Upcoming exhibitions

Carved by Light: Viscous Flow at Fotogalleriet, Oslo, Norway

30.11. – 17.12.2017

The installation brings selected glaciers of the Jostedalsbreen and Jotunheimen regions into the architectural space of the Fotogalleriet’s Nordic Anthology project room, positioning them exactly according to their location in the landscape and the angle from which they were photographed. Traversing the mountains with a self constructed large format camera on her back, the artist uses a heretofore unexplored photographic technique of exposing light sensitive polymer plates in close proximity to each glacier for a period of a few hours to obtain a relief.

The work continues the artist’s investigation of the possibilities of a unique three dimensional photographic artefact communicating embodied experience of remote landscapes in ways that go beyond purely visual apprehension of an image. Taking as its starting point early scientific theories of glacier movement, the work explores parallels between the imperceptible but forceful flow of glacier ice down mountain valleys, and the slowness of moving across mountain terrain on foot that is often accompanied by the feeling of being enclosed in, and physically affected by, the surrounding landscape. It appears particularly timely, in the context of unprecedented, in the history of monitoring, retreat of glaciers, to arrest their precarious and continually shifting state photographically – not in an image, but in a relief, using decidedly contemporary materials.

Following in the footsteps of British glaciologist James David Forbes, who travelled through Norway in 1851 to conduct measurements of the motion of glaciers, the artist photographed, among others, the ice masses which were crucial to his observations. His theory of viscous flow suggests that glacier ice is flexible like softened wax, and is urged down slopes by the mutual pressure of its parts. Although elaborated in the course of the twentieth century, this understanding still holds true today. Another source of intimate knowledge on the state of glaciers in the 19th century comes in the form of writings of the pioneer explorer of Norwegian mountains William Cecil Slingsby, who visited the country repeatedly since 1872, and was the first to climb many of its peaks. His lively accounts give a unique sense of the experience of travelling across the vast landscape on foot. The artist combines the old and the new in a technique that employs the latest, technologically advanced materials from the printmaking industry, while at the same time bringing to mind the working methods of the photographers from the 19th century: materials and equipment are large and cumbersome, while exposure times are extremely slow.

Each photographic object constitutes a physical trace of a journey that, despite detailed planning and careful selection of an optimal location for making a photographic exposure, depends on the vagaries of the weather and conditions on the mountain. Both conceptually and technically, the focus of the work is on the process – each journey and exposure is an experiment, and the moment of washing the exposed polymer plate to reveal a relief always brings a surprise. At times, there might be nothing to see in the photograph if the exposure was too short or the sky was too cloudy. But even in those cases, the plate is a tangible mark of the experience of the journey and an accurate record of the time and place of the exposure.

The technique – in which UV light literally carves a relief in a photosensitive transparent layer of the polymer plate, rendering the structure of glacier ice with minute detail in the golden-coloured, fragile object – reflects not only the direct physical action of glaciers on the landscape, but also hints at the extended time-scale in which they exist, their susceptibility to environmental factors such as light and heat, and the arguable irreversibility of their melting. The retreat of the photographed glaciers and the space they leave behind is explored physically by the artist walking through a mountain valley to reach the snout of each glacier, and is reflected in the technique, in which the empty areas of each plate represent the space where the ice once was but is no more.