Special Reports

Scottish Sculptors of the Far North, we need you!

Arts impresario and promoter Richard Demarco CBE is set to tell a special conference that Scottish sculpture is “under-celebrated and faces a daunting future” when he speaks alongside artists, curators, auctioneers, dealers, collectors and arts enthusiasts at the mid-18th century Palladian mansion in the Borders, Marchmont House, on 21 September.

Here is a story of two Scotlands, however. While Demarco and Co. will shine a light on the lives and careers of “inspiring artists from Eduardo Paolozzi, William Turnbull, and Gerald Laing” to more “locally-based figures such as Tim Stead, Rory Mcewen, Charlie Poulsen and Keith McCarter”, sculpture in the Far Northern Highlands, as well as the Northern and Western Isles, still remains woefully under-represented.

If you are a sculptor in the Far North we want to see better recognition and coverage of your work. While the Borders’ event will offer the chance to see a superb collection of modern and contemporary sculpture from across the UK, some of which has been created at Marchmont House, this is only part of a much wider story that needs to be told. Art North magazine is here to further the exposure of the fine arts of the Far North and we’d like to hear from you.

Richard Demarco will be part of a panel of speakers from public and independent groups discussing how they are supporting the arts in Scotland and what more can be done. Do you feel supported in what you do? What do you think should be done? Tell us your story about making sculpture in the Far North of Scotland. We actively encourage you to get in touch by email so that we can work towards offering you a level of exposure befitting your practice.

I went to Newfoundland and returned from Ktaqmkuk

 
bonavistabiennale0.jpg
 

In my upcoming report on the arts of the Yukon (Autumn/Fall Issue, Art North, September 2019), I wrote: “During my last residencies in Svalbard, where no Indigenous peoples ever lived, I felt liberated from the obligations of a Eurasian-descended settler. This time, my first visit to the Canadian North, I was aware of participating anew in Canada’s settlement. This all to hold present an awareness of the problematic history of exploitation in Canada, while I mull about romantic ideals of the north and the particular ideologies of untouched hinterland that have been so effectively mythologized in the country by national identity campaigns and the endlessly sublime paintings of the Group of Seven.”

I recently spent a long weekend in the easternmost Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, on assignment for Art North to prepare a report about the 2nd Bonavista Biennale (August 17 – September 15th, 2019). The Biennale, “an exhibition of contemporary artwork by Indigenous, Canadian and International artists, situated in outport communities along the rugged North Atlantic coastline,” ambitiously presents works by over twenty artists responding to twenty-one unique sites around the coast. It is an expansive program that deals with a plurality of histories and identities within the context of Newfoundland’s strategic location, historically, on the easternmost edge of the continent, and its continuing economic recovery after the collapse of the cod fishery in the last half of the twentieth century. I drove over 150 scenic kilometres to visit the sites while continuing to chew on these questions of the history of Canadian settlement.

Image: © Bob’s Newfoundland

Image: © Bob’s Newfoundland

Bonavista is known as the site of John Cabot’s landing in North America. He was commissioned by King Henry VII of England. The Newfoundland and Labrador official web page foregrounds, in big bold letters, the phrase “Where John Cabot first discovered North America in 1497.”

We all know this is not true. Right? We all know, by now, that this mythology is an act of disappearing all the people who were already living here for millennia, right? It’s important that the reader, now, understand that the official government stories continue to perpetuate such lies, just one of many along with injustices of displacement, cultural genocide, police brutality, murder, and dozens of northern communities experiencing ongoing HIV and other health crises, including Indigenous children killing themselves!... and no clean drinking water in many northern communities… right now.

This is the context 

Since earlier this year when I began to work with Art North as a Contributing Editor (North America), I have been very conscious of having a platform through which I could create exposure for Canadian artists. I have not set out to write art reviews, but to synthesise my experiences of the places I am writing about, for an International readership, in service of Canadian arts communities, events, and experiences.

