Artistic Visions of the Anthropocene North: Climate Change and Nature in Art 9781138232631, 9781315311890, 1138232637

In the era of the Anthropocene, artists and scientists are facing a new paradigm in their attempts to represent nature.

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Artistic Visions of the Anthropocene North: Climate Change and Nature in Art
 9781138232631, 9781315311890, 1138232637

Table of contents :
Cover......Page 1
Half Title......Page 2
Series Information......Page 3
Title Page......Page 4
Copyright Page......Page 5
Dedication......Page 6
Table of contents......Page 8
List of Plates......Page 10
List of Figures......Page 12
Contributors......Page 14
Introduction: Artistic Visions of the Anthropocene North: Climate Change and Nature in Art......Page 16
Nordic Landscapes......Page 17
Art Interacting with Science......Page 19
Changing Scientific Narratives......Page 21
Media and Blurred Boundaries between Nature and the Human......Page 23
Notes......Page 25
Part I Interaction between Art and Science......Page 28
1 Anthropocene Beginnings: Entanglements of Art and Science in Danish Art and Archaeology 1780–1840......Page 30
Dolmens and a Savage Europa......Page 33
Dolmens in Legends of Untouched Nature and Beautiful Man......Page 39
Dolmens in Dramatic, Contemporary Landscapes......Page 42
Dilapidated Dolmens from an Early Time......Page 46
Entanglement of the Human with Nature......Page 48
Notes......Page 50
2 A Montage of Notes from Svalbard: Mediating the Arctic through Artistic Research......Page 56
The Arctic......Page 57
The Figure of the Guide: Mediating the Open Terrain......Page 59
Svalbard......Page 60
The Landscape......Page 62
Artists as Mediators of Associations......Page 64
Anthropology......Page 65
Concluding Remarks......Page 68
Notes......Page 69
Part II Changing Narratives of the Anthropocene and the North......Page 72
3 Northern Landscape and the Anthropocene: A Long View......Page 74
Early Modern Anthropocene......Page 75
Modern Anthropocene......Page 81
Contemporary Anthropocene......Page 82
Notes......Page 88
4 “We All Have to Live by What We Know”: Activating Memoryscapes in the North Baffin Inuit Drawing Collection to Understand Arc......Page 91
Capitalocene and the Double Impact of a Colonial Modernity in the Arctic......Page 95
Inuit Memoryscapes and the North Baffin Drawings......Page 97
Contemporary Research – Place Names, Environment, and Inuit Traditional Knowledge......Page 100
North Baffin Drawings and the Marketplace for Inuit Art and Inuit Knowledge......Page 101
From Memoryscapes to Place Names......Page 105
Notes......Page 106
Part III Media and Blurred Boundaries between Nature and the Human......Page 126
Point of View......Page 128
Looking at Landscapes......Page 130
Imagining Nature......Page 134
Staging Nature......Page 135
Notes......Page 138
6 Toril Johannessen’s In Search of Iceland Spar: Truth and Illusion in the Anthropocene......Page 141
Toril Johannessen’s Method......Page 143
In Search of Iceland Spar......Page 144
Iceland Spar and Its Media Ecology......Page 148
Iceland Spar and the Anthropocene......Page 151
The Arctic Illusion......Page 152
Seeking Truth in the Anthropocene......Page 155
Notes......Page 156
7 From within the Porous Body: Modes of Engagement in Björk’s Biophilia Album......Page 159
Theoretical Perspectives: The Biophilia Hypothesis and the Porosity of Vibrant Matter......Page 161
Relationality in Björk’s Biophilia Album......Page 164
“Náttúra”: Ecological Perspectives and the Icelandic Context......Page 174
The Human as Scale and Medium......Page 176
Notes......Page 181
Bibliography......Page 185
Index......Page 198
Plates......Page 110

Citation preview


Artistic Visions of the Anthropocene North

In the era of the Anthropocene, artists and scientists are facing a new paradigm in their attempts to represent nature. Seven chapters, which focus on art from 1780 to the present that engages with Nordic landscapes, argue that a number of artists in this period work in the intersection between art, science, and media technologies to examine the human impact on these landscapes and question the blurred boundaries between nature and the human. Canadian artists such as Lawren Harris and Geronimo Inutiq are considered alongside artists from Scandinavia and Iceland such as J.C. Dahl, Eija-​Liisa Ahtila, Toril Johannessen, and Björk. Gry Hedin is curator and researcher at Faaborg Museum and holds a PhD from the University of Copenhagen in Scandinavian Studies. Ann-​Sofie N.  Gremaud holds a PhD from the University of Copenhagen in Visual Culture. She is part of the international research project ‘Denmark and the New North Atlantic’. Cover image: Photograph on wall, Pyramiden, Svalbard (2014). Eva la Cour


Routledge Advances in Art and Visual Studies

This series is our home for innovative research in the fields of art and visual studies. It includes monographs and targeted edited collections that provide new insights into visual culture and art practice, theory, and research. For a full list of titles in this series, please visit​art/​series/​RAVS The Aesthetics of Scientific Data Representation More than Pretty Pictures Edited by Lotte Philipsen and Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard Art : Process : Change Inside a Socially Situated Practice Loraine Leeson Visualizing War Emotions, Technologies, Communities Edited by Anders Engberg-​Pedersen and Kathrin Maurer Perception and Agency in Shared Spaces of Contemporary Art Edited by Cristina Albu and Dawna Schuld Contemporary British Ceramics and the Influence of Sculpture Monuments, Multiples, Destruction and Display Laura Gray Contemporary Citizenship, Art, and Visual Culture Making and Being Made Edited by Corey Dzenko and Theresa Avila The Evolution of the Image Political Action and the Digital Self Edited by Marco Bohr and Basia Sliwinska Artistic Visions of the Anthropocene North Climate Change and Nature in Art Edited by Gry Hedin and Ann-​Sofie N. Gremaud


Artistic Visions of the Anthropocene North Climate Change and Nature in Art Edited by Gry Hedin and Ann-​Sofie N. Gremaud


First published 2018 by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2018 Taylor & Francis The right of the editors to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN: 978-​1-​138-​23263-​1 ISBN: 978-​1-​315-​31189-​0 Typeset in Sabon by Out of House Publishing


Thanks to Carlsbergfondet, Faaborg Museum and the Department of Cross-​Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen for financing and facilitating our research on this topic. The editors also wish to thank the anonymous peer reviews of the chapters for their meticulous work on the manuscripts.




List of Color Plates List of Figures List of Contributors Introduction: Artistic Visions of the Anthropocene North: Climate Change and Nature in Art

ix xi xiii




Interaction between Art and Science


1 Anthropocene Beginnings: Entanglements of Art and Science in Danish Art and Archaeology 1780–​1840


G RY   H E D I N

2 A Montage of Notes from Svalbard: Mediating the Arctic through Artistic Research


E VA L A   C O U R


Changing Narratives of the Anthropocene and the North


3 Northern Landscape and the Anthropocene: A Long View


M A R K A .   C H E E TH A M

4 “We All Have to Live by What We Know”: Activating Memoryscapes in the North Baffin Inuit Drawing Collection to Understand Arctic Environmental Change N O R M A N   VORAN O



viii Contents PART III

Media and Blurred Boundaries between Nature and the Human


5 Conversations between Body, Tree and Camera in the Work of Eija-​Liisa Ahtila



6 Toril Johannessen’s In Search of Iceland Spar: Truth and Illusion in the Anthropocene



7 From within the Porous Body: Modes of Engagement in Björk’s Biophilia Album



Bibliography Index

154 167


Color Plates

1 2 3


5 6

7 8 9 10

Nicolai Abildgaard, The Wild and Raw State of Nature: Allegory on One of Four Major Eras in Europe’s Cultural History, 1784. Oil on canvas, 29.5 x 29.5 cm. Statens Museum for Kunst. © SMK photo. Johan Ludvig Lund, Habor’s Return from the Battle, and his Reception at King Sigar’s Court, 1813. Oil on canvas, 141 x 178 cm. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Academy Council. Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein Stub, Hoder Disguised as Harp Player Enters the Cave of three Valkyries and Receives a Strengthening Magic Potion, 1814. Oil on canvas, 140 x 174 cm. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Academy Council. Photo: Frida Gregersen. Jens Peter Møller, Membership Piece. Møn and the Town of Stege Seen in the Background of the Church of Kalvehave. Recorded Close to Langebæk near Vordingborg, 1815. Oil on canvas, 94 x 137.9 cm. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Academy Council. Jens Christian Dahl, Moonlight Landscape Showing a Region with a Sacrificial Site at Stensby Mølle near Vordingborg,” 1816. Oil on canvas, 37 x 54 cm. KODE Bergen. Photo: Dag Fosse. Jens Christian Dahl, Winter Landscape. In the Foreground, a Disturbed Giant/​Warrior Grave. The Subject taken from the Vicinity of Vordingborg,” 1829. Oil on canvas, 173 x 205.5. Statens Museum for Kunst. © SMK photo. Eva la Cour, (Untitled), 2017. Video still. © Eva la Cour. Eva la Cour, (Untitled), 2017. Video still. © Eva la Cour. Lawren S. Harris, Winter Comes from the Arctic to the Temperate Zone, 1935. Oil on canvas, 74.1 x 91.2 cm. McMichael Canadian Art Collection. Diane Burko, Jakobshavn-​Ilulissat Quartet, 2015. Oil on Canvas. Four-panel spread: 42 x 228 in. 1)  From the Edge, 42 x 42 in, Oil and Flashe paint on canvas, 2015 2)  Landsat Jakobshavn B, 42 x 72 in, Oil and Flashe paint on canvas, 2015 3) UNESCO National Heritage II, 42 x 72 in, Oil and Flashe paint on canvas, 2015 4) Modis 2009, III, 42 x 42 in, Oil and Flashe paint on canvas, 2015. Courtesy the artist.


x Color Plates 11 Cornelius Nutarak (Clyde River, NU 1924–​2007 Pond Inlet, NU), Fishing at a Crack in the Ice, 1964, Graphite and colored pencil on paper, 50 x 65 cm. Canadian Museum of History IV-​C-​6949. 12 Cornelius Nutarak (Clyde River, NU 1924–​2007 Pond Inlet, NU), Seal Hunting, 1964, Graphite on paper, 50 x 65 cm. Canadian Museum of History, IV-​C-​6946. 13 John Ross (original), on stone by J. Brandard, Ikmalikc and Apelagliu, 1835, lithograph, 31 x 25 cm. Photo: akg-​images. 14 Davidee Piunngittuq, We All Have to Live By What We Know, 1964, graphite and colored pencil on paper, 50 x 65 cm. Canadian Museum of History, IV-C-7628. 15 Eija-​Liisa Ahtila, Horizontal –​Vaakasuora, 2011, 6-​channel projected high definition installation; 6 min; Dolby Digital 5.1 (Inv.#13560), photo: John Berens, © Eija Liisa Ahtila and Marian Goodman Gallery. 16 Eija-​Liisa Ahtila, Anthropomorphic Exercises (On Film), Series A: Aspect Ratio /​Kneeling Spruce, 2011, Green pastel on Parisian paper, 54.6 x 166.1 x 4.8 cm (Inv.#13542) photo: John Berens, © Eija Liisa Ahtila and Marian Goodman Gallery. 17 Eija-​Liisa Ahtila, Anthropomorphic Exercises (On Film), Series A: Point-​of-​View /​With a Human, 2011, Green pastel on Parisian paper, mirror, stool, 137.8 x 57.8 x 4.8 cm (Inv.#13549) photo: John Berens, © Eija Liisa Ahtila and Marian Goodman Gallery. 18 Toril Johannessen, In Search Of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, dimensions vary. From the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design 2016, © The National Museum photo. 19 Toril Johannessen, In Search Of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, dimensions vary. From the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design 2016. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, © The National Museum photo. 20 Still from the music video Moon, 2011. Written by Björk and Damian Taylor. Directed, produced, and art directed by Björk, Inez and Vinoodh, M/​M Paris and James Merry. © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd. 21 Still from the music video Mutual Core, 2011. Written by Björk, director: Andrew Thomas Huang, producer: Árni Björn Helgason. © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd. 22 Still from the music video Hollow, 2011. Written by Björk, director: Drew Berry, producer: Max Whitby, Touch Press © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd.



