Silences is a collection of photographic studies made in parallel to a scientific expedition on Greenland’s East coast. It is a personal search into the layers of perception and meaning cast upon Arctic landscapes.

Arctic landscapes have a bareness reminding of the early days of the world, when ice, rock and water settled into an equilibrium before the colonization of life. The cosmogony imagined by JRR Tolkien saw the creation of the world as a musical theme played by celestial beings, each successive piece of music adding to the world and refining its details. To comprehend the Arctic’s barren landscapes requires to open oneself with humility and become permeated by them. To engage with the elements of the land and attempt to hear its music.

Walking upon the upper stretch of a massive inland glacier, where none may have trodden in years, makes one measure how much this physical space exists without being observed. It lives by itself, without a link with humaneness. Absolutely natural, these vast stretches of land don’t inspire solitude, which implies a withdrawal of humans, but their permanent absence. In his book Arctic Dreams, nature writer Barry Lopez talks about them as profoundly non-human landscapes.

A watcher newly arrived in the Arctic rarely sees animals. The land welcomes him with muteness: narwhals we were watching out for but never observed, invisible bears keeping us on watch at night, or a lone Arctic fox whose stealthiness made us doubt we even saw him. Absent from reality, they are no less present in the mind in its perception of the land. Inuits, for their part, record and recall the land in a non-linear way, as intimately linked to individual and collective memories, like an invisible grid overlaid on the landscape. The Arctic is a real country of the mind (Barry Lopez) where physical world and personal projections are indivisible.

The year this expedition took place, 2016, was the warmest ever recorded. The Arctic, where warming is occurring markedly stronger than elsewhere, is undergoing radical change, most of it silently, away from people’s attention. Reports from scientists, this hard knowledge of the ongoing disaster, fail to raise the alarm. Deafening silence also from the animals disappearing everywhere, pushed ever more to ever-shrinking fringes. As if, from our noise-cluttered world, we have lost the ability to hear, and be sensitive to, the music of the world.

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Exhibition views — Ex Nihilo gallery, Grenoble
Silences | 2020 | Projects | Comments (0)