These days, this necessarily entails not ignoring the powerful groundswell in the visibility and cultural activities of Indigenous contemporary art and artists over the past several years. It also entails developing a willingness to write about topics I am not particularly trained in or feel confident about discussing on a public platform; in other words, a willingness towards the risk-taking required of conciliatory discourse.

Three moments punctuate this groundswell. Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017 saw a huge influx of federal and provincial funding to support Indigenous arts in Canada. 2015 saw the conclusion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s multi-year inquiry into the impacts of the residential schools program that operated for decades in Canada, through which 150,000 children, or more, were taken from their families and Christianised in a federal campaign to eradicate Indigenous cultures. Finally, the TRC published its Calls to Action, aimed to begin to redress the residential school program legacy, and advance reconciliation.

The Calls to Action are addressed to government, education, and church institutions, that is to say, the institutions of both police and state ideological practices, if I can use such familiar language. The Calls are clear and specific, and those of us in the Canadian art world who are involved with communities and institutions not addressed are variously trying to do the work of figuring out how to respond as well. 

As a professional artist with an independent practice and career, I care about building trust with colleagues who are Indigenous.

As the Chair of the board of directors for a not-for-profit, government-funded, artist-run-centre, I am conscious and cautious about how to help lead our organisation around honest and respectful practices that do not sum up to checking a requisite box for the purpose of grant acquisition. We are tackling these goals, learning as we go how to be a good partner to local organisations devoted to Indigenous arts, when we could so easily not try, or make mistakes that could have far-reaching consequences for individuals and arts organisations across the country.

 
‘Victoria Gallery Faces Tough Criticism Over Indigenous Representation: Open Space's aboriginal curator recently resigned, penned open letter voicing frustration’ , as reported on CBC website by Liz McArthur, March 1, 2018. © 2019 CBC/Radio-Canada. (Source:  bit.ly/cbc-newsreport )

‘Victoria Gallery Faces Tough Criticism Over Indigenous Representation: Open Space's aboriginal curator recently resigned, penned open letter voicing frustration’, as reported on CBC website by Liz McArthur, March 1, 2018. © 2019 CBC/Radio-Canada. (Source: bit.ly/cbc-newsreport)

 

As a university Professor with a full-time post at a Canadian university with a campus ‘Indigenization’ strategic plan, I am encouraged to be mindful of the needs of Indigenous students on campus. The strategic plan goals are directed towards governance, hiring, community engagement, research, and student support practices. Yet, each time I re-read the document I find it difficult to find clear guidance as a teacher of visual and media arts.

I care about the historical and current injustices inflicted on Indigenous peoples and other minority communities. I am also smart enough to be able to sometimes recognise or learn about some of the problems of responses, whether made in earnest, or by rote, whether they be paying lip service or as a means of virtue signalling.

Government, educational, arts, and cultural communities in Canada have for a few years now taken up the practice of preceding opening remarks at public events and meetings with what is known as a Land Acknowledgement — a verbal declaration of recognition of the first peoples in these places, including naming these peoples and places. Mixed feelings (and here) about land acknowledgements prevail.

On the one hand, it is too easy to pay lip service through a twenty-second statement than to actually do social justice work. On the other hand, land acknowledgments can be an important first step in generating insight into where Canada came from, and what it has displaced. I appreciate these as an opportunity to, at the very least, for the first time in my life, hear and learn the names of peoples and places that I ought to have learned in primary school. 

For those of us who care about human justice, for those of us in Canada willing to call ourselves 'Settlers'—this is a hotly political term right now—the hard work is about finding ways to acknowledge, to recognise, to make room for, to de-colonize or to reconcile, without telling stories that are not ours to tell; without relying so heavily on oppressed peoples to be educators; to be willing to learn how to have and grow to lead these conversations; and to learn from the mistakes we are sure to make in the process.