1.1 Wild men with Cudgels on the Map of Denmark in Pontpoppidan’s The Danish Atlas (Den Danske Atlas), vol. 1. Det kongelige Bibliotek. 1.2 Topographical Illustration of Vordingborg in Pontoppidan’s The Danish Atlas (Den Danske Atlas), vol. 3. Det kongelige Bibliotek. 1.3 Jens Juel, View from Sørup towards Fredensborg Slot, 1782. Oil on canvas, 60.6 x 77.5 cm. Fuglsang Kunstmuseum. Photo: Ole Akhøj. 1.4 Søren Abildgaard, Heathen Altar at Hømb Mark, Nationalmuseet. 1.5 Johan Ludvig Lund, The Last Bard, 1837. Oil on canvas, 97 x 76 cm. Statens Museum for Kunst. 3.1 After John White, The Skirmish at Bloody Point, Frobisher Bay, 1585–​1593. Watercolor, with bodycolor and pen and grey ink on paper. 386 x 264 mm. © Trustees of the British Museum. 3.2 Frederic Edwin Church, The Icebergs, 1861. Oil on Canvas. Framed dimensions: 85 x 133 x 5 in. (2 m 15.9 cm x 3 m 37.821 cm x 12.7 cm). Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Norma and Lamar Hunt. Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art. 3.3 Mariele Neudecker, There is Always Something More Important, 2012. Fibre glass, pigment, plywood; 2 channel video on monitors, looped. 65 cm x 207 cm x length variable approximately 420 cm. Installation view, ARCTIC, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, 2013/​14. Courtesy the artist. 3.4 Kevin Schmidt, A Sign in the Northwest Passage, 2010. Courtesy the artist and Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver. © Kevin Schmidt. 3.5 Geronimo Inutiq, Arcticnoise, 2015. Media Installation, Trinity Square Video, Toronto. Courtesy the artist, Igoolik Isuma Productions, and Vtape. 4.1 Atoat Shappa (Arctic Bay, NU 1894–​1976 Arctic Bay NU), Story of the Woman at the Lake, 1964, Graphite on paper, 50 x 65 cm. Canadian Museum of History, IV-​C-​6508. 4.2 Josephee Tassugat (Clyde River NU 1934), Coastlines, 1964, graphite on paper, 50 x 65 cm. Canadian Museum of History, C209-​16. 6.1 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, dimensions vary. From Bergen kunsthall 2008. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. © Toril Johannessen photo.

20 21 22 23 33 62


69 70 72 83 88 111


xii Figures 6.2 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, detail. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. © Herman Goethals /​Toril Johannessen photo. 6.3 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, detail. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. © Udo Neumann /​Toril Johannessen photo. 6.4 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, detail. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. © Anthony R. Kampf /​Toril Johannessen photo. 6.5 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, detail. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. © Toril Johannessen photo. 6.6 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, detail. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. © Rune Selbekk /​Toril Johannessen photo. 6.7 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, detail. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. © Robert Finch /​Toril Johannessen photo. 7.1 Still from the music video Moon, 2011. Written by Björk and Damian Taylor. Directed, produced, and art directed by Björk, Inez, and Vinoodh, M/​M Paris and James Merry. © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd. 7.2 Still from the music video Moon, 2011. Written by Björk and Damian Taylor. Directed, produced, and art directed by Björk, Inez, and Vinoodh, M/​M Paris and James Merry. © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd. 7.3 Still from the music video Moon, 2011. Written by Björk and Damian Taylor. Directed, produced, and art directed by Björk, Inez, and Vinoodh, M/​M Paris and James Merry. © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd. 7.4 Still from the music video Crystalline, 2011. Written by Björk, director: Michel Gondry, producers: Raffi Adlan & Joel Kretschman. © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd. 7.5 Still from the music video Crystalline, 2011. Written by Björk, director: Michel Gondry, producers: Raffi Adlan & Joel Kretschman. © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd.

114 115 116 118 120 122








Gry Hedin is a  curator and researcher at Faaborg Museum. She holds a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and an MA in Art History from University of Copenhagen. She has specialized in the relationship between art and science, focusing on Scandinavian art and literature in the nineteenth century and has published several articles in international journals on this subject. Her major publications include research-​ based anthologies related to traveling exhibitions “Jordforbindelser. Dansk maleri 1780–​ 1920 og det antropocæne landskab” (“Down to Earth. Danish Painting 1780 to 1920 and Landscapes of the Anthropocene”) (2018), “J.P. Jacobsen og kunsten” (“Jens Peter Jacobsen and the Visual Arts”) (2016), “Munch and Denmark (2009)” and “Gustave Caillebotte: Impressionist Paintings from Paris to the Sea” (2008). Her PhD thesis “Skrig, Sult og Frugtbarhed” (2012) explored the reception of Charles Darwin in works by J.P. Jacobsen, Knut Hamsun, J.F. Willumsen, Edvard Munch, and August Strindberg. Ann-​Sofie N.  Gremaud holds a PhD in Visual Culture from the University of Copenhagen and an MA in Art History and Scandinavian Studies from Aarhus University. Her PhD thesis introduced a crypto-​colonial perspective on Danish-​ Icelandic shared history as expressed through visual culture and was defended in 2012. Since then Gremaud has worked as a postdoctoral fellow, writer, and part-​time lecturer. She is a part of the international research project ‘Denmark and the New North Atlantic’ about the cultural history of the former Danish empire. She has published and given talks on the intertwined fields of contemporary art, politics, and philosophy, primarily in Iceland. Eva la Cour is a Danish visual artist and doctoral researcher at Valand Academy, Faculty of Applied, Performing and Fine Art, Gothenburg University, Sweden. Having a background in fine arts as well as visual anthropology, she works with audiovisual and spatial forms of montages and display, performance and text, always negotiating with her surroundings. This reflects her general interest in epistemology, temporality, and mediation, which she is researching particularly in relation to the notion of the Arctic and anthropological debates on practice and the construction of knowledge. During the last few years Eva la Cour has presented her work internationally, while living and working mainly in Gothenburg and Copenhagen. Mark A.  Cheetham is a professor of Art History at the University of Toronto, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. A specialist in modern and contemporary art and art theory, his major recent publications include



xiv Contributors Abstract Art Against Autonomy: Infection, Resistance, and Cure since the 60s and Artwriting, Nation, and Cosmopolitanism in Britain: The ‘Englishness’ of English Art Theory since the Eighteenth Century. Cheetham’s current research focuses on ecological art and on the uses of analogy in Art History. His book Landscape into Eco Art:  Articulations of Nature since the ‘60s will appear in 2018. He is also curating an exhibition titled ‘Struck by Likening:  The Power & Pleasure of Artworld Analogies,’ which opened at the McMaster University Museum of Art in September 2017. Norman Vorano is an assistant professor of Art History at Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada, and curator of Indigenous Art at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. His research is in the area of historic and contemporary Indigenous arts of North America as well as in curatorial/​museum studies. He is the editor and author of Inuit Prints, Japanese Inspiration:  Early Printmaking in the Canadian Arctic (Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2011), and organized the traveling exhibition ‘Picturing Arctic Modernity:  North Baffin Drawings from 1964 in 2017.’ He is a research partner in a comparative project that explores Indigenous modernisms from around the globe, Multiple Modernisms: Twentieth Century Artistic Modernisms in Global Perspective. Katarina Wadstein MacLeod is an associate professor and a lecturer in Art History at Södertörn University, Stockholm. She graduated in 1999 with an MA in Art History, UCL, London and 2006 with a PhD in Art History:  Lena Cronqvist:  Reflections of Girls (Sekel förlag) University of Lund, Sweden. In her research she has focused on the impact of representation and has published on topics such as femininity and girls in art; the domestic impulse in Swedish art at the turn of the nineteenth century and the 1960s and 1970s; narratives of Eastern Europe as periphery, and the production of cultural heritage value through representation. She also works as an art critic and publishes essays on contemporary art. Synnøve Marie Vik is a PhD candidate in Visual Culture at the University of Bergen, Norway. Her research explores the relationships between nature, technology, and media ecologies, with case studies ranging from the work of artists Gustav Metzger, Olafur Eliasson, and Toril Johannessen to the TV series Treme, the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild, and PR photography from the Norwegian oil company Statoil. She is a curator and art critic, and works as the adviser for visual arts with the City of Bergen.


Introduction: Artistic Visions of the Anthropocene North Climate Change and Nature in Art Gry Hedin and Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud

In 1828, Danish painters were encouraged to attend lectures in geology. Week after week, they were seated in front of Danish geologist Georg Forchhammer as they listened to him lecture on mineral chemistry.1 We do not know exactly what they were told, but Forchhammer was the first to write a geohistory of Denmark, and he also wrote on the chemical composition of paint. Thus, it is an alluring possibility that the artists were lectured on both the geohistory of their country and the components of their paints –​and what an odd combination! One wonders how they combined the two subjects in their imagination. When they were told how to paint with materials from nature in the most enduring way, did they envision themselves working in the tradition of ancient artists, inscribing messages for posterity the way we humans in the Anthropocene collectively inscribe messages upon our planet for our remote descendants to come across one day?2 Or did they see themselves as small-​scale scientists listening to good advice from one colleague to another on how to grind chunks of the famously-​old chalk cliffs of Møn into primers for their canvases? In either case, painters’ awareness of geology can enrich artworks with meaning, and both artists and geologists work with materiality as well as visions. In the era of the Anthropocene, this takes on a particular meaning. The understanding of the entanglement of the human and nature has far-​reaching consequences for an unstable world. Reflecting on this, artists since 1780 have surveyed the meanings of certain geographical landscapes, explored the intersection between art and science, engaged with the changing narratives of science, and examined the blurred boundaries between nature and the human in relation to media. The artists seated before Forchhammer were not alone in grappling with these questions. Art, whether historical or contemporary, functions as a laboratory in which the relationship between human beings and nature and other key issues in the Anthropocene are studied. The still-​debated Anthropocene thesis, which was formulated by atmospheric chemist Paul J. Crutzen and biologist Eugene Stoermer in the 2000s, states that human activities have had a significant and irreversible impact on the earth’s ecosystems and that we have entered into a new geologic era in which human action and earth dynamics have converged, so that the two can no longer be seen as belonging to distinct domains.3 We ask scientists whether the thesis is true, and we follow their discussions of what marks the starting point of the Anthropocene: the Neolithic agricultural revolution, emissions from the first steam engines, or the radioactive particles from World War II. But in order to understand the Anthropocene, we also need to look at mindsets and


2  Gry Hedin and Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud discuss cultures and, therefore, turn to art. Art is able to linger over questions and ambivalences and it elicits reflections on the past and visions of the future. Art often deals with questions in an open-​ended way that leaves space for reflection. Thus, it is able to show us the complexity of the Anthropocene thesis. In this volume, seven chapters analyze how artists deal with issues raised by the Anthropocene thesis, and they touch on the potential and limits of the concept itself and the related concept of the Capitalocene.

Art from 1780 to Today It is important to look into how both historical and contemporary artworks deal with questions posed by the climate and environmental crises, and this volume analyzes how selected artists have depicted Nordic landscapes from 1780 to today. French science historians Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-​Baptiste Fressoz argue that it is also important to examine the way scientists have dealt with these questions through history. Although the ecological imbalance is now greater than ever before, we would lose invaluable perspectives if we forget past reflections and understandings. An understanding of historical narrative may, thus, help us change our world view and inhabit the Anthropocene more lucidly, respectfully, and equitably.4 Traditionally, analyses of the depiction of Nordic landscapes have been concerned with questions about nationalism and nation-​building, focusing on ethnic groups and their cultural heritage.5 Today, however, as these landscapes have acquired new meaning in a planetary context, it is vital to discuss other issues. Indeed, the tradition of landscape painting in the Nordic region is rich in artists dealing with key themes relating to the Anthropocene thesis, and analyses of historical art may contribute to our understanding of contemporary art as well as future interpretations of the Nordic landscape. This volume has chosen 1780 as a starting point because that year is one of the proposed starting points of the Anthropocene.6 There is still discussion about when the era started and whether it is a geological era at all.7 Data retrieved from glacial ice cores shows the beginning of an increase from around 1780 in the atmospheric concentrations of several greenhouse gases related to the invention of steam engines and other technologies.8 Though the consequences and scale of human influence and our entanglement with nature are imagined differently today, the seven chapters aim at analyzing both historical and contemporary artworks, and several of our chapters highlight previously overlooked connections between historical and contemporary representational practices and interpretations.

Nordic Landscapes Because the Anthropocene thesis focuses on global consequences on a planetary scale, artists working in all regions of the world may address issues raised by the thesis. Indeed, the thesis invites thinking that transcends national boundaries and crosses the North–​South axis. However, it also invites artists and scholars to rethink specific national and geographical identities. This volume deals with depictions of landscapes in the Arctic, Iceland, Canada, and Scandinavia to see what common issues artists deal with when depicting landscapes in this region.


