entangled in the proximity of the message.
There is a table near me occupied by one student. An island. The student is working on his math, buried in his algebra. This message, this interruption interrupts nothing at all.
The message is catastrophe. Can you imagine it? Is it too far away? Is the word in your everyday vocabulary? Is it familiar in your life or in your reality? She confronts you with a question. She puts the message on you. Can you carry it?  “Are we supposed to reply?” One of the students in the front row asks.  This question travels from one reality to another. Is the lecturer just a guest or can we now for this lecture share a reality?
I can understand why the student has to ask. I ask, does the text need subtitles from one reality to another? It is a lecture for everyone, but is it a lecture for everybody? A better question is perhaps, is there such a thing as a lecture for everyone?

The text is distant. From another reality. It is a bit poetic. Poetic can be distant. You have to decide to engage with the poetic. You have to want to make meaning of it. In this particular circumstance I feel like this reality is hesitant towards a visitor. Not unfriendly but somehow uninviting. Which makes the text more distant than if you were in a circumstance where the whole room decides to engage with the poetic, wanting to make a meaning of it. The thing is in fact that a few days after the lecture, what stays with me is more the situation than the text itself. I remember themes such as ‘living together’ and ‘care’, beautiful words and they should be put in situations, whether or not the situation asked for it. But most of the words have vanished. Perhaps because of how peculiar this particular situation was.

Maybe now is a good time to remember that the witness is never just a witness. This is my reading on the situation. Of course there are some objective signs that give me something to build on. The students are on their phones and computers. And it seems that they are not willing to engage with the message nor the body that delivers it. I fear that my fears put a lot of salt and pepper on the situation.

My fear that the theatre is a distant medium. My fear that we as a society have decided not to engage outside of our realities. My fear that phones are an easy escape route when having to engage.

I have not lost all hope. There is still something valid and interesting in this particular friction. The idea and the commitment of the friction alone is worth witnessing. The rupture, the interruption is important.
-Alma Mjöll