For my Winter Issue report about the Bonavista Biennale I will try to suss out the vital seriousness and importance of some of the artists’ works and the co-curators’ successes in juxtaposing challenging art and ideas that can be generative of important dialogues across identities, practices, histories, and stories.

But right now I am diverted by the failures of the programmed panel discussion held during the opening weekend of the Biennale. I am not sure I have the fortitude, or the skill, or the humility, or the generosity to write effectively about this. 

The panel, entitled Intersections, was devised as a discussion of Newfoundland’s connectivity to the global world. It seemed clear to me that the discussion would not be a light one, given the locale and nature of the practices of the artist panelists.

 
Facebook announcement for Intersections: ‘a discussion around Newfoundland’s connectivity to the global world (geographic, economic, technological, cultural)’, with David Liss (MOCA), Jordan Bennett, Camille Turner and East Coast Glow, at  The Annex, Garrick Theatre, Bonavista. (Source:  bit.ly/bvb-fbpost )

Facebook announcement for Intersections: ‘a discussion around Newfoundland’s connectivity to the global world (geographic, economic, technological, cultural)’, with David Liss (MOCA), Jordan Bennett, Camille Turner and East Coast Glow, at
The Annex, Garrick Theatre, Bonavista. (Source: bit.ly/bvb-fbpost)

 

Mi’kmaq visual artist Jordon Bennett uses “painting, sculpture, video, installation and sound to explore land, language, the act of visiting, familial histories, and challenging colonial perceptions of indigenous histories and presence…” Camille Turner’s bio describes her as “…an explorer of race, space, home and belonging.” The framework for her multimedia art installations is the Afronautic Research lab, “a reading room in which participants encounter buried histories.” For her Biennale work, Turner focused her attention on the nineteen slave ships that were built in Newfoundland in the late eighteenth century.

The panel moderator was David Liss, the stylish, partying, sometimes golden boy curator of the Toronto art scene. He is white, male, and middle-aged, which I note if only to highlight just how effectively he managed to reinforce the stereotypes and accusations often made against people who fit this description. In Bonavista Liss embodied a critique recently levelled at him by Momus founder Sky Goodden in her review of the grand re-opening exhibition at MoCA Toronto, where Liss has been long-time Director and/or Curator. When describing his approach to “hot-button political subjects,” Goodden describes Liss as doing so “with little regard for how these subjects might coalesce.” 

There was a moment early in Liss’s opening remarks when the panel felt doomed. Reading from prepared notes, it became clear he had not learned (or tried to learn) how to pronounce Ktaqmkuk – the Mi’kmaq word for the place called Newfoundland. This became a spectacle of call-and-response as Bennett interjected with the correct pronunciation. For what it is worth, it took me two minutes to find a reliable source for Mi’kmaq place names, with translations and phonetic pronunciations, here

We’ve seen the articles about how to be good allies on our social media pages (please do an Internet search for these, there are just too many to cite). These offer a starting point for those of us who want to try: Listen. Believe. Manage white guilt. Recognise personal biases and work against them. Speak up when people behave badly. Stop expecting the oppressed to shoulder the constant burden of having to be educators.

Camille Turner ,  Afronautic Research Lab , 2016-present (still from video). © The Artist. Photo: Brian Ricks (Courtesy Bonavista Biennale).

Camille Turner, Afronautic Research Lab, 2016-present (still from video). © The Artist. Photo: Brian Ricks (Courtesy Bonavista Biennale).

At the Bonavista Biennale panel discussion, I think all the mistakes were made: mistakes made by virtue of being human and feeling things deeply; mistakes by people who just don’t understand, as well as mistakes by people who are earnestly, though slowly, learning how to have these conversations.

I’m treading cautiously, here. In the past days I’ve had conversations with several colleagues who also attended the panel and become aware of just how varied the experiences and perceptions have been of the same event.

