Doug Aitken, here to go (ice cave), 2002here to go (ice cave) consists of a largecircular photograph displaying a blue ice tunnel of indeterminate size. Thework relates to the arctic sequences of Aitken’s magnum opus New Ocean, 2001,in which the artist took over the entire Serpentine Gallery and transformed itinto an audio-visual polar environment. In this installation, sublime longshots of arctic mountain peeks and valleys gave way to close-ups of crackingice and burgeoning rivulets. In here to go (ice cave) Aitkenintricately links the Romantic notion of the individual alone in the landscapewith the angst and alienation of the urban dweller in the current informationage. Edith Dekyndt, Breiðarmerkurfjara Beach, 2012The video Breiðarmerkurfjara Beach (2012) by Edith Dekyndttakes as it’s the subject the ice in the Breiðarmerkurjökull outlet glacier,which is made of compressed snow high up in the Vatnajökull ice cap.
The waytowards the glacier margin is long while being buried deep in the bowels of theglacier, sliding down the gently sloping land surface. Many centuries later, itends up in Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Thus, the ice is very old precipitation.It contains small bubbles with equally old, compressed air. All the ice in thelagoon or at the nearby beach melts completely and the ancient precipitationenters the terrestrial water cycle again. Simon Faithfull, Stromness, 2005Tracing part of a journey through Antarctica on board the RSSErnest Shackleton with the British Antarctic Survey, Simon Faithfull’s videoStromness offers a vision of the end of the world as found in anabandoned whaling station.
In 1917 Stromness was the whaling station that SirErnest Shackleton managed to reach after floating for 2 years on the ice flows,following the crushing and sinking of his ship. Filming this now uninhabitedIsland of South Georgia, Faithfull shows how it has been repopulated by acolony of seals. Taking over a building that was once occupied by humans, theyhave replaced it with a complex and aggressive social structure of their own. Ellie Ga, Reading of the Deck of Tara, 2011; At theBeginning North Was Here, 2011; Pinholes, 2012; Drift Drawings, 2010Ellie Ga migrates between past and future in this series ofworks exploring the theme of voyage. In Reading of the Deck of Tara (2011)Ga uses a bespoke deck of cards to give readings to visitors twice weekly, eachunique and following a different trajectory. Through imagery on decks of cardsGa explores how telling fortunes relates to weather prediction, linking time,chance and the Tarot to metaphors for how we cope, or fail to cope, withuncertainty.
Uncertainty, this time of the past and of recollection, is touchedupon in At the Beginning North Was Here, (2011). Conceived during hertime aboard a polar sailboat, Tara, the recollections of this extremeexperience are translated through a laborious photographic process which mimicsthe layers of memory and forgetting. The artist pieces together the complexmaps that the crew invented to navigate the breadth of ice in which theydrifted.
A series of slides showing the polar landscape dissolves between lightand dark, interspersed with phrases parsed from the crewmembers’ personaldiagrams defining their location in expansive ice. Maps of a different kind,Ga’s Drift Drawings (2010) trace the path of Tara’s drift through theice pack. The team aboard Tara found themselves at the mercy of theunpredictability of the frozen ocean which held the boat hostage to thepatterns of weather, creating the drifting path of its course. The artistsurrenders to chance in Pinholes (2012), by documenting her time on theice using a pinhole camera built by a young art student and old out of datepaper.
The technique resulted in a disjuncture between notes and final imagewhere the comfort of photography as reportage is once again refused. Basim Magdy, No Shooting Stars, 2016Basim Magdy’s video No Shooting Stars (2016)submerges itself in the hidden, unknown world of the oceans. Built around thepersonal narrative of someone whose identity is vested in the seas, the filmprogresses with merging images and dream-like scenes that drift in dissonancewith a narration. Some imagery shows what happens underwater, although mostimages are made up of spaces that are all affected by the ocean’s mystery butbring no enlightenment.
The ocean’s surface is relatively known – it has beencrossed by numerous explorers and cargo ships for many centuries – but thedepths under the surface have never been mapped out. The voice of the narratorechoes this, enticingly familiar and yet built up as an image that slips awayas soon as it takes shape, reflecting the logic of the unstable ground of waterspace. Enrique Ramirez, Voile N°3 : Voile Migrante, 2017A sail is a free being, a floating flag, a migrating entity.
To hand-make a sail is a process of knowledge transmission, of know-how. Takingapart and re-piecing the elements that make up the sail in Voile N°3 : VoileMigrante (2017), Enrique Ramirez navigates what it takes to survive in thisever-changing world. Nowadays, history is easily forgotten just as it begins torepeat itself. In this participatory installation, Ramírez reflects on the easeof forgetting as tantamount to the illusory ease of sailing off towards aprecipice in the distance. Ana Vaz, The Great Camouflage, 2017Newell Harry, Untitled (Black Sabbath and otherAnecdotes), 2015Newell Harry’s cross-cultural itinerary informs a richoeuvre that explores historical and present-day instances of migrations ofpeople, objects, and languages across the Pacific Ocean. The artist’s worksoften appropriate elements of tribal art to deploy and subvert their socialfunctions. In Untitled (Black Sabbath and other Anecdotes), (2015)photographs from Harry’s stays in India, Vanuatu and Tonga further testify tothe many encounters that inspire his art practice.
Camille Henrot, Million Dollars Point, 2011Million Dollars Point (2011), originally shot inSanto Island, Vanuatu in the South Pacific, surveys a unique underwatercemetery of military equipment abandoned by the U.S. Army after World War II.The title of the film echoes the name of the submerged site, which is now apopular diving spot for Australian tourists. Henrot’s film juxtaposes thisunderwater footage with highly stereotypical images taken from a local musicvideo depicting a mustached man dancing and singing on a Pacific Beach,surrounded by dancing Polynesian girls. In contrasting history with popularculture, Henrot sketches a portrait of the Pacific Islands that raises issuesof exoticism, foreignness and authenticity.