Artistic Visions of the Anthropocene North  3 Extending from cold and sparsely populated areas in the Arctic to the fertile and intensively farmed southern regions of Scandinavia and Canada, these landscapes offer a wide range of interpretations with regard to the Anthropocene. Some representations of the landscapes dealt with in this volume explicitly discuss ideas of the North or “Northernness,” while others explore the blurred boundaries between human beings and nature or deal with the relationship between art and science. In dealing with representations of Nordic landscapes, a few distinctions are worth keeping in mind apart from (fuzzy) geographical categories such as “the Arctic,” “Scandinavia,” etc. The ways Nordic landscapes have been presented and imagined in artistic renderings shed light on how notions of “the North” have contributed to narratives associated with the Anthropocene. The Arctic is currently envisioned in images of melting ice and endangered polar bears. Such images have become emblems of climate change in parts of this region, which were long defined as periphery but have become the center of attention. In addition, the melting ice is turning the Arctic into a new geopolitical center.9 With this area as a new focal point, old ideas and myths associated with the North are being reactivated and negotiated in visions of the future as they are projected onto the changing land-​and seascapes. The influence of classical and medieval ideas about the far North on Enlightenment theory resulted in increasingly positive descriptions of northern virtues in the writings of e.g. Montesquieu. In that sense the “far North” was drawn closer to what was perceived as the civilized centers (England, France etc.) –​“if at the edges of it.”10 Later many Romantic writers and artists as well as national liberals turned to the “far North” in their search for the pure and the true.11 By tracing the layers of meaning attached to the changing concept of “the North,” historian  Ísleifsson has identified a number of dominant, stereotypical ideas. These notions of the North highlight the interface between imagined communities and imagined geographies proposed by the geographer Neil Smith:  that nature is mediated through society, and societies are mediated through representations of nature.12 Ísleifsson, for example, discusses the category of “the utopian North,”13 which captures the notion of a privileged place where people live in balance with nature. In representations of this utopian North, nature is contrasted with modern civilization –​an idea that is itself modern. In a time of environmental and geopolitical crises, images of the northern landscapes of the Arctic with its ice formations represent the pure and fragile wilderness par excellence. In contemporary eco-​critical art, landscapes of the utopian North have come to illustrate a harmonious integration of humans into nature and evoke an environmentalist critique of modernity’s extreme commodification and instrumentalization of nature.14 Ísleifsson also discusses the idea of “the wealthy North,” which identifies the North as a place rich in both cultural and natural resources. He argues that, while cultural riches were a focal point during the heyday of national Romanticism, the idea of abundant natural resources in the North has a longer history. Such ideas appear in the writings of the chronicler Adam of Bremen in the eleventh century, when he described the North as a place “where gold and gems were in abundance and where the inhabitants possessed only a rudimentary understanding of this wealth.”15 The notion of the rich underground of the North is reflected in current hopes for large international investments in resource extraction in the Arctic.


4  Gry Hedin and Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud The Anthropocene also offers a prism for understanding the landscapes of the densely industrialized areas of this region, such as the Scandinavian welfare states and Canada and the complex connections between the North and the South. Historically, there are close and complex connections between these welfare states and the far North that include colonization. In the wake of the ecological crisis, a discussion of these connections reappears as there is debate over which societies are most responsible for climate change. The two terms, Anthropocene and Capitalocene, offer different viewpoints for this question.16 The ‘anthropos’ in the Anthropocene highlights a focus on humans per se, whereas the ‘capital’ of the Capitalocene points to systems such as capitalism. Indeed, naming is closely related to comprehending, and in the attempts to name the era lie important statements on the relation between humans, non-​human bodies and the environment. Sociologist Jason W.  Moore thus argues that the term Anthropocene brackets questions of capitalism, power, and class, and he instead suggests the term Capitaloscene.17 Inherent in the notion of the Capitalocene is the question of how different regions and cultures have contributed to a future unstable climate. Clearly, the southern part of the Nordic region has affected areas around the globe including drier and more densely populated areas closer to the equator (the “Global South”) and areas in the far North. Chapters in this volume analyze how artists explore the consequences felt by populations in the far North. These issues are –​potentially –​rife with politics and emotion as demonstrated by a number of artworks dealing with Nordic landscapes, and artists dealing with this often play with the way emotions and political issues are intertwined. Both historically and today, artists are fully aware of their capacity to raise issues connected to the relationship between human beings and particular geographical landscapes. This field, however, is far from homogeneous, and attitudes and statements found in contemporary art are often nuanced or even ambivalent. Not all artworks are dystopian. Some are utopian –​though these are rare.

Art Interacting with Science Dealing with questions raised by the Anthropocene thesis means crossing the boundaries between art and science. In Nordic art from 1780 to today, there are many examples of artists who worked closely with scientists or used scientific methods, and it is also evident how Nordic art has affected science. The chapters in this volume explore specific relationships between scientific and technological developments and artistic approaches, and some also engage with artistic research. They make evident how artists use findings, methods, and even specific techniques originating in science in their artworks. Already in 1780, scientific findings helped artists differentiate between the “human” and “nature” in landscapes. For example, geology and archaeology have provided artists with insights enabling them to differentiate between the results of natural processes and the results of human impact. Romantic artists –​such as Caspar David Friedrich –​ were well aware of the long history of the impact on the landscape of the forces of geology and human beings from an early time. Other artists –​both in earlier times and today –​have traveled with scientists to desolate areas to depict or chart ‘untouched’


Artistic Visions of the Anthropocene North  5 landscapes for the benefit of both the scientists and the public. Others, fascinated with technology and the industrialization of the landscape, depicted monochrome fields made possible by the science-​based development of agriculture. And, then, there are the numerous artists who have contributed with illustrations to scientific books that helped disseminate scientific theories –​and there are the many contemporary artists who engage in artistic research using but also questioning scientific methods. Artists have depicted human intervention in the Nordic landscape with the aid of science both before and after the coining of the term “the Anthropocene” –​and the interaction of art, science, and technology has, at times, been very direct. The influence also moves from art to science. Scientists deal with landscapes as a tangible, measurable ensemble of material forms in a given geographical area, and it often appears that they avoid the ‘aesthetic’ and ‘imaginative.’ Both today and historically, however, it is evident that scientists are inspired by art, and art has an influence on the way scientists imagine, form, and present their theories and findings in regard to the Anthropocene. Some of the future scenarios that science predicts, however, appear inspired by the way art presents images that are vague and figuratively indeterminate. At times, scientists appear to use subtle artistic strategies in their attempts to communicate their findings to a broad public. This is especially evident in the presentation of the Arctic and its surrounding areas. Here, the often objective and distanced perspective of science is rejected in order to reach out through the imaginative and emotional.18 A recurrent theme in the interaction of art and science with respect to the Anthropocene is an analysis of the Anthropos in the Anthropocene. Art has a potential to investigate the ontological consequences of the ecological crisis, and important scholars in the field such as the literary scholar Timothy Morton and philosopher Bruno Latour have shown the necessity of incorporating theories and findings from a broad range of fields including art, philosophy, anthropology, and literature. Both Morton and Latour refer to art that presents a humanist perspective on developments described by geologists and biologists.19 The art field has to a great degree welcomed their thought, as many of the chapters in the present volume suggest. As Morton argues, scholars in the humanities have worked for a long time with the way one is entangled with the data one is studying.20 With regard to the Anthropocene, this becomes very relevant because there is no metalanguage, as Morton states, making reference to Lacan.21 This point is echoed across anthropocentric as well as post-​ human theories: that the earth in the Anthropocene era cannot be viewed objectively as though emptied of all humans. In addition, according to Latour, it is a condition of the Anthropocene that the earth cannot be put at a distance. He argues for the importance of understanding the active role of human agency not only in the construction of facts but also in the very existence of the phenomena those facts are trying to document.22 In an interview, Latour pinpointed the potential of art and art theory to express such complexities. In the Anthropocene, we have to reorient ourselves from “the globe” to “the earth,” acknowledging that we are not above but embedded in the earth. Here, artists must help “to represent the place where we now have to land after we tried to be modern […]. The arts should produce alternative forms […] [relying] on artists who, with their skills, deal seriously with the same topics as the sciences.”23 Moreover, he argues, literature has a special potential of reflecting the complexity of entangled agents. In a text entitled “Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene,” he explains how


6  Gry Hedin and Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud novelists have a special way of discussing issues regarding the Anthropocene without reducing complexity. Thus, “[i]‌n novels, readers have no difficulty in detecting the great number of contradictory actions with which characters are simultaneously endowed.”24

Changing Scientific Narratives “Anthropocene science is much more than stories, but it is stories too.” Christophe Bonneuil makes this point as a science historian,25 and there are indeed many different stories –​or narratives –​of the Anthropocene when viewed from an artistic or literary standpoint. As literary scholar Gillian Beer points out in Darwin’s Plots, even though sciences such as geology and biology build on facts, it is important to analyze the way they build up shifting narratives. Scientists supporting the Anthropocene thesis state that nature is close to a tipping point at which climate change becomes self-​reinforcing and humankind has set processes in motion that will lead to developments about which we no longer have any standards to judge. Powerful forces and processes have been unleashed that cannot be recalled and therefore nature in the Anthropocene era is difficult to describe, control, and predict. This means not only that older narratives are renegotiated –​but also that not one but several new narratives are created. Bonneuil singles out four main narratives for the Anthropocene: a “naturalist narrative,” a “post-​nature narrative,” an “eco-​catastrophist narrative,” and an “eco-​Marxist narrative.” As he points out, the accounts of the Anthropocene, whether provided by journalists, scientists, philosophers, historians, politicians, or activists, are all narratives of “how we got here.”26 This geological era is just beginning to be defined, and scientists and artists are looking for new narratives. The naturalist narrative stresses that humans have the power and capacity to deal constructively with the changing conditions, and this narrative is stressed in the naming of “the Anthropocene.” Crutzen and Christian Schwäger, for example, say that the term “the Anthropocene, the Age of Men, could be of great help. Rather than representing yet another sign of human hubris, this name change would stress the enormity of humanity’s responsibility as stewards of the Earth. It would highlight the immense power of our intellect and our creativity, and the opportunities they offer for shaping the future.”27 These Anthropocene narratives, however, are only the most recent produced in science; and, as this volume suggests, they are connected to scientific narratives originating in the nineteenth century. In the nineteenth century, scientists questioned the complex entanglement between man and nature. Though the severe consequences of human impact discussed today were not taken into account, the relationship between the human and nature was, indeed, debated in the defining works of science. Whereas Charles Lyell in his Principles of Geology (1830–1833) maintained a strict division between the human and nature, stating that humans only had a restricted and reversible impact, Darwin in On the Origin of Species (1859) used human action in the breeding of pigeons, etc. as a preliminary argument that species were not stable. Thus, in the first half of the nineteenth century, narratives in European geology and biology began changing from the grip of the idea that God made the world as it is to the idea of a present shaped by slow forces that are still shaping nature. However, the geologists, who acknowledged dynamic natural forces and human


Artistic Visions of the Anthropocene North  7 impact, created a context where the extension of terrestrial time to hundreds of millions of years made geological forces appear almost immobile and indifferent to human tribulations.28 The Anthropocene prediction that the climate and biosphere will change radically in only a few centuries as a consequence of human actions questions this mid-​nineteenth-​ century narrative. Still, the invention and imagination of Anthropocene narratives are affected by the dramas of nature presented in nineteenth-​century art –​from classical depictions of the Deluge to Romantic landscapes dealing with the sublime through depictions of water, ice, and rocks. In particular, Romantic images of Nordic landscapes are interesting in this regard since they are picked up by scientists and artists at the time and used to communicate scientific findings to the public. It is important to point out and analyze the narratives of the Anthropocene thesis and trace them back in time in order to recognize their constant and rapid renegotiation. One important narrative of the Anthropocene thesis in relation to Nordic landscapes is that the history of the landscape is intertwined with its inhabitants. The Anthropocene thesis does not focus only on future development. Intertwinement over time is a recurrent theme. In the nineteenth century, the past was considered in order to understand the present, and the focus was often on the history of the landscape. This aim was visible in landscape painting at that time but, now and then, also surfaces in contemporary art. Nordic ‘Romantic’ artists emphasized the history of the landscape and in their depictions intermingled the history of the landscape with that of its inhabitants. They did this as a supportive response to the political circumstances surrounding the consolidation of nation-​states.29 Landscape paintings in many parts of these Nordic countries –​established nations and nations in the making –​dealt with human alterations of the landscape over time and demonstrated a belief in the impact of nature on its inhabitants. When the industrial revolution accelerated in the Nordic countries, many regions intensified their use of farmland, and the population moved from rural areas to the cities and to new land in North America. These transformations of the landscape provided a new meaning for the genre of landscape painting, as is evident in nineteenth-​ century art. Thus, art communicated to a broad audience a blurring of the divide between the human and nature. However, artists also depicted landscapes which they perceived to be “untouched,” and in an “original” state. These images gained importance as relics of a lost time. For example, Danish paintings from the 1840s record features of the heath and of large boulders in fertile meadows that were about to disappear.30 Changes in the vast ice-​covered plains of the Arctic have been communicated by nineteenth-​century art in a similar fashion. As a ‘foreign’ and ‘unexpected’ landscape, these areas still challenge the existing aesthetic categories that artists employ, such as landscape painting and land art. With regard to contemporary art dealing with Nordic landscapes, artists use a conglomerate of changing narratives in the wake of the Anthropocene thesis to structure the way humanity is positioned as perpetrator or creative innovator of climate change. These artists can be seen as explorers who set out to investigate and, sometimes, push the boundaries of narrative structures. In this regard, it is interesting to investigate Nordic landscapes with respect to cultural connotations of periphery, purity, and frontier. Artistic investigations take place within the narratives, constantly challenging and renegotiating what Hayden White famously called “the content of form.”31 Thus,


8  Gry Hedin and Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud nature, art, and science remain interlinked and floating fields, as the analyses and cases in this volume show.