Variously: 

  • the discussion of local business practices with the third panelist (a white entrepreneur in Bonavista building a cosmetics company using local and natural products) seemed insensitive in the context of how past practices of exploration and economic development included slavery, human displacement, and cultural loss;

  • the moderator’s inability to direct the discussion in a sensitive and savvy manner, with no awareness or preparation made to be able to synthesise the multiple viewpoints of the panelists within the context of the panel theme (Intersections);

  • the moderator’s taking safety in having very long exchanges about entrepreneurialism with the only white panelist (who was thrown so unfairly into a dragon’s den) to the exclusion of the Indigenous and Black panelists, who, as both artists and small-business operators, could also speak to entrepreneurialism; 

  • the virtue signaling of some audience members (I had NO idea, thank you for teaching me!, or statements to the effect of not all white people);

  • the explicit demand of one attendee that the minority artists should educate us white people (groans, hollers of ‘no!’, tears, shame and embarrassment), in spite of the fact that in his remarks Bennett had already expressed a desire to see a future where he isn’t expected to educate, but can, rather, have conversations;

  • my own mistake in expressing my difficulty in listening to the local panelist say he “wants to make products that people want to buy” in light of the fact that, you know, people were once products that people wanted to buy… and then my asking the Indigenous and Black panelists to respond instead of charging the moderator with stepping up to address the nuances and complexities of the subject, in context;

  • the emotional call-and-response between one of the exhibiting artists not on the panel and the attendees, of the pronunciation of Ktaqmkuk;

  • the point where some of the panelists explicitly refused to respond to some questions (which has been widely interpreted as either grandstanding, shock, or a self-aware and sophisticated refusal to speak to a proverbial brick wall)

  • the heartfelt but too-late attempt by co-curator Matthew Hills to provide some context and demand some respect and sensitivity.

  • the decades-long practiced and even-tempered remarks by one of the few people in the room who has devoted his life to the study of the history of the “experiences and fate of the African diaspora”.

While some expressed the idea that these should have been two separate panels: one that might address regional economic development in the decades-long aftermath of the collapse of the cod fishery in Newfoundland; and one that might address the themes of the history of European Colonial expansion and its legacies, I disagree. These conversations must come together.

We, all of us, cannot remain safely in protective bubbles where our views are merely confirmed. Some felt that this was the wrong place and wrong time to discuss such issues, but isn’t this exactly the right time and place?  People, all of us, need to learn how to listen harder, believe more, check ourselves and our egos, and learn from our missteps when we do fuck up…. And we will fuck up. 

Possibly the biggest mistake made was in the curators’ organising of the panel: David Liss was not a capable moderator, and they — as curatorial professionals and colleagues who are, clearly, committed to doing the work of social justice within the framework of their roles as leaders in Canadian art communities — they might have anticipated the potential risks and vulnerabilities that could arise given the panel theme and the choice of panelists. I think that this mistake was borne out of a naive hope or imagination that everyone is doing the work of social justice, and in the same ways… a naivete I suppose I share, from the safety of my own protective bubble of like-minded people (or, of people who I think are like-minded).

Though many were hurt by this experience, this was a valuable mistake to have made; it offers important lessons with which to move forward. I regret that the panel was shut down when it was: maybe one day we will be able to collectively take a break and some deep breaths and re-convene after such breakdowns in ways that can feel more positively productive.


Bonavista Biennale 2019

Continues until September 15, 2019
Bonavista Peninsula, Newfoundland, Canada.
(A program of 2 Rooms Contemporary Art Projects).
Website: https://bonavistabiennale.com/
Tour Map: https://bonavistabiennale.com/map.pdf
Visitor Information: https://bonavistabiennale.com/visitors/


Further Reading/Viewing

Jordan Bennett: https://www.jordanbennett.ca/
Camille Turner: http://camilleturner.com/

ABOUT JORDAN BENNETT: Born in Stephenville Crossing Ktaqamkuk and of Mi’kmaq descent, Jordan Bennett’s ongoing practice utilises painting, sculpture, video, installation and sound to explore land, language, the act of visiting and familial histories. His work challenges colonial perceptions of indigenous histories, stereotypes and presence with a focus on exploring Mi’kmaq and Beothuk visual culture of Ktaqamkuk.

