‘What’s in a name?’ people have asked for centuries, in the wake of none other than William Shakespeare. This rhetorical question first turned up in his legendary play ‘The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet’, a timeless classic he wrote in 1595/1596.

A just as popular common variant to this question is: ‘What’s in a word?’ Those who use this largely rhetorical question are also in debt to Shakespeare. Both questions inevitably crop up when we hear or read the word ‘Uppspretta’. Magic hides in that word. It sparkles and bubbles. Energy erupts from it. Together the letters form the sound of dynamism and a joy of life. But what exactly does the word mean? No need to ask the Icelandic people. They know it by heart. But anybody outside of the Icelandic language region can only guess its significance. Is it a name? A natural phenomenon maybe? Does it express a feeling? Does it refer to an observation? Or is it the brand name of a refreshing beverage? Literally, Uppspretta means “a source bursting with energy.” Those who know of the geysers that are normally immediately associated with

Iceland will not be surprised to hear about the extra weight and impact the word Uppspretta has for the inhabitants of this Northern European island. But there is more. In relation to the phenomenon ‘Toyism’, ‘Uppspretta’ is extended with a new dimension. With a little imagination you can see that Toyists give colour, shape and purpose to explosions of energy. Together Toyism and Uppspretta guarantee extraordinary sensations of colour and motion that can best be described as sensational fireworks on a high artistic level. Magic and tradition play an important role. Uppspretta and Toyism establish connections to the ancient art of storytelling, to fables, myths, sagas and legends, to pure natural experience and everything of historical and everlasting value. Uppspretta is a phenomenon that will never vanish, unless the world ends. The same goes for Toyism. This style or movement also has all of the ingredients and elements to ensure it never vanishes.

The word Uppspretta has features of a wonderful onomatopoeia: a word formed on the basis of the imitation of sounds. The sprinkling consonants and sonorous tones transform the word into a spattering source. Toyist Dejo immediately became enthusiastic upon hearing this word. In a legend written by him (and published elsewhere in this book) he connects the effervescent concept with the special qualities and characteristics of a liberated puffin. In the story the bird adopts mythic proportions and at the same time shows a wonderful form of personification. The choice to have this bird support a new legend is obvious. The biggest colony of puffins lives in Iceland. Furthermore puffins can be found on the isles of Scotland, the Hebrides and Nova Zembla, in Ireland, Greenland, Norway, Spitsbergen, and on the north-east coast of North America. When winter comes they migrate as far south as the Mediterranean Sea.

In this timeless and universal legend the parents of a newborn puffin name their chick Uppspretta. With what we know now we would perhaps expect ADHD characteristics in this animal, but in the legend his name can be linked exclusively to the unbridled energy he shows and to his almost reckless form of curiosity and urge to research everything. In the legend connections and cross-links are made to the history of Iceland. The Vikings are involved, there is a focus upon the special lifestyle of the Icelandic people, and there is a reference to their perpetual isolation and the influence of the arctic climate. But most importantly the puffin Uppspretta is linked to the old water tower situated on a hill near Keflavik. On that spot, and in that curious, inoperative construction, all things come together.

This is how a new and unknown form of vitality originated. Toyism, ancient cultural traditions, literary aspects, folklore, dynamics and a lot of perseverance merged to form a project that will be remembered as ‘the wonder of Uppspretta’. As a result of a special synergy and symbiosis the dead and useless water tower was resurrected as a metaphor for the joy of life. Uppspretta Rules. Geysers and primeval sources, the goddess of love, ancient Viking ships and the puffin are all exposed in exuberant colours on the wall of the water tower, which literally became visually significant for Iceland in general and for Keflavik in particular since the summer of 2013. The transformation that the Toyists are responsible for turned a dead building into a symbol for the spirit of Icelanders.

Author: Wim van der Beek (Book Uppspretta)

The watertower in Keflavik transformed in a piece of art