Media and Blurred Boundaries between Nature and the Human In art theory, there is a strong tradition for investigating human entanglement with nature, on one hand, and questions of representation and media, on the other. These are questions that become increasingly intertwined as scholars analyze how art represents the processes of the changing planet –​including our own place in this process. Scholars defining the Anthropocene era characterize nature as “no longer a force separate from and ambivalent to human activity […]. Humanity and nature are one, embedded from within the recent geological record.”32 This gives the term ‘landscape’ a new meaning with respect to the ways it has been used as listed, for example, by Denis Cosgrove. He writes that ‘landscape’ is used as “the tangible, measurable ensemble of material forms in a given geographical area,” as “the representation of those forms in media such as paintings,” or as the “desired, remembered and somatic spaces of the imagination and the senses.”33 Traditionally, the term ‘landscape’ designates a nature that is measured, represented, or imagined by humans. In relation to the Anthropocene, however, the ontological division between nature and the human does not make sense. Since humans are part of geo-​climatic processes, the categories of ‘nature’ and ‘human’ become blurred. The question of this blurred boundary between nature and the human must be understood in relation to questions of media. In their introductory text about literature and the Anthropocene, literary scholars Tobias Boes and Kate Marshall point out how the act of writing literature can become a metaphor for humans’ interaction with their surroundings. The Anthropocene thesis has, indeed, influenced media theory. The rising field of media archaeology, led by researchers such as media theorist Jussi Parikka, has inspired art historians to add an investigation of the geological origin of modern media to the study of representationality. This includes the origin as well as the impact of the physical components of media devices –​both when they are extracted, used, and when they are disposed of.34 Parikka (2015) focuses on the interwoven nature (!) of modern media and the planet earth: “Our relations with the earth are mediated through technologies and techniques of visualization, sonification, calculation, mapping, prediction, simulation, and so forth:  it is through and in the media that we grasp earth as an object for cognitive, practical and affective relations […]. And conversely, it is the earth that provides for media and enables it: the minerals, the material of(f) the ground, the affordance of its geophysical reality that make technical media happen.” Media technologies facilitate our ability to see and reflect upon ourselves within the Anthropocene,35 and artists currently deal with this premise. Artists often consider mediation and representation as integrated parts of the issues surrounding climate change. They use media and representation to address the assumptions about agency, observation, and knowledge that have become increasingly unstable with the blurring of the boundaries between nature and human. Several chapters in this volume deal with this as they analyze contemporary art, focusing on the way artists use media (in all its different shapes and forms). Here, it is argued that art uses media to emphasize different aspects of the conditions for human interaction with and representation of the rest of the physical world, including


Artistic Visions of the Anthropocene North  9 constraints on the human gaze and digital technology. With this critical awareness, it is argued that artists also exhibit the constraints in scientific narratives and methodologies and thereby contribute to discussions of the Anthropocene condition. The purpose of this volume is to map some of the ways in which the depictions of Nordic landscapes deal with the Anthropocene –​both historically and today –​and how they contribute to the development of our understanding of this geological era. In this volume on representations of Nordic landscapes, the authors shed light on a broad spectrum of artworks from past centuries to today, exploring the interface between scientific and artistic interpretations of the North as a place in which the narrative of the Anthropocene takes shape. Analyzing artworks dealing with Nordic landscapes from 1780 to the present, this volume considers three themes essential to the Anthropocene and the North: “Interaction between Art and Science,” “Changing Narratives of the Anthropocene and the North,” and “Media and blurred boundaries between Nature and the Human.” This division of the book’s seven thematic chapters is meant to be a catalyst rather than a strict schema. The overlaps and spillovers between the themes foster creative spheres in which themes are mixed in order to destabilize them, to pose questions, and to highlight their co-​dependence. Part I explores the interaction of art and science to explore Nordic landscapes. In the first chapter, “Anthropocene Beginnings. Entanglements of Art and Science in Danish Art and Archaeology 1780–1840.” Gry Hedin discusses the interaction of art and science in Danish art and archaeology, focusing on two proposed beginnings of the Anthropocene: the commencement of agriculture in the Stone Age and the start of industrialization in the 1780s. She analyzes the way nineteenth-​century landscape paintings present an awareness of the entanglement of human beings and nature over time. In “A Montage of Notes from Svalbard,” the artist and researcher Eva la Cour discusses the notion of mediation. She presents field notes from an expedition with several scientists to Svalbard in 2016. These notes are the point of departure for a discussion of the medium of live-​streaming and reflections on how the anthropological connects to the Anthropocentric. In Part II, the changing narratives of the Anthropocene and the North are called into question. In “Northern Landscape and the Anthropocene: A Long View,” Mark A. Cheetham discusses ‘North’ as a relative term, both geographically and culturally focusing on the indigenous North. From the stance of eco-​art, he analyzes artworks from the sixteenth century until today dealing with landscapes of the North. Norman Vorano continues an exploration of the indigenous North. In “We All Have to Live by What We Know: Activating Memoryscapes in the North Baffin Inuit Drawing Collection to Understand Arctic Environmental Change,” he discusses how the traditional knowledge of the land and the environment embedded in indigenous art can contribute to contemporary discussions of the Anthropocene. He focuses on 1964 Inuit texts on and images of the eastern Canadian Arctic and argues that the Inuit here have experienced a “double” impact of colonial modernity in the twentieth century. Part III looks into the role of media and explores the blurred boundaries between nature and the human in contemporary art. In “Conversations between Body, Tree, and Camera in the Work of Eija-​Liisa Ahtila,” Katarina Wadstein MacLeod explores the triangular relationship between the human eye, technology, and nature in the works of Finnish artist Eija-​Liisa Ahtila. She discusses how Ahtila explores the possibility of a shift to a less human-​oriented understanding of the world –​yet locates her art in a profound


10  Gry Hedin and Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud humanist tradition of portraying nature. Synnøve Marie Vik is also engaged with the question of media. In “Toril Johannessen’s ‘In Search of Iceland Spar,’ ” she offers a media-​ecological analysis that discusses human interventions in nature, providing points of reflection on truth and illusion with regard to the Arctic and the Anthropocene. The last chapter “From within the Porous Body: Modes of Engagement in Björk’s Biophilia album” by Ann-​Sofie N. Gremaud discusses how Björk’s album links questions of representationality and mediation with environmental policies in Iceland. The album links spatial levels such as the human body, the nation, and the universe. By using representational means familiar from science and art, Björk explores the human body as medium as well as the attraction between human and non-​human bodies.

Notes 1 Villads Villadsen, ed., C.W. Eckersbergs dagbøger 1810–​1837 (Copenhagen: Nyt Nordisk Forlag, 2009), 330. Thanks to Carlsbergfondet for financing our research on this topic and to Faaborg Museum and the Department of Cross-​Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, for facilitating it. Thanks also to Gregers Andersen and Russell Dees for valuable input. 2 Tobias Boes and Kate Marshall, “Writing the Anthropocene. An Introduction,” The Minnesota Review, 83 (2014): 63. 3 Christophe Bonneuil, Francois Gemenne, and Clive Hamilton, “Thinking the Anthropocene,” in The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis:  Rethinking Modernity in a New Epoch, ed. Clive Hamilton, François Gemenne, and Christophe Bonneuil (London: Routledge, 2015), 3. 4 Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-​Baptiste Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene: The Earth, History and Us (London & New York: Verso, 2016), xiii-​xiv. 5 See Peter Davidson, The Idea of North (London: Reaktion Books, 2005). 6 Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer, “The Anthropocene,” Global Change Newsletter, 41:1 (2000):  17–​18. At least three other starting points for the Anthropocene have been proposed:  1:  A few thousand years after the beginning of the Holocene, 2:  The European conquest of America, 3: the radionuclides emitted into the atmosphere in 1945 (Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-​Baptiste Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene, 15–​16). 7 As of August 2017, two working groups –​International Commission on Stratigraphy and the International Union of Geological Sciences –​are still in process in regard to this. See “Subcomission on Quaternary Stratigraphy, ICS Working Groups,” accesed August 23, 2017, http://​​workinggroups/​anthropocene/​ 8 Bonneuil and Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene, 16. Other starting points are suggested as well as discussed in the chapter by Hedin. 9 Lill-​ Ann Körber et  al., “Introduction:  Arctic Modernities, Environmental Politics, and the Era of the Anthropocene,” in Arctic Environmental Modernities:  From the Age of Polar Exploration to the Era of the Anthropocene, ed. Lill-​ Ann Körber et  al. (Cham, Switzerland:  Palgrave Macmillan, 2017); Adam Brenthel, “The Drowning World:  The Visual Culture of Climate Change” (PhD diss., Lund University, 2016). 10 Ísleifsson, Sumarliði, “Imaginations of National Identity and the North,” in Iceland and Images of the North, eds. Sumarliði Ísleifsson and Daniel Chartier, 3–22 (Québec: Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2011), 15. 11 Later still, the association with a pan-​Nordic or Germanic cultural heritage resulted in a division between Iceland and the Faroe Islands as the “Germanic far North,” on one hand, and, on the other, Greenland and the areas populated by the Sami as the “indigenous far North.” Ísleifsson, “Imaginations of National Identity and the North,” 16. 12 Bruce Braun and Noel Castree, “The Construction of Nature and the Nature of Construction: Analytical and Political Tools for Building Survivable Futures,” in Remaking


Artistic Visions of the Anthropocene North  11 Reality: Nature at the Millenium, eds. Bruce Braun and Noel Castree (Florence, KY: Routledge, 1998), 6. 13 Ísleifsson, “Imaginations of National Identity and the North,” 17. 14 For an elaboration of these stereotypes in regard to eco-​art and Nordic landscapes, see Ann-​Sofie N.  Gremaud, “Power and Purity:  Nature as Resource in a Troubled Society,” Environmental Humanities, 5 (2014): 77–​100. 15 Ísleifsson, “Imaginations of National Identity and the North,” 13. 16 Others, such as Donna Haraway, suggest ‘Chthulucene’, in which the human is an element within and of the earthly networks of biotic and abiotic processes. Donna Haraway, “Tentacular Thinking:  Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene.” E-​flux Journal, September 1 (2016), accessed July 17, 2017, www.e-​​journal/​75/​67125/​ tentacular-​thinking-​anthropocene-​capitalocene-​chthulucene/​ 17 Jason W. Moore, “Introduction: Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History and the Crisis of Capitalism,” in Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History and the Crisis of Capitalism, ed. Jason W. Moore (Oakland, CA: Kairos, 2016), 5–​6. 18 Brenthel, “The Drowning World.” 19 For example, a book on Björk and a series of talks with Olafur Eliasson, http://​​p/​past-​talks.html, accessed on June 13, 2017. Latour has curated several art exhibitions, the latest being Reset Modernity in Karlsruhe in 2016. 20 Timothy Morton, Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), 29. 21 Timothy Morton, “The Oedipal Logic of Ecological Awareness,” Environmental Humanities, 1 (2012), accessed on August 9, 2017. 22 Bruno Latour, “Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene,” New Literary History, 45 (2014): 2, 6. 23 Bruno Latour, Line Marie Thorsen, and Anette Vandsø, “How to Rediscover Our Ground after Nature? A Conversation with Bruno Latour,” in The Garden, ed. Erlend G. Høyersten (London: Koenig Books, 2016), 8, 64, 66. 24 Latour, “Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene,” 8. 25 Bonneuil, “The Geological Turn,” 18. 26 Bonneuil, “The Geological Turn,” 18. 27 Paul J.  Crutzen and Christian Schwägerl, “Living in the Anthropocene:  Toward a New Global Ethos,” Opinion, January, 2011, accessed on August 9, 2017 (http://​​ feature/​living_​in_​the_​anthropocene_​toward_​a_​new_​global_​ethos/​2363/​). 28 Bonneuil and Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene, 19. 29 In a Danish context Karina Lykke Grand has studied this. Karina Lykke Grand, “The Vision for Denmark: A Political Landscape Painting.” In Gold: Treasures from the Danish Golden Age, edited by Lise Pennington (Aarhus: Systime, 2013). 30 Gry Hedin, “Hieroglyphical Boulders:  Johan Thomas Lundbye as Mediator between Art and Science,” European Romantic Review, 26 (2015). 31 Hayden White, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987). 32 Bernd M.  Scherer and Katrin Klingan, introduction to The Anthropocene Project:  An Opening January 10–​13, 2013, Berlin: Haus der Kulturen der Welt, 2013, 2, accessed on August 9, 2017,​media/​en/​texte/​pdf/​2014_​1/​ein_​bericht_​guide_​zum_​programm.pdf 33 Dennis Cosgrove, “Landscape and the European Sense of Sight:  Eyeing Nature,” in Handbook of Cultural Geography, ed. K.  Anderson, M.  Domosh, S.  Pile, and N.  Thrif (London: Sage, 2003), 249. 34 Jussi Parikka, A Geology of Media (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2015), 13. 35 Boes and Marshall, “Writing the Anthropocene,” 64–​66.