Ruminations for a Day (or more)

An account of two artist residencies in Svalbard

1. I don’t want to write a memoir of my experiences in the Far North. For one reason, I do not think I am done with it – this is what my northern friends say to me whenever they send me off. I am not done with Svalbard. I am not done with the North. For another reason, I have been thrown by the Arctic. Thrown in such a way that each day I ruminate on all these many thoughts, and feelings and ideas, and my experiences dance in my head and my heart and I don’t really want to write of clichés and tourism.

From Practicing Standing 17  (84 minutes off and on, before and during the lunar eclipse [and chatting]).   January 31, 2018. Svalbard Sailing Club.

From Practicing Standing 17 (84 minutes off and on, before and during the lunar eclipse [and chatting]). January 31, 2018. Svalbard Sailing Club.

2. I want to write of my love affair with this other place I never imagined feeling so drawn or connected to. Like all love affairs, it is both exhilarating and self-revealing in the most humbling of ways. I want this feeling to last forever.

From Practicing Standing, Practicing variously 24  (just long enough, towards Mine 2b, Julenissegruva [a moment with Andromeda]). February 11, 2018. Galleri Svalbard.

From Practicing Standing, Practicing variously 24 (just long enough, towards Mine 2b, Julenissegruva [a moment with Andromeda]). February 11, 2018. Galleri Svalbard.

3. My art centres on collection, endurance, and methods of amassing and interpreting data. I am attracted to rituals of collection, enumeration, and analysis. While I work in a range of media within a conceptual practice, I tend to make the most use of photography and video throughout my practice.

4. For several years I have been pre-occupied with a set of astronomy-based projects that emerged from seeing Saturn through a telescope for the first time in 2010: an astonishing personal experience raising questions about the incomprehensible scale of the universe and our ability to make sense of that scale. This has become, for me, a preoccupation with time and its representation.

5. In June 2017 I attended the Arctic Circle Summer Solstice expedition. With thirty-three artists and scientists, including armed guides, plus the crew of the tall ship Antigua, I sailed around the west coast of Svalbard, north of Norway, within the Arctic Circle, landing each day within one fjord after another. With this many people in close quarters, with the midnight sun shining brightly, with the constant overstimulation of both people and place, I was out of my mind and completely exhausted.

6. In A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects, Robert Smithson opens with the idea that “One’s mind and the earth are in a constant state of erosion, mental rivers wear away abstract banks, brain waves undermine cliffs of thought, ideas decompose into stones of unknowing, and conceptual crystallizations break apart into deposits of gritty reason.” Smithson’s narrative prose was very helpful to me over these many months, working through thousands of images and dozens of hours of video in my process of making exhibitions, talks, and publications, all from this experience of being on a boat sailing around the Arctic, overstimulated and exhausted.

7. I woke to a bright blue glacier and wondered, would I climb it?

What is Majestic?  (Fridtjofbreen-Fridtjof Glacier, 77°46'6"N, 014°34'5"E, June 22, 2017), Chromogenic photograph, 72x26", 2017.

What is Majestic? (Fridtjofbreen-Fridtjof Glacier, 77°46'6"N, 014°34'5"E, June 22, 2017), Chromogenic photograph, 72x26", 2017.

8. We reached close to 80° North, but the sea ice stopped us from going farther. There, at 79.56°, we wandered, travelling fewer miles each day atop the spinning planet, travelling less than anyone farther south. We moored to an ice floe overnight; it floated us around a three-mile circle. We scurried up and down snowy moraines, across rocky beaches, and very carefully through meadows of artic flora. We grappled with our complicity – some more than others, of course. One artist had a breakdown mid-voyage, unsure what on earth, exactly, they could possibly be doing up there, having realised all their camera gear was extracted from the earth, possibly by child slaves.

