Ísadóra Bjarkardóttir Barney on Her Love of Dialect

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 Ísadóra Bjarkardóttir Barney
Ísadóra is wearing a latex rubber dress by KWAIDAN EDITIONS. Her own jewelleryPhotography by Andy Jackson, Styling by Marcus Cuffie

“Language is so steeped in culture, generations, laws, presentations of self,” says the young actor, musician, filmmaker and liberal arts student

This article is taken from the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine:

“I took a college course on multilingual writing – I love learning about dialects and ‘anti-languages’. Language is so steeped in culture, generations, laws, presentations of self. As a white woman I have the perspective of someone on the ‘right side’ of multilingualism. I’ve never had to endure double standards or mistreatment like other bilingual people. I have two personas – some friends only know my Icelandic side and can be surprised by my English. I try to push the Icelandic side because I had such a tough time learning it – kids are brutal. I talk louder in English – American English – with optimism. In Icelandic there is a precise attitude. When I journal in Icelandic, it feels heartfelt and raw. If I need to intellectualise or work through something, it’s English. I write music demos in English – I do it when I’m procrastinating to feel like I’ve achieved a state of abundance. There’s no word for ‘please’ in Icelandic – maybe there’s some brute Viking reasoning but I like to romanticise it. Icelandic culture has more of a gift economy. Not polite, but generous – I love that.”

Ísadóra Bjarkardóttir Barney, aka Doa, is enamoured with the persona-shifting power of language. The actor, musician, filmmaker and liberal arts student’s surnames meld the traditional Icelandic matronymic – she is the daughter of Björk – with that of her father, the visual artist Matthew Barney. It’s a family lineage that is iron-cast in its nonconformity, elastic in its articulation of the world. From her first acting role, in Robert Eggers’s Viking epic The Northman, released earlier this year, Bjarkardóttir Barney is exploring smaller indie films. Otherwise, the 19-year-old is having fun modelling – “an underappreciated art form” – and applying to drama schools.

Hair: Gonn Kinoshita at the Wall Group. Make-up: Michaela Bosch at Bryant Artists. Photographic assistant: Alec Vierra. Printing: PhotoLab-NYC. Producer: Alec Charlip at Born Artists 

This story features in the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale internationally now. Buy a copy here.