Part I

Interaction between Art and Science



1 Anthropocene Beginnings Entanglements of Art and Science in Danish Art and Archaeology 1780–​1840 Gry Hedin

In 1784, two important events took place:  Traces of primitive man appeared in a Danish landscape painting, and the steam engine was patented as a general-​purpose machine. Two very different events and –​so it seems –​two events without an obvious connection. Yet, interest in early human history is entangled with the beginning of industrialization –​at least, in a Danish context. After 1784, Danish artists and archaeologists were attentive to the way humans had shaped the Danish landscape since the first settlements in ancient times; and, as they tried to decipher the heavy stone structures left by the early settlers, they began exploring two important Anthropocene themes: the question of the entanglement of man and nature, and the question of the position of man in an extended, deep timescale. Looking into this, this chapter examines the beginnings of both archaeology and landscape painting in Denmark and proposes that Danish archaeology was influenced by developments in art in the pioneering archaeological thesis that a primitive people with tools of stone were the first inhabitants of Danish land. This thesis was expressed in Christian Jürgensen Thomsen’s “three-​age” system, which is acknowledged as one of the defining theories of the modern discipline of archaeology.1 I argue that artists closely followed the findings of archaeology and, at times, even anticipated its development. Knowledge about early man was based on the interpretation of indistinct signs in the landscape, and imagination was from the start an important tool for reconstructing the past in both art and archaeology.2 Traces of early man were found in the way the country’s early inhabitants had shaped and affected nature on a small scale with the creation of flint weapons and the construction of dolmens, and on a larger scale with deforestation and the clearance of fields for agriculture. Concurrently, scientists imagined how nature had looked before humans had an impact on it and how nature had an impact on and “created” man. A questioning of the human-​nature divide and an awareness of a deep timescale were a recurring theme in art after 1780. Artists and scientists exchanged ideas, and artistic visualizations influenced the field of archaeology just as the findings of archaeology influenced art. Today, the notion of the vast scale of the humanization of nature defines the Anthropocene thesis, and the concept of the Anthropocene has profoundly changed our reading of the ecological impact of humans. Although the human-​nature divide was questioned as early as 1780 by certain artists and scholars, ‘nature’ and ‘environment’ were primarily understood until a few decades ago as that which surrounds us and as the place where humans went to extract resources and deposit waste, a place that could be left virgin.3 Although the scale at which humans have impacted nature has only become clear in recent years, the basic notion of human impact is not new;


16 Gry Hedin and, from 1780, questions were being raised about the extent to which humans had shaped nature and from what time. While piling up boulders into dolmens may not be far-​reaching enough to be characterized as an ‘Anthropocene’ human impact, dolmens were envisaged as markers of the early humanization of the landscape and as signaling the rough and uncivilized character of the country’s early inhabitants.4 Among the proposed starting points of the Anthropocene era are the start of industrialization around 17805 and the Neolithic agricultural revolution 12,000 years ago,6 and these starting points are interesting to discuss in relation to the perception of prehistory from around 1780.7 By examining Danish landscape paintings by well-​known artists such as Nicolai Abildgaard and Johan Christian Dahl and lesser-​known artists such as Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein Stub, Johan Ludvig Lund and Jens Møller, I investigate the intermingling of these two proposed starting points by focusing on renditions of dolmens. It is a curious coincidence that a nuanced understanding of prehistory developed during the same decades that an increasing industrialization of the landscape occurred. Dolmens are obvious targets in this regard as they are, to a certain extent, humanized nature, consisting of two or more vertical boulders supporting a large, flat, horizontal capstone, a structure often surrounded by a ring of raised boulders placed on a mound. As very early signs of human impact on the landscape, dolmens were viewed as having significance already in medieval times;8 and, even before the coining of the terms ‘Stone Age’ and ‘Anthropocene,’ they were regarded as markers of the complex and interwoven history of man and nature –​not as symbols per se of early civilization but as markers of an entangled and complex relationship between the human and nature. The Danish material is interesting in this regard because Danish archaeologists were pioneers in the field with respect to introducing a deep timescale.9 This was not only due to competent scholars of diverse backgrounds but also to the character of the archaeological finds. Other countries focused on their Roman remains, but the Danish material (located north of Roman territory) seemed more homogeneous.10 Agricultural reforms in the late eighteenth century threatened the ancient stone monuments in the countryside, and a royal decree in 1807 established a Royal Commission for the Preservation of Antiquities (Den Kongelige Kommission til Oldsagers Opbevaring). One of the tasks of the Commission was to collect and dispatch movable finds to the Royal Museum of Nordic Antiquities (Det Kongelige Museum for Nordiske Oldsager). This made available a rich and hitherto unclassified material for Christian Jürgensen Thomsen when, in 1816, he was appointed Secretary of the Commission and began to prepare a public display of the collection.11 He developed the ‘three-​age system’ while arranging finds brought to the museum from excavation sites. He believed that these finds were the only way to comprehend the origin and way of life of an ancient people who he supposed resembled savages.12 Thomsen came from a commercial background rather than academia and was also a collector and curator. Both are important for his development of the ‘three-​age system,’ and he is indeed part of a rich history of interaction between art and science in Denmark.13 I shall use the Anthropocene as a prism for discussing renditions of dolmens in art and science to analyze the intermingling of the two proposed Anthropocene beginnings mentioned above. The Anthropocene dimension of nineteenth-​century art and archaeology is a broad and complex topic, too dense to unpick in a single chapter. However, by focusing on one type of ancient monument –​dolmens –​in a single national context, it is possible to compare art and archaeology in a way that may be


Anthropocene Beginnings  17 useful for discussing similar issues in other national contexts. The Anthropocene is not an accepted term. However, as the Professor of English,Timothy Morton, uses it to point out key issues about the human-​nature divide, the term may function as a tool to discuss an early questioning of this divide. In the Anthropocene, human and nature are one, and the human understanding of landscape and nature is jeopardized since humans are embedded in the substances and processes that they try to understand. This Anthropocene awareness provides us with an ability to transcend two other ways of analyzing landscape, summarized by the French philosopher and anthropologist Bruno Latour. He proposes that, as a notion, the Anthropocene can make us look, first, beyond an understanding of the landscape as separable from humans and, second, beyond the notion that landscape is a “social construction of nature.”14 Drawing on the Anthropocene notion of the entanglement of human and nature, I shall discuss the entangled historical layers of the interaction of humans with nature in Danish art and archaeology. Some scientists argue that the Anthropocene started with industrialization. The industrial mode of production and organization had severe consequences for cultivation and, thus, landscape. This starting point is considered to be 1784 with the invention of the steam engine;15 and it was precisely in 1784 that a dolmen appeared in a Danish painting representing early human impact on the landscape [see Plate 1]. Artists dealt with the motif of the dolmen in two ways:  Some depicted landscapes shaped by agriculture and other recent human impact and included dolmens to produce an awareness of the past, while others included dolmens in their visualization of events in early Danish history. In both types of painting, dolmens are set in landscapes that are humanized in different degrees; and, in both, dolmens function as a sign of early human impact on nature. In Denmark, the growing attention paid to these early signs of human impact was spurred even more by the destruction of large numbers of dolmens as land was cleared to expand agricultural industry and roads. Interest in dolmens rose just as there was an increase in human impact on the landscape due to factors that were later deemed as indicating a starting point of the Anthropocene era. The entangled human influence on nature also becomes clear in regard to dolmens in another way. Their rough and heavy structure is humanized nature, as they are created of largely uncut boulders placed in a formation on mounds; but, despite their massive structure, many of them have sunk back into nature. As partially ruined stone heaps covered with moss, they make a fluent transition between man-​made objects and natural landscapes.16 Thus, they highlight the problem of agency in the Anthropocene:  That human agency is always part of larger cultural and material flows, exchanges, and interactions and that, even though human agency may be equivalent to a geological force with a vast impact on the displacement of geological material, the sum of countless human activities lacks the characteristics of a coordinated collective action.17 An analysis of the interaction of art and archaeology can be a way of deciphering and understanding these entangled layers of the human with nature and the impossibility of discerning them as separate entities. It is new in research to analyze the relationship between depictions of dolmens in art and interpretations of them in the formative years of archaeology.18 Important insights can be gained from such an analysis. We can reach a deeper understanding of the beginnings of the Anthropocene and the early questioning of the human-​nature divide. An examination of dolmens through both art and archaeology has never been


18 Gry Hedin attempted on Danish material even though both Thomsen and Danish art at this time  –​often termed ‘Golden Age painting’  –​are well researched. Neither has the Anthropocene dimension of Danish art and archaeology of this time been discussed.19 Danish art historians have only sporadically touched on the meaning of dolmens and have not paid attention to their complex and shifting meanings. It seems to go unnoticed that, at least until 1836, dolmens were often regarded as altars related to worshippers of the Nordic gods, not as grave monuments of a primitive people. Art historians rarely discuss the presence of dolmens in paintings of early Danish history, but the inclusion of dolmens in such paintings is important for an understanding of the meaning dolmens embody in landscape painting. Both art historians and archaeologists have focused on dolmens and other ancient remains in relation to the ‘birth’ of the nation and nationalism, and dolmens may indeed be understood in this context since they were used to trace the nation’s inhabitants back to very early times.20 However, regardless of the importance of nationalism, the context of the interaction of man and nature over time provides an important and overlooked framework, and many insights can be gained from adding a planetary perspective to the national one. In addition to scholarship on early Danish archaeology and Golden Age painting, I have benefitted from research on how poets relate to archaeology.21 International scholarship has also been valuable. I have drawn on works by scholars such as Jeff Sanders, Sam Smiles, and Maura Coughlin. Although they do not use the Anthropocene as a prism for their research, their examinations of art and archaeology in German, British, and French contexts have been full of insights.22 Here are a few notes on terminology or nomenclature. The shifting terms signal changes in meanings and contexts. I have chosen the English term ‘dolmen’, a term that originated in France in 1796, as a general term for what are now known as megalithic graves. I have been careful to provide word-​for-​word translations of the shifting Danish terms for dolmens when they appear in eighteenth-​and nineteenth-​ century Danish texts and titles of works of art. This is necessary to avoid losing the complexities of the original context revealed by the original wording for the prehistoric finds such as “hedensk alter” (heathen altar), “kæmpegrav” (giant or warrior-​ grave), “gravhøje” (burial mounds), “tingsteder” (thingsteads), “offersted” (sacrificial site), and “offerhøje” (sacrificial mounds).23 Moreover, the terms for people engaged in researching early Danish history demand attention, since they reveal important shifts between old and new disciplines. I have chosen terms such as archaeologist, antiquarian, and historian as they reflect the original Danish terms “arkæolog,” “antikvar,” and “historiker.” The wording in regard to monuments reflects unsettled questions about the age and original use of the monuments. The different terms for the scholars reflect their different backgrounds and the establishment of archaeology as a discipline.

Dolmens and a Savage Europa Nicolai Abildgaard’s painting “The Wild and Raw State of Nature: Allegory on One of Four Major Eras in Europe’s Cultural History” (“Den vilde og rå naturtilstand. Allegori på en af fire hovedepoker i Europas kulturhistorie”) (1784) [see Plate 1] is a very early example of a dolmen in a painting, and it is a complex visualization of the human as part of rather than placed in nature; in fact, the combination of a dolmen with a ‘savage’ human is Thomsen’s narrative of primitive man avant la lettre. The


Anthropocene Beginnings  19 painting is a sketch for the first of four paintings of a series of allegories on eras of European cultural history –​a series of paintings that burned together with the king’s castle, Christiansborg, in 1794. Abildgaard started working on the subject in 1784, and the finished painting was placed in Potentatgemakket, an important room in the king’s castle used by both Danish and international guests.24 Abildgaard depicts Europa as a nude with a cudgel in a dark, rocky forest. She is seated in front of a dolmen that is placed on a mound in a ring of stones. He depicts her in opposition to classical ideals, as the author and critic Christen Henriksen Pram observed in 1791. Pram describes how Abildgaard (in the now lost painting) emphasizes the savageness of this early era by depicting blood on the cudgel, giving the woman muscular arms and long nails on her fingers and toes, and depicting her partly covered in the skin of an animal. He points to her placement in “an untamed rocky wilderness” and points to the cudgel as an “emblem of the uncertainty in which men lived in this age of coarseness! This is expressed in every brushstroke in the painting! Is the sight of a wild beast needed to recall wildness, uncertainty, and loneliness of this state!”25 Nicolai Abildgaard may have gathered information about this early and very wild era from one of the most important scholars of early Danish history at that time, the theologian Erik Pontoppidan, who wrote the first two volumes of The Danish Atlas (Den Danske Atlas) (1763–​1781) for which Abildgaard created a few vignettes.26 Pontoppidan wrote on early Danish history in the first volume of the Atlas and outlined the (at that time) common notion of the origin of the Danes. The basics of this account, which was in accordance with the chronology of the Bible, were first revised in the 1830s.27 Pontoppidan believed Denmark was inhabited not long after the Deluge by two groups of Gomer’s descendants. One group settled in Cimbria, the peninsula of Jutland, while another, the related Teutons, settled on the Danish islands. Pontoppidan describes them as “unpolished.” They used primitive flint weapons and owned cattle but had no knowledge of agriculture. Around 150 years before Christ, these tribes emigrated because a flood reduced the size of their landholdings. They travelled south and, three times, won battles against the Romans. After losing the fourth, they returned in a weakened form to their fatherland.28 Abildgaard’s ‘savage’ woman shares features with this description of the country’s first unpolished inhabitants with their primitive weapons, but does not resemble the Atlas’s depiction of the Cimbrians, who are shown at a much more developed stage.29 In regard to images, however, Abildgaard may have looked at another page in the Atlas, namely, the king’s coat of arms, which was used in a vignette on one of its maps. There is an interesting resemblance between the nude with the cudgel and the wild men with cudgels depicted here [see Figure 1.1]. The cudgel is of the same type and length as in Abildgaard’s painting, and the men are as muscular as Abildgaard’s woman. Danish kings used images of wild men in their coats of arms and seals as early as 1448, and they are still part of the royal coat of arms today. The wild men gradually turned into depictions of muscular ‘wild’ men but were originally a pre-​Christian mythological creature. Only with the rise of an interest in savages and deep human history are they given new meaning.30 In Abildgaard’s image, the wild man becomes female in the form of the mythic figure of Europa. The landscape in which the savage woman is placed fits with Pontoppidan’s description of the early Danish and Scandinavian landscape. She is resting in a dark, rocky forest, where a stream and roots of old trees allegorically point to the idea of