9. I set out to track the midnight sun but was foiled. It was mostly foggy or cloudy. Although I carried out a 24-hour large format camera shooting marathon, I could not connect with the analytical methods that characterise my broader work. Working more intuitively, and in particular with landscape imagery on subject matter that is visually spectacular, was challenging. It is not my primary goal as an artist to make beautiful photographs.

They Went on Forever    (Recherchebreen-Research Glacier, 77°29'6"N, 014°39'3"E, June 22, 2017). Chromogenic photograph, 72x26", 2017.

They Went on Forever (Recherchebreen-Research Glacier, 77°29'6"N, 014°39'3"E, June 22, 2017). Chromogenic photograph, 72x26", 2017.

10. I couldn’t land; I couldn’t settle. I felt aimless and disassociated. I regretted not planning any performance work, or having usable props, but I regretted even more having any project at all, when what I really wished I could do was just stand and stare. And so my plans could not matter – only the lines, the boundaries, the edges, the land, the ice, the sea, the air, the atmosphere, the companionship, and the exercise.

11. Landscape images carry the burden of ideologies of hinterland, settlement, displacement, and human intervention. We collectively seek peaceful and quiet experiences from the land, and in part fulfill such desires through artistic representations.

I Caused a Landslide    (Vårsolbukta-Little Auk Bight. 77°45'3"N, 014°20'2"E, June 21, 2017).   Chromogenic photograph, 72x26", 2017.

I Caused a Landslide (Vårsolbukta-Little Auk Bight. 77°45'3"N, 014°20'2"E, June 21, 2017). Chromogenic photograph, 72x26", 2017.

ABOVE:  All These Boundaries  (Southern Fjortende Julibukta-14th of July Glacier, 79°07'2"N, 011°51'1"E, June 13, 2017)    BELOW:  A False Sense of Isolation  (Ytre Norskøya-Outer Norway Island, 79°51'44"N, 011°26'8"E, June 17, 2017) Chromogenic photograph, 72x26", 2017.

ABOVE: All These Boundaries (Southern Fjortende Julibukta-14th of July Glacier, 79°07'2"N, 011°51'1"E, June 13, 2017)
BELOW: A False Sense of Isolation (Ytre Norskøya-Outer Norway Island, 79°51'44"N, 011°26'8"E, June 17, 2017) Chromogenic photograph, 72x26", 2017.

CAPTION here

12. Robert Smithson continues. He wrote, “Vast moving faculties occur in this …miasma, and they move in the most physical way.” These movements, he says, they, “crush the landscape of logic under glacial reveries…” embedded in the sediment of the mind. That sediment contains limits and boundaries that evade the rational order, and he describes the difference between an experience, and its re-presentation. This was my artistic state for the rest of 2017, navigating the combination and assembly of all these possibilities, and impossibilities, of making an art exhibition.

I Wanted to Console the Ice  (Northern Fjortende Julibukta-14th of July Glacier, 79°07'2"N, 011°51'1"E, June 13, 2017) Chromogenic photograph, 72x26", 2017.

I Wanted to Console the Ice (Northern Fjortende Julibukta-14th of July Glacier, 79°07'2"N, 011°51'1"E, June 13, 2017) Chromogenic photograph, 72x26", 2017.

13. I set out to track the sun, but had to return in the dark of polar night to figure out how. It’s because on the first day I left Longyearbyen, Antigua’s lead guide, Sarah Gerats, – also an accomplished performance and video artist – whispered to me, “especially in the dark…”

14. I spent the cold autumn in Saskatchewan walking everywhere, to develop the strength to walk up and down the Longyear Valley from the town site to Galleri Svalbard. There, in Longyearbyen, where I was invited to an artist residency in January and February of 2018 – from the last of Polar Night until the sunrise. I learned to use a rifle. Still exhausted, I could not wait to return, this time to silence, solitude, and a sense of isolation. I needed to go as far from humanity as I could and still have high-speed internet.

