KULTURNI CENTER TOBAČNA 001
MGML (The Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana), Ljubljana
The art project Uncharted is an ambient installation combining sculpture, drawing, and sound. The viewer enters it as if entering a story about the Earth’s southernmost continent, marked by ice fields, prehistoric icebergs, and the sea covered in ice. With regard to its content, the installation reflects the artist’s loyalty to the motif of a landscape, while symbolically it addresses the question of the concept time and space.
Although nowadays Antartica is considered to be one of the most inhospitable continents, in its recent past it cast an almost magical spell over humankind with its remoteness. The fascination with the earth’s poles,1 which today is comparable to the fascination with space exploration, developed from the fundamental curiosity of man and his desire to discover the unkown. In the modern, information age, burdened by the constant search for data, inaccessability is utterly unacceptable, therefore we tend to ceaselessly check on the availablity of information and to visualize the unimaginable.
The history of polar representation can be accessed through a myriad of intertextual traces, myths, and stories – extending from classical mythology to the drawings and diaries of explorers and their followers, from the first photographs to documentary films and modern intermedia depictions. As opposed to other continents, Antartica began its path as a virtual reality as its existence had been envisaged even before it was discovered. Already in ancient Greece, it was believed that the Earth must have an extensive continent at the South Pole which would balance out the mass of the then known continents in the northern hemispshere.2 As a real and metaphorical landscape, Antartica served as a proving ground for all who wished to test their strength in a uniquely beautiful but dangerous environment. The foreign nature of the South Pole landscape has always presented a specific challege also to artists. First documented by members of various navies, the ice continent has been immortalized by painters already since the second half of the 18th century. Within the framework of European colonial policy, the tradition formed of including artists in exploration for the purpose of documenting unknown territories for reason of strategy as well as propaganda, namely to provide funds for future expeditions.3 The history of artistic practice shows that the development of such depiction went from the direction of existential fear and uneasiness towards firmer scientific shadings and technologically supported curiosity. Only by the last quarter of the previous century had artists accumulated enough information and documentary materials to be excused from strategically important work and able to focus on “exploiting” Antarctica in the modern aesthetic and broader cultural sense. And if aesthetics is the philosophical discipline that deals with the study of beauty in general, and if the experience of it often involves the interpretation of a particular entity as being in balance and harmony with nature, then the polar region is an exceptional locus for exploration of diverse interepretations of how humans feel in nature.
Antarctica also inspired Urša Vidic’s artistic project entitled Uncharted. It is an ambient installation that combines sculpture, drawing, photography, and sound. It touches upon the issues of mapping the cultural space from colonialism to the post-industrial era of globalization and testifies to the ice continent remaining an attractive proving ground for exploration due to its uninhabitedness and unmarked “voids”. The viewer enters the installation as if in a story about Earth’s southernmost continent, marked by fields of ice, prehistoric icebergs, and the ice-covered sea. At the substantive level, this reflects the artist’s commitment to the motif of the landscape, while in a symbolic sense it raises issues connected to the notions of time and space.
While Urša Vidic’s previous project, Crystal Sea (Kazemate, 2014), did not feature the medium of painting, which is otherwise the primary expression in her artistic practice, in the current exhibition she has once again returned to drawing. Drawing as the most basic, simple, and direct form for translating artistic considerations into a visual image is used by her in such a manner that it is much more at home in the field of geography: in the form of a topographic map, an altitudinal cross-section, and an outline of the landscape is a source of information on a particular part of the Earth's surface and as such it proves to be inherently objective. The plans are verified by the mountainous landscape carved out of ice that is placed in a special glass box. Created with mathematical precision on the basis of models, it makes the viewer feel the image of the actual landscape as if without the intervention of the artist. Thus, we see a sculpture whose form easily overlaps with our image of a landscape caught in ice. Furthermore, the audio background that takes on the role of a constitutive element of the story also leads us to believe that we have found ourselves in some wonderful, faraway world that otherwise only adventurers and explorers wander into. In a place far from mechanized calculations and the human concept of time burdened with tick-tocking.
With its audio-visual image, the project Uncharted testifies to the artist's unique artistic poetics. It offers more than just a space for meditation, which it creates by arousing the viewer's unconscious knowledge and memories. By playing with extremely subjective material – the drawings and the sculpture present a mental landscape, the landscape of the artist's mind, and thus a completely utopian construct – it actually creates a metaphor. The empty landscape that will never be put on any earthly map hints at the lonely contemporary person, while the impression of eternity and the never-changing nature of things is mere deception. The existence of the miniature model is possible only under precisely determined conditions. If such were not fulfilled, the model would melt and disappear. By means of a premeditated duplication of “virtual” reality in Uncharted Urša Vidic forms her individual memento mori of the 21st Century, which calls our attention to the fact that nothing is forever.
text: Alenka Trebušak
curator: Alenka Trebušak
Sound:Luka Uršič / KALU
Execution Assistant: Jonathan Podboršek
Photo (in collaboration with): Uroš Abram
Ice sculpture: Miro Rismondo
Cooling technology: H2N d.o.o.
Light: Borut Cajnko
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