20 Gry Hedin

Figure 1.1 Wild men with Cudgels on the Map of Denmark in Pontpoppidan’s The Danish Atlas (Den Danske Atlas), vol. 1. Det kongelige Bibliotek.

an era at its first beginning. The landscape is ‘wild’ in the sense of being untouched by the smothering slow-​working forces of nature or human deforestation or farming.31 The dense forest with rocks accords with her nakedness and points to the idea that she lives an uneasy life, close to nature, where nature is not humanized and the human is not civilized. The landscape depicted is very different from the typical Danish landscape depicted in Pontoppidan’s atlas or in paintings by Abildgaard’s colleague at the Art Academy, Jens Juel. Here, the landscape is cultivated in fields and inhabited by farmers or hunters, and uncultivated areas are left to the narrow foreground [see Figure 1.2 and 1.3]. The dolmen behind the nude, however, disturbs this image of a distant era. According to Pontoppidan and the dominant view of the time, dolmens did not belong to the country’s first ‘unpolished’ inhabitants but to a more developed people who, around 60 BC , settled among these early inhabitants to rule them. According to Pontoppidan, these people came from the east led by Othin and settled in Saxony, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. They were well dressed and brought with them a written language of runic letters, knowledge of the use of metals, and some agriculture.32 Pontoppidan described dolmens as altars built by these people to worship gods such as Thor and Odin (derived from Othin):33 The church or place of assembly was a grove, a small forest, and here an altar of roughly-​cut stones, a large and flat-​like [stone], resting on three somewhat smaller, as we still find them on almost all big fields, though they in other countries are regarded as rarities, namely, the many heathen altars, or sacrificial mounds, as well as burial mounds, surrounded by one or more rows of boulders, which served as seats.34


Anthropocene Beginnings  21

Figure 1.2 Topographical Illustration of Vordingborg in Pontoppidan’s The Danish Atlas (Den Danske Atlas), vol. 3. Det kongelige Bibliotek.

Pontoppidan’s description of dolmens is characteristic of the way dolmens were perceived up until the late 1830s.35 The father of Nicolai Abildgaard, Søren Abildgaard, is credited as the first person to carry out a systematic antiquarian survey of Denmark between 1756 and 1777. On a sketch of the now-​lost dolmen at Hømb Mark, he describes the dolmen as “this altar from heathen times,” and the sketch certainly emphasizes the table-​like formation of dolmens [see Figure 1.4].36 Nicolai Abildgaard’s placement of the dolmen behind a savage woman is also strange in the context of the three other paintings of eras of Europe’s cultural history. The next image in the series focuses on the sovereignty of Rome and presents a more civilized woman to the left of another stone monument, a colosseum. This places the first European era in a time prior to the Roman Empire, although dolmens were believed to be younger than the Roman monuments. Abildgaard’s combination of a dolmen and a savage, muscular woman with long nails and a primitive wooden tool is, thus, puzzling, although this combination is in accordance with our knowledge today, after Thomsen argued that dolmens belonged to the Stone Age. Thomsen presented the idea that the first inhabitants of Denmark resembled savages in his 1836 Guide to Northern Antiquity (Ledetraade til Nordisk Oldkyndighed). Here, he used knowledge about the life and tools of what he termed “savages” to understand Denmark’s first inhabitants, who he believed left behind only “speechless objects,” objects unaccompanied by written sources.37 Among these speechless objects were dolmens, and


22 Gry Hedin

Figure 1.3 Jens Juel, View from Sørup towards Fredensborg Slot, 1782. Oil on canvas, 60.6 x 77.5 cm. Fuglsang Kunstmuseum. Photo: Ole Akhøj.

this was seminal because antiquarians and classical archaeologists before him had explained dolmens with reference to written records and/​or oral traditions. Thomsen judged the lives of these early, ‘savage’ inhabitants primarily from stone remains and, thus, labeled this age ‘the Stone Age’, which he acknowledged to be a period of history for which no written records were available, a remote human past beyond all reach of history.38 The dolmen’s inclusion in the first image is puzzling in relation to the knowledge available to Abildgaard and may best be explained as part of an allegorical representation. The painting was not done as a narrative, true to the scientific knowledge of the age. Rather, Europa is presented as an allegorical figure reminiscent of what the primordial Dane was believed to look like. Possibly, Abildgaard imagined a connection between the ‘savageness’ of the first inhabitants and the coarse, brutal life and religion of the worshippers of the Nordic gods –​a mythology in which gods were connected to forces in nature such as thunder. This painting by an important professor at the Art Academy hung for some years in the king’s castle, and the sketch, which survived the fire, was included in the Danish National Gallery. It may have affected future artists and scholars, and it is possible that Abildgaard’s visualization of early Danish history had an impact on Thomsen, who had close connections to several artists.


Figure 1.4 Søren Abildgaard, Heathen Altar at Hømb Mark, Nationalmuseet.


24 Gry Hedin This image from the same year as the invention of the steam machine and one proposed starting point of the Anthropocene is, thus, peculiar in terms of its proposed relationship between man and nature. Abildgaard depicts a starting point in which nature is humanized only to a very limited extent and human beings are savage and embedded in nature. It is an alluring and daring thought that this very painting helped raise questions and visualize the shortcomings of the theory that man was a developed and civilized individual, placed (by God) in nature rather than a species that gradually developed. Certainly, with his depiction of the dolmen on a mound and under trees, Abildgaard established a scheme that was to have an effect for many years to come in art.

Dolmens in Legends of Untouched Nature and Beautiful Man The next two artists to depict dolmens connect them with worshipers of the Nordic gods. In 1813, Johan Ludvig Lund depicted a dolmen on a hilltop against the background of “Habor’s Return from Battle, and His Reception at King Sigar’s Court” (Habors Tilbagekomst fra Slaget, og hans Modtagelse ved Kong Sigars Hof) [see Plate 2]; and, in 1814, Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein Stub included a dolmen on a mound in “Hoder Disguised as a Harp Player Enters the Cave of Three Valkyries and Receives a Strengthening Magic Potion” (Hother kommer forklædt som Harpenslager til de tre Valkyrier i deres Grotte og modtager af dem en styrkende Troldomsdrik) [see Plate 3].39 Both artists depicted Nordic themes at the request of the Art Academy, and their paintings qualified them as members of the Academy. The paintings take their subjects from literary elaborations on Deeds of the Danes (Gesta Danorum), a patriotic work of Danish history by the twelfth-​century author Saxo Grammaticus. The academy’s choice of scenes from early Danish history or Nordic mythology was inspired by a tendency in late eighteenth-​century literature in which authors such as Pram, Peter Frederik Suhm, and Johannes Ewald had taken Saxo as their point of departure. Historical themes were taken up by the poet Adam Oehlenschläger and the poet and clergyman Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig around 1800. The entry of Denmark into the Napoleonic Wars reinforced this preference for subjects from Danish history as a way to define the ‘nation’40, as did the need for decoration in the rebuilding of Christiansborg Castle after the 1794 fire.41 The efforts to preserve monuments  –​as reflected in the appointment of the aforementioned Royal Commission for the Preservation of Antiquities in 1807  –​was also part of this need to define the nation through communicating its history. This Commission aimed at protecting ancient monuments deemed to be of national significance. The Secretary of the Commission, Rasmus Nyerup, established a collection of Nordic antiquities in the attic of the Trinitatis Church in central Copenhagen. Stub depicts a scene from Book Three of Gesta Danorum in which the prince, Hoder, has fallen in love with his stepsister Nanna. Nanna is also the object of affection of the demigod, Balder, and a struggle between humans and gods begins. The poet Johannes Ewald wrote a lyric drama, “The Death of Balder” (“Balders Død”) (1775), inspired by Saxo’s text, and Stub takes his point of departure from Ewald’s detailed scene of Hoder’s meeting with three Valkyries [see Plate 3].42 What is of concern to me here is the presence of a dolmen outside the Valkyries’ cave. As in Abildgaard’s painting, the dolmen is a structure of a large horizontal capstone resting on smaller boulders with a surrounding ring of raised stones set on a mound with trees. Stub,


Anthropocene Beginnings  25 thus, links the dolmen to an early time when Nordic gods interacted with humans, and he presents his vision of what the humans and the landscape looked like at this early time. The landscape is given only little space, but it is depicted with little or no human influence as a sunlit, open forest with exposed boulders and a small stream. The dolmen appears to represent minimal humanization of nature with an emphasis on harmony between human and nature. The three Valkyries and Hoder are beautiful and well-​proportioned. Their clothes are of finely woven fabrics with pure colors, and the animal skin covering Hoder’s metal armor is the only exception. Thus –​in contrast to Abildgaard’s depiction of Europa –​Stub depicts civilized men and woman placed in a friendly nature rather than being part of a rough nature. Nature in his painting is both untouched and beautiful, presenting another view of the relationship between human and nature than Abildgaard’s. Lund’s painting shows a similar placement of civilized man in a nature ‘tamed’ only to a certain extent [see Plate 2]. We have moved to Book Seven of Saxo’s Gesta Danorum in which Princess Signe greets Prince Habor, the start of a love affair that ends tragically because of their two feuding families. The historian Peter Friedrich Suhm wrote a novel based freely on Saxo’s description of the event, and Lund takes as his point of departure Suhm’s text.43 Like Stub, Lund combines figures of classical beauty, a wooded landscape influenced only to a certain extent by human beings, and the presence of a dolmen on a hilltop. Here, too, the dolmen is depicted among trees and with a surrounding ring of raised stones, although it is much larger than the dolmens in Abildgaard’s and Stub’s paintings. The landscape consists of an open area leading to a natural harbor. There are a few protruding boulders and a scattering of trees, but otherwise the landscape is a dense forest. Humans have evidently cleared certain areas while leaving others alone. They have also created a stone monument on a special place, a small hilltop overlooking the water. A trail leading to the dolmen and the bare area inside the ring of raised stones make evident that the stone monument is used for gatherings. It might even contain the temple of Freya, which plays an important part in Suhm’s version of the love story and was the subject of a painting by Christian Fædder Høyer, exhibited the same year.44 At least ten small figures with raised arms are gathered in front of it to greet the incoming ships. In these paintings, Lund and Stub use dolmens to communicate how man from ancient time has been present on the soil inhabited by present-​day Danes. As in Abildgaard’s image, the dolmens have a geographical function: they place the events depicted in Denmark and relate them to early inhabitants of the country. Although the people depicted were not believed to be the country’s original inhabitants, the depiction of the background landscape is interesting as a visualization of what the Danish landscape was supposed to have looked like in a state of limited human influence. According to the accounts of travelling antiquarians and as evident in scholarship of the history of land use, woodland was becoming increasingly rare thanks to many years of deforestation.45 The landscape elements in the two paintings are, thus, visualizations of what the original landscape setting of the dolmens may have looked like. The landscapes behind these two historical and mythic scenes are markedly different from the depiction of the Danish agricultural landscape in paintings at this time by, for example, Jens Juel [see Figure 1.3] and Jens Peter Møller [See Plate 4]. Lund and Stub present dolmens as part of an ‘original’ setting informed –​possibly–​by Pontoppidan’s descriptions of the way different types of woods over time had covered Denmark.46 They visualize the ancient setting of the dolmens, and the paintings provide the viewer