Views beyond the Longyear Glacier  up to Platåbreen during polar night in Longyearbyen, from the residence entrance in Nybyen.

Views beyond the Longyear Glacier up to Platåbreen during polar night in Longyearbyen, from the residence entrance in Nybyen.

15. I often wonder what it means to be up north, especially for those of us who were not born there. We visitors, these days, we must be rich, and we must still fancy ourselves as explorers, expeditioners, settlers. On Antigua a shipmate reminded me that for all the feeling of adventure, we artists and scientists were quite safe, aboard a powered vessel with three square meals a day, heated berths, and a fully stocked bar. Visiting Longyearbyen during the dark night provided a different sense of the community there, comprised of an international collection of bureaucrats, scientists, service workers, students, adventure guides, taxi drivers, and a few dozen long-resident families with connections to the now almost defunct coal mining industry on the Archipelago. The population turns over almost completely every four or five years, and the precarity of the place is unavoidably obvious – be that because of the shortage of housing (due to a variety of factors including avalanche threat, permafrost melt, or the short-term rental of units to tourists), the close-to 100th straight month of warmer than normal temperatures, the massive growth in tourism, or the strategic global-political location of the place within the framework of the Svalbard Treaty. Longer-term residents can be difficult to befriend, because visitors are demanding of knowledge and survival needs, and because it is heartbreaking to make and lose friends who come and go with such frequency.

16. My goal as an artist in residence at Galleri Svalbard during polar night was, frankly, to experience a certain degree of underachievement during the final weeks of darkness. Within days of my arrival, and my discovery that my studio gave me easy access to the flat-top roof overlooking the valley, mountains, and two glaciers, I began the Practicing Standing series – practices to ground and put off balance. In contrast to the constant sailing and landing of the summer residency, the rooftop allowed me to, literally, stand still and to observe and reflect within one environment. I conducted thirty-two standing sessions for a total of almost twenty-four hours.

Practicing Standing and Sitting 25  (25 minutes, morning coffee in between civil dawn and dusk). February 13, 2018. Galleri Svalbard.

Practicing Standing and Sitting 25 (25 minutes, morning coffee in between civil dawn and dusk). February 13, 2018. Galleri Svalbard.

17. It is a day called Monday. It is so dark and quiet. I will likely stand, stitch, read, write, listen to the radiator, scout for locations, learn about the great (and not so great) history of polar expeditions from this cold and icy frigid dark and blueing watery mountainous place. I could not have gone farther. Solitude. Desire. It is a day called Monday. Day 1, Instructions for Performance: Svalbard Poetry Walking Tour, given by Nic James Wilson. Svalbard Church. “Feel Free”, by Nick Laird.

18. Experiencing being on such an unusual part of the planet, so far north, where the sun does not rise or set for months at a time, was existentially and phenomenologically gripping. I have never felt more a part of the solar system. The cosmos is unbearably profound, unimaginably vast, and outside the reach of human trauma and drama.

19. Also in residence was the Australian artist Amy Perejuan-Capone. In Fremantle, Amy mounted an exhibition resulting from her experience in Longyearbyen, along with a text wherein she describes the way the endless night weighted her down with depression and anxiety. No doubt I was depressed and anxious as well, but I don’t think it was the dark that did it. For me, the polar night was deeply comforting

Last light on Platåbreen  at the start of the new dark season in November, 2018, with the Polar Permaculture greenhouse.

Last light on Platåbreen at the start of the new dark season in November, 2018, with the Polar Permaculture greenhouse.

View from Larsbreen  towards Longyearbyen and beyond, February 16, 2018, 11:30am.

View from Larsbreen towards Longyearbyen and beyond, February 16, 2018, 11:30am.

20. As the light slowly took over the valley I often heard the distant arctic foxes barking on the mountainsides. One afternoon during civil dawn my friend Kanerva Karpo, a Finnish graphic designer who moved to Longyearbyen shortly before my winter arrival, spent the day with me in studio. When a fox started yapping it was so close I could finally see it – agitated while approaching and retreating from a small group of absolutely indifferent Svalbard reindeer. The reindeer ignored it completely. They were still, I suppose, in their state of arctic resignation, conserving energy until the snow melted and the tundra began its summer regrowth, not at all bothered to trot by a scandalised fox. I think in those days before the sunlight actually struck the town, Kanerva and I must have felt a bit channeled by these animal companions.

Arctic Fox , on Gruvefjellet, February 2018.

Arctic Fox, on Gruvefjellet, February 2018.

21. There are reasons people venture to the farthest reaches of this planet, reasons people leave their homes to locate themselves in a place like Longyearbyen, with its feeling of otherworldliness and small-town social quirks. Baudelaire captures this desire: of course we should all always be happier somewhere else… Anywhere, Anywhere, so long as it be out of this world!

 

I Set Out to Track the Sun

Installation, Galleri Svalbard, Longyearbyen, November-December 2018.

23. I Set Out to track the Sun is a solo exhibition that was mounted at Gallery Svalbard in November and December 2018 – at the start of the dark season. (View the Exhibition Brochure with gallery text by Rebecca Huxley).

I Set Out to Track the Sun , seen installed (above) and as slideshow detail (below). This body of work revolves around tracking the un-setting sun. Resulting from a 24hr-shooting marathon aboard the barquentine tall ship Antigua on the western coast of Svalbard.  I Set Out to Track the Sun  imagines where the sun should be in each of the four compass directions.

I Set Out to Track the Sun, seen installed (above) and as slideshow detail (below). This body of work revolves around tracking the un-setting sun. Resulting from a 24hr-shooting marathon aboard the barquentine tall ship Antigua on the western coast of Svalbard. I Set Out to Track the Sun imagines where the sun should be in each of the four compass directions.

01-instal_01-GS_DSC9414.jpg

ABOVE: As If To Track The Sun at Galleri Svalbard, Longyearbyen, November-December 2018. With thanks to Robert Hengeveld.

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23. In June I will go to an other north, a residency with the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture in Dawson City, Yukon Territories. There is more to do.

24. In thanks to Art North’s Editor, Ian McKay, I want to make mention of the tendrils of camaraderie that spread around the globe above and below 60° N, and give thanks to be a part of sharing the flow. (Note: Most of this text has been adapted from several iterations of writing that I have presented in a variety of formats over the past three years, from residency and grant applications and my personal notebooks, to conference presentations and artist talks, magazines, blog posts, and my website… as I continue to ruminate upon and pine for the Arctic).


Risa Horowitz  is a visual and media artist whose practice blurs boundaries between expert-amateur, hobby-work, and leisure-productivity. Her work involves collecting and durational practices that pay attention to time and its presentation. From Toronto, Horowitz is an Associate Professor in visual arts at the University of Regina, in Saskatchewan, Canada. ( http://risahorowitz.com )

Risa Horowitz is a visual and media artist whose practice blurs boundaries between expert-amateur, hobby-work, and leisure-productivity. Her work involves collecting and durational practices that pay attention to time and its presentation. From Toronto, Horowitz is an Associate Professor in visual arts at the University of Regina, in Saskatchewan, Canada. (http://risahorowitz.com)

All images, videos and text: © Risa Horowitz, 2019. All rights reserved (except Exhibition Brochure © 2018 Risa Horowitz & Rebecca Huxley, in partnership with Galleri Svalbard). The Author gratefully acknowledges the generous assistance of both the  Saskatchewan Arts Board  and the  Canada Council for the Arts .

All images, videos and text: © Risa Horowitz, 2019. All rights reserved (except Exhibition Brochure © 2018 Risa Horowitz & Rebecca Huxley, in partnership with Galleri Svalbard). The Author gratefully acknowledges the generous assistance of both the Saskatchewan Arts Board and the Canada Council for the Arts.