Iceland has become a popular tourist destination over the last three years. But for Northeastern professor and Fulbright scholar Julia Hechtman, Department of Art + Design, it is a place of art and growth. She has been making a yearly pilgrimage to Iceland for the last ten years, and has been taking students on dialogues there for the last five years. For her Fulbright project, she had the opportunity to spend an extended period of time there, which made her feel more enmeshed than ever in Icelandic culture.
One aspect of the culture that she adopted was “the flexibility to take whatever is coming and just accept it,” because in applying for the Fulbright scholarship, Hechtman created an in-depth proposal of what she wished to do in Iceland—only to start back at square one upon her arrival. Sometimes, creative expression cannot be planned.
Though she had originally proposed something different, Professor Hechtman’s project in Iceland focused on the connection between a physical location and a person’s identity, and allowed people she may not have known otherwise to share details of their lives with her. After having someone recount a story or memory of a location important to them, Hechtman would go to the place to capture it herself, creating a video to tell their story.
One local woman, for example, recounted the story of her family being displaced by a volcano, and the direct correlation of the volcano itself with her father’s mental illness.
“The beauty of the project is that it acts as a device to get into a real conversation with a deeper and more meaningful exchange. It’s their time to tell a story,” Professor Hechtman explained.