26 Gry Hedin with the lost context of the dolmens. Lund and Stub, thus, create another context than the writers of poetry and history. Through their paintings, they make it possible for the viewer to connect the agricultural landscape of 1810s to historic and mythic events of early Danish history. They point to a connection between the present inhabitants and early inhabitants of the landscape and highlight the feature of dolmens that antiquarians were keen on preserving. Moreover, in contrast to Abildgaard, they present the inhabitants who built or used the dolmens as a developed people. One of the messages of the paintings is that the dolmens have endured even though the landscape had changed radically and that, although humans had evolved with regard to technology and culture, their appearance and virtues had not. Their faces express beauty in the same way as contemporary portraits, and the love story behind both scenes expresses universal virtues. There is no savageness or coarseness in their faces or bodies as in the muscular nude of Abildgaard, nor is there any crudeness with respect to emotions. This beauty of man is reflected in the beauty of an untamed nature of fertile, green forests with open spaces. The choice of Nordic rather than Greek mythology was deliberate by the Art Academy, and it involved treating the Nordic past as ideal and full of virtues, just as the Greek was. This approach was debated from the start because it was acknowledged that the written sources contained descriptions of crude actions such as the sacrifice of both humans and animals.47 The cruelty of this religion and the question of idolatry presented a potential problem in terms of bringing Nordic mythology to life, which –​as we shall see –​became evident by 1814 among the leading poets who had worked with Nordic material. However, it is not a problem that surfaces in Lund’s and Stub’s paintings. By focusing on stories of love and fidelity, the two painters followed elaborations by Suhm and Ewald on the stories, which are about universal notions of love rather than particular religious beliefs or rituals. In Lund’s painting, the dolmen has a function in this regard since it points to an important event in the story, which takes place at the altar of Freya, the goddess of love in Suhm’s novel. Here, Signe pledges that she will only marry a warrior braver than her two brothers.48 In their interpretation of life in ancient times, the two artists are consistent with Adam Oehlenschläger, who from 1802 used dolmens, burial mounds and archaeological objects in creating a specific Nordic Romanticism, focusing on the connection between man and nature. Oehlenschläger acknowledged that the ancient religion was horrible in some respects, but he found that it contained a utopian element that contrasted with the spiritual enervation of modern life.49 He claimed that the souls of the old Norsemen were stronger, freer, and nobler and that their poetic tradition, therefore, embodied “the sparkling flame of simple and noble Nature, the fiery imagination, and glorious spirit, now destroyed by hucksterism and drowsy mists of worldly contrivance.”50 In this context, Oehlensläger is interesting because depictions of man and nature by Stub and Lund accord with his vision of a simple, noble, and unspoiled nature and noble, free human beings. There were also objections and expressions of caution, emphasizing other views of antiquity –​not as ideal beauty but as rough and barbaric. In 1806, the poet and pastor Niels Frederik Severin Grundtvig adopted a positive view of Norse mythology, which for him presented archetypes of deep, transpersonal insight; but, in 1810, he returned to mainstream Christianity. To avoid courting heterodoxy, he began to bowdlerize poems celebrating antiquity, assuring the reader that he never outwardly nor inwardly bowed to those abhorrent idols. Oehlenschläger similarly bowdlerized earlier poems


Anthropocene Beginnings  27 in this regard in 1823–​1824.51 At that time, the debate over Nordic mythology was also taking place in art. In 1812, a professor of theology, Jens Møller, argued that beautiful and patriotic art should help revive an interest in early Danish history. He encouraged painters to take their subjects from Nordic rather than Greek mythology and noted that literature had paved the way for art in that poets such as Pram, Ewald and Oehlenschläger –​and the sculptor Wiedewelt –​had provided knowledge of their early history to the people. He acknowledged a certain crudeness in ancient times but explained that, for him, beauty and pictorial poetry were more important than historical accuracy.52 In 1814, the Art Academy introduced classes in Nordic mythology; and, in 1819, the Icelandic runologist Finn Magnussen was asked to lecture on this topic for artists.53 The call for artists to take up themes from early Nordic history and mythology, however, was also debated. In 1820, a professor and secretary at the Art Academy, Torkel Baden, questioned the origin of the legends and their beauty and ideals, objecting to the roughness of the Nordic gods and the deeds of the Vikings. He argued that art is about beauty and that it is better to find ideals in Greek mythology –​a pillar for the whole cultured world –​than in a mythology of barbarians.54 He also called for caution when dealing with early written sources since even Saxo, he believed, was flawed by his patriotism. Dolmens were, thus, questioned as symbols of a noble and unspoiled human-​nature relationship. As skepticism increased about such Nordic themes, dolmens might have disappeared from Danish art together with the Nordic gods.55 In the meantime, however, dolmens –​as we shall see –​had also surfaced in landscape paintings and kept their place here when subjects from Nordic mythology became rarer. To sum up, artists interpreted legends of the country’s early inhabitants and depicted dolmens as part of a setting in which people with developed dress codes and tools appear against a background of a nature that is –​only to a limited extent –​humanized. The debate around the artists’ images, however, pointed to the shortcomings of this particular view of the nature-​culture divide in early times: how could such beautiful and virtuous people survive in nature without cultivating it, and why was there this crude difference between the rough character of the stone monuments and their presumed use for sacrifices and the elaborate skills that the depicted human figures seemed to possess with respect to weapons and costume?

Dolmens in Dramatic, Contemporary Landscapes In 1815, before Baden’s critique and only shortly after Stub’s painting, a dolmen entered the genre of landscape painting in a work by Jens Peter Møller; and, the following year, Johan Christian Dahl depicted a dolmen and mentioned it in the title when it was exhibited at the Charlottenborg Exhibition. The genre of landscape painting rose in prestige during the first decades of the nineteenth century, and Møller’s painting was the first landscape painting to make an artist a member of the Art Academy.56 In 1815, Møller’s painting was exhibited as “Membership Piece. Møn and the Town of Stege Seen in the Background of the Church of Kalvehave. Recorded Close to Langebæk near Vordingborg” (“Receptionsstykke. Man seer Möen i Baggrunden med Kiöbstaden Stege; videre frem Kallehauge Kirke. Optaget i Nærheden af Langebek ved Wordingborg”) [see Plate 4]. Møller depicts a dolmen in the right foreground of the painting and, although its structure appears slightly submerged, it is set on a mound with a few trees and surrounded by a ring of stones as depicted by Abildgaard,


28 Gry Hedin Stub, and Lund. The dolmen is set in the outskirts of a wood, whose trees frame a varied panoramic landscape that contains elements of human settlement over a long time span with farmhouses and, in the distance, a medieval church. Human intervention is present through agriculture in the form of the crops in a field being harvested and two sheep in the right foreground to indicate that the landscape may also be affected by husbandry. In 1816, Dahl presented a painting with a very similar composition: “Moonlight Landscape Showing a Region with a Sacrificial Site at Stensby Mølle near Vordingborg” (“Et Maaneskinstykke, forestillende en Egn med et Offersted ved Steensbye-​Mölle i Nærheden af Vordingborg”) [see Plate 5]. With the term “sacrificial site,” Dahl highlights the dolmen, which has a prominent place in the composition, and depicts the landscape from a position on the mound. Except for this, the two paintings are very similar both in terms of the place depicted (the sites are less than five kilometers apart) and in terms of composition and details. Both artists light the scenery from behind –​ Møller with a setting sun and Dahl with the moon. They use the trees on the mound to frame the scenery, and they present a panoramic view of a coastline. There are also similarities in detail such as black and white sheep present at the monument and a woman with a jar on her head who approaches a lonely farmhouse in both paintings. Most importantly, both paintings show signs of how humans have used and altered the landscape through farming and livestock since ancient times. Thus, both artists paint Anthropocene landscapes with signs of recent alterations as well as vestiges of earlier inhabitants. With the slightly derelict condition of Møller’s dolmen and Dahl’s stone circle and the setting of the monuments in the wild foregrounds as opposed to the more orderly fields behind them, the paintings suggest a complex entanglement between man and nature in which nature is able to turn human constructions back into nature. Dahl was a close friend of Thomsen, and scholars have suggested that Thomsen directed Dahl’s attention towards this particular dolmen, which appears in several of Dahl’s paintings and has been identified as Ørnehøjdyssen.57 The dolmen is located 70 kilometers south of Copenhagen and 20 kilometers south of the country estate of Engelholm, where Dahl stayed during long periods in 1814 and 1816. According to a letter, they went out to see a dolmen when Thomsen visited him during his stay in the summer of 1816.58 At this time, however, the painting had already been exhibited, and Dahl clearly finished it prior to Thomsen’s visit –​possibly, basing it on drawings similar to “Landscape with Remains of a Dolmen.”59 This is important to clarify in an analysis of the transition between art and archaeology because it becomes clear that the relationship between Dahl and Thomsen and the relationship between art and archaeology are more complicated than hitherto presumed. Møller’s painting is rarely discussed in research, but this painting, together with those of Stub and Lund, influenced Dahl in regard to depicting a dolmen, and art may have influenced Thomsen, whose professional work in this field started with his appointment as Secretary of the Royal Commission for the Preservation of Antiquities late in 1816. Rather, two trends outside of archaeology may have affected Thomsen, Møller and Dahl: The tradition discussed above of depicting dolmens in paintings of early Danish history and, as we shall see, a tradition of describing and depicting particular sites in the landscape in science and literature. It is significant that the titles of the two paintings mention the exact places visited by the artists as “close to Langebæk” and “at Stensby Mølle.” For some time,


Anthropocene Beginnings  29 geographers, antiquarians and poets had travelled through the Danish countryside describing its resources, beautiful or peculiar places, towns, and historic monuments. The topographical illustrations in Pontoppidan’s The Danish Atlas (Den Danske Atlas) are among the first images of these sites.60 They depict particular towns with their characteristic buildings and locations, and the view of Vordingborg in Pontoppidan’s atlas is typical in this regard. The town is depicted surrounded by farmed fields, seen from a strip of uncultivated land in the foreground [see Figure 1.2]. As in many of these topographical images, fields are rendered as striped, revealing the lines of plowing, sowing, or harvesting, and work in the fields is visualized through the presence of harvesters, shepherds, and hunters, which complements Pontoppidan’s descriptions of the natural resources of the different areas. This scheme of an uncultivated foreground with attention to agriculture in the middle ground was used in landscape painting from the 1780s [see Figure 1.3]. In accordance with this scheme, Møller and Dahl place dolmens in uncultivated areas in the foreground. In that way, they point toward the historical dimensions of the land, emphasizing how man has shaped nature and is still shaping it. Dolmens were not part of Pontoppidan’s views of towns in their landscape settings, but they drew the attention of scholars at the time because a great number were demolished due to intensified land use, which turned large areas of common grassland into more intensely cultivated areas in the last decades of the eighteenth-​and the first part of the nineteenth-​centuries.61 Møller’s and Dahl’s depictions of dolmens accord with the desire of members of the Royal Commission such as Rasmus Nyerup to preserve or, at least, record them as signs of early Danish history.62 By depicting the dolmen in this way, they make evident the transition between two states of nature: The imagined forestation of the countryside, as depicted by Lund and Stub, and the increasingly intensified cultivation of the landscape. Depicting partially ruined dolmens under trees against a background of cultivated fields, Møller and Dahl show two types of Anthropocene nature: a rough intermingling with nature by Stone Age man with the structures sinking back into nature, and the completely altered scale of humanization by eighteenth-​century farming. By depicting ancient monuments in this way, the two artists emphasize an entangled and complex relationship between man and nature. Their renderings of specific sites in the landscape with attention to such historical features are also related to published accounts of journeys to different parts of Denmark, which often included personal experiences and emotions. These were produced by traveling topographers and antiquarians such as Nyerup’s 1805 Antiquarian Journey on Foot in Funen (Antiqvariske Fodrejse i Fyen) and Christian Molbech’s 1811 Tours of My Youth in My Native Land (Ungdomsvandringer i mit Fødeland). Antiquarians stressed the importance of noting the exact places and specifics of historical and geographical sites in the landscape, but they also used descriptions of the ‘sites’ to appeal to readers on an emotional level.63 Poets also stressed the importance of the original locations of antique finds, emphasizing the historical depths of the site as is evident in Oehlenschläger’s Langeland Journey (Langelandreise) from 1804 and Grundtvig’s 1808 Gunderslev Forest (Gunderslev Skov). This dual aim is also evident in the paintings of Møller and Dahl. They both note the exact places in the titles but render the landscape in a dim light, choosing drama and atmosphere over the more sober and descriptive topographic tradition.64 Dahl in particular chooses to present the dolmen in a dim light and the surrounding trees in silhouette. Moonlight has an effect on the scene, which Dahl describes


30 Gry Hedin with regard to another painting, Lake Esrom by Moonlight from 1814, in a letter to Thomsen from Engelholm. Here, he emphasizes the qualities of calmness, solemnity, and beauty that moonlight gives to the scene in this painting in which the moon and clouds are arranged in a similar way.65 The focus is deliberately on the subjective experience of the landscape and the dolmen rather than communicating information about their specifics. Such an experience is enhanced by the dolmen’s function as a “sacrificial site” in the title, and the combination of sacrificial site and night time may have reminded viewers of Grundtvig’s poem Gunderslev Forest, which was republished in 1815. Here, Grundtvig describes how he is searching for a dolmen at nighttime in Gunderslev Forest, 50 kilometers from Stensby. He imagines how “the sacrifice bled on the holy stone” and when he sees the “mossy stone altar” he throws himself down to praise the sleeping Nordic gods.66 Dahl’s setting of a dolmen under trees, the solemn nighttime atmosphere and, possibly, the presence of sheep associated with animal sacrifice may have evoked this sense. The way Dahl enlivens the ancient function of the site is not far from the history paintings by Stub and Lund, but it is up to the viewer to imagine the events believed to have taken place at dolmens. In their depictions of dolmens, Dahl and Møller use an element from the more prestigious history painting, thereby elevating landscape painting. At the same time, they address the criticism against the depiction of this cruel part of the nation’s history by avoiding depicting the ancients themselves but only their monuments. Instead, in their paintings, the civilized human inhabitants are shown interacting with nature, and there is no gap between the human and the landscape. These human figures are important as stand-​ins for the viewer. The presence of modern humans connected to the landscape was also a feature in literature. For example, Professor Robert Rix compares the two simple country people who discover the golden horns in Oehlenschläger’s poem “The Golden Horns” (“Guldhornene”) to “Rousseauian ‘savages’ ” or “Wordsworthian rustic philosophers,” stressing how “ancient national relics are given meaning in and through the landscape where they are found. They are represented as virtually growing out of the Danish mold.”67 A similar tendency is found in the paintings by Møller and Dahl as they successfully manage to show the long time frame in which human beings interact with nature. This is an important statement with regard to archaeology and Thomsen’s theory. Art in general  –​and, possibly, in particular, Dahl  –​may have helped Thomsen see ancient finds in a new way and stimulated him to question the view presented by antiquarians that dolmens were connected to worshippers of the Nordic gods. Art was important for Thomsen, who collected art as young man and bought his first painting in 1808, building personal relationships with artists. By 1831, he had one of the largest collections of graphic works in the country68 and, from around 1809, he was First Assistant at the Danish National Gallery. From around 1839, he worked as a curator there and played a leading role in buying contemporary art rather than only old masters.69 When Thomsen travelled the Zealand countryside in 1809 and 1810, he was not only interested in archeological locations but visited different historical or cultural sites such as medieval churches and castles, and he mentioned different kinds of work of art and cultural artifacts found there.70 Thus, Thomsen moved from art to archaeology; and, when he met Dahl in 1811, art rather than archaeology was his primary concern. Thomsen was not part of the antiquarian milieu, although he had shown enough interest in the field in 1816 to make Nyerup describe him as having


Anthropocene Beginnings  31 “wide-​ranging knowledge of archaeology.”71 Dahl’s first painting of a dolmen, exhibited in the spring of 1816, coincides with Thomsen’s entry into archaeology with a position in the Royal Commission for the Preservation of Antiquities late in 1816. It is interesting that Møller’s and Dahl’s paintings of dolmens presented Thomsen with a vision of dolmens as indicating an engagement between man and nature in which man is, to some extent, part of nature.

Dilapidated Dolmens from an Early Time The relationship between art and archaeology is complex and entangled, and this becomes evident when we study the relationship between Dahl and Thomsen. It is worth following their engagement with common issues even after Dahl moved to Dresden in 1818.72 In Dresden, Dahl took up the subject of Ørnehøjdyssen in 1824, 1825, and 1829. He painted three paintings of the dolmen, which are very similar, showing the dolmen in snow under old trees. The painting of 1829, however, shows the dolmen in a more dilapidated state.73 This version was commissioned by King Frederic VI of Denmark in 1825 and became part of the collection of the Danish National Gallery after being exhibited at the Charlottenborg Exhibition in 1830 [see Plate 6]. This painting was exhibited under the title “Winter Landscape. In the Foreground, a Disturbed Giant/​Warrior Grave. The Subject Taken from the Vicinity of Vordingborg” (“Vinterlandskab. I  Forgrunden en forstyrret Kæmpegrav. Motivet taget af Vordingborgs Omegn”). The composition is to some extent similar to the 1816 painting. The site is the same, which is evident from the landscape behind the dolmen in which farmhouses, groups of trees, and open fields are arranged in a similar manner and seen from a position on the mound. However, there are also some important differences. The landscape is covered with snow and lit by a setting or rising sun rather than the moon, and the details of the scenery are clearer. The dolmen is less table-​like since the capstone is almost level with the mound, and several of the boulders of the stone circle appear to have been overturned. Its dilapidated state is highlighted in the title. It is called now a “disturbed giant/​warrior grave” rather than “sacrificial site.” In addition, it is now set under old rather than young trees. With the dilapidated state of the dolmen, Dahl is hinting at a longer time span. This extended time span emphasizes the awareness of entanglement of man and nature and the way humanized nature turns back into nature, themes also present in the 1816 painting. Furthermore, Dahl makes a change in terminology in the titles of the paintings from “sacrificial site” (offersted) in 1816 to “giant or warrior grave” (kæmpegrav) in 1829, focusing on its function as a grave rather than a site of sacrifice. This shift is emphasized by the inclusion as a motif of crows rather than sheep since crows as carrion-​eaters are connected with death. This shift needs more elaboration in terms of an analysis of the relationship between Dahl and Thomsen and the theory that Thomsen developed during the 1820s and early 1830s. Already in his letter to Thomsen after their visit to a dolmen in 1816, Dahl uses the term “giant or warrior-​burial” (Kiæmpe-​Begravelse). This may indicate an exchange with Thomsen about the function of the dolmen when they were together at Engelholm in 1816. In his travel notes of 1809, Thomsen questioned the common notion that dolmens were altars and, instead of connecting them to worshippers of the Nordic gods, he placed them farther back in time: “Many excavated burial mounds


32 Gry Hedin and altars of significance and size give me the presumption that most so-​called stone altars are nothing but excavated mounds from earlier times.”74 Although, as the quote makes clear, ‘burial mound’ and ‘altar’ were often used without differentiation, Dahl’s alterations of the subject and title may reflect an awareness that dolmens were not altars but graves of earlier inhabitants. Dahl introduced these changes in the two paintings of 1824 and 1825 and developed them in the 1829 version. These were the exact years during which Thomsen began developing his theory of a ‘savage’ people living a primitive life in nature over thousands of years.75 An early statement in this regard is found in a letter of 1825 to a German colleague in which Thomsen argued that dolmens belonged to the country’s first ‘primitive’ inhabitants. However, it was not before the seminal text of 1836 that Thomsen –​and, even then, with caution –​ added to the time scale, gently expanding the scale of Biblical time, which was then believed to be only around 6,000 years.76 That Dahl lived and worked in Dresden at this time does not make his interaction with archaeology less complex, because his view on antiquity may have been influenced by Caspar David Friedrich and, through him, German archaeology. Friedrich may have introduced Dahl to German archaeology and his own work on the theme such as “Dolmen in Snow” (1807). Although Dahl’s and Friedrich’s paintings share features such as the old trees and snow, Dahl’s paintings of Ørnehøjdyssen are different in their focus on the human-​nature entanglement and, in this regard, resemble the 1816 paintings. Therefore, the differences in regard to the dilapidated state of the dolmen makes it different from the often table-​like dolmens by Friedrich, indicating that Thomsen rather than German archaeology was influential. Dahl’s achievement in relation to the findings of one of the pioneers of archaeology may not appear seminal; but, compared with other renderings of early events in Danish history and discussions of this issue among leading scholars, it stands out. Dahl’s shift in terminology and his focus on the antiquity of the monuments stand out vis-​à-​vis the prevailing view –​at least, until 1836 –​of dolmens as monuments related to worshipers of Odin as described in written sources. That this notion prevailed in part of the art world is visible in two paintings by Lund, “Nordic Sacrifice Scene from the Age of Odin” (“Nordisk Offerscene fra den Odinske Periode”) of 1831 and his “The Last Bard” (“Den sidste skjald”) of 1837 [see Figure 1.5]. In the first painting, a figure resembling a Druid priest, dressed in white, worships a statue of Thor placed on a dolmen-​like structure; whereas, in the other, a bard rests on a boulder of the stone circle in front of a dolmen. In both paintings, dolmens are connected to a time of worship of the Nordic gods described in early written sources. Two texts by leading figures in art and science confirm the prevalence of this view of early Danish history: Hans Christian Ørsted’s “Danishness” (“Danskhed”) from 1836 and Niels Lauritz Høyen’s speech “The Conditions for the Development of a National Scandinavian Art” (“Betingelserne for en skandinavisk Nationalkunsts Udvikling”) from 1844.77 Ørsted describes the country’s first inhabitants as a people renowned for their bravery and achievements as warriors. They chose to settle in a mild and friendly environment and, over centuries, developed the same characteristics as the landscape. He finds that mildness and friendliness also characterize Danes and their landscape today and argues that the focus should be on these trends rather than on the early inhabitants’ feats as warriors. Explaining this connection between man and soil, Ørsted refers to written sources and a time scale of hundreds of years rather than thousands. He appears unaware of the thesis that Thomsen published the same year


Anthropocene Beginnings  33

Figure 1.5 Johan Ludvig Lund, The Last Bard, 1837. Oil on canvas, 97 x 76 cm. Statens Museum for Kunst.

Ørsted gave his speech, in which he could have found good arguments for a people living close to nature over a longer time span. The same shortcomings apply to Høyen, who gave his speech in 1844, eight years after Thomsen’s book. He also bases his account of the country’s first inhabitants on written sources and fails to mention an earlier people living close to the exact nature he describes as particularly “Danish.” Thus, in 1829, when Dahl introduces a new conceptualization of dolmens as dilapidated graves, he presents something new, showing dolmens as unstable structures of a very early origin and, thus, in line with Thomsen’s attention to an extended, deep time scale and questioning of the human-​nature divide.

Entanglement of the Human with Nature This chapter follows the subject of dolmens across art and archaeology and analyzes how writers and artists explore the entanglement of human and nature in their


34 Gry Hedin descriptions and depictions of dolmens. Although there were varying conceptions of the age and function of dolmens, they were acknowledged to be among the first signs of human intervention on Danish soil. They were seen not only as markers of early humanization of the landscape but also as signaling the rough and uncivilized character of the country’s early inhabitants. However, the hieroglyphic quality of the monuments was acknowledged very early. As revealed by the fussiness of the nomenclature, imagination was from the start a necessary and challenging companion when interpreting the humanization of the landscape in remote time. As shown, complete consensus was not reached even after Thomsen’s seminal book of 1836. Depictions of dolmens, however, slowly changed from table-​like structures located in groves –​as described by Pontoppidan  –​to structures shown in more desolate settings overlooking the landscape; and, often, ancient remains were depicted in a dilapidated state as mossy ruins. The tradition Dahl established was followed, among others, by Johan Thomas Lundbye and Peter Christian Skovgaard. Texts and paintings of dolmens, however, also raise the question of nature’s impact on the human, and many present humans as part of rather than placed in nature. Thus, the human and nature appear to be entangled in different degrees as the Anthropocene thesis suggests. Modern thinkers and scientists point to the severe consequences of such an entanglement. Nineteenth-​century artists and scientists did not debate such consequences, but they clearly discussed what is now termed the Anthropocene notion of entanglement of the human and nature. This notion of entanglement appears at the same time that industrialization sets in, and a new awareness of an extended, deep timescale and slow development with the rise of archaeology as a discipline is, thus, connected to industrialization. The two proposed starting points of the Anthropocene are connected as the attention of artists and scholars to early human intervention in nature was spurred by the rapid changes to the landscape caused by the industrialization of agriculture. The interaction of art and archaeology in this regard presents an interesting case of the interplay of art and science. At times, it appears that art proposes the most daring thesis about the dolmen and, at other times, archeology takes the lead. It is evident that art not only contributed to the dissemination of early nineteenth-​century theories of the interaction between humans and nature over time but also, at times, had an impact on these theories. While some art works functioned as trials of successful and less successful theories, others anticipated theoretical developments avant la lettre and show the relationship between art and science to be more complicated than often presumed. As Tobias Boes and Kate Marshal argue when discussing the role of humanities in the Anthropocene, it is the task of humanistic approaches to find novel modes of articulation of the human as a species-​being. This is necessary because human self-​knowledge is increasingly difficult, and human beings can no longer simply be defined as acting upon the natural world but must also be described as being acted upon at an ontological and existential level. Here, art may present early inquiries into the two-​way shaping of man and nature and may help science define the questions to ask.78 Analyzing depictions of dolmens in paintings and relating them to theories of the early human impact on landscapes provide a special framework for such investigations. Dolmens create special places within the landscape, and the shifting interpretation of the monuments point to the shifting interpretations of the human-​nature relationship.


Anthropocene Beginnings  35

Notes 1 Peter Rowley-​Conwy, From Genesis to Prehistory: The Archaeological Three Age System and Its Contested Reception in Denmark, Britain, and Ireland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 65. Thomsen’s “three-​age system” was not without precursors as has long been recognized (Jørn Street-​Jensen, “Thomsen og tredelingen  –​endnu en gang,” in Christian Jürgensen Thomsen: 1788 –​29. december –​1988, ed. Ulla Lund (Copenhagen: Det Kongelige Nordiske Oldskriftselskab, 1988), 22), but Thomsen is given the credit for demonstrating its applicability with actual archeological artifacts (Jørgen Jensen, “Christian Jürgensen Thomsen og treperiodesystemet,” in Christian Jürgensen Thomsen: 1788 –​29. december –​ 1988, ed. Ulla Lund (Copenhagen:  Det Kongelige Nordiske Oldskriftselskab, 1988), 15. Thanks to Carlsbergfondet for financing my research on this topic and to the Faaborg Museum for facilitating it. All translations are the author’s unless otherwise indicated. 2 Jeff Sanders, “Sacral Landscapes:  Narratives of the Megalith in North Western Europe” (Unpublished PhD diss., University of Edinburgh, 2006, 45.) Accessible online from the Edinburgh Research Archive:​handle/​1842/​2671. Accessed July 20, 2017; Sam Smiles, The Image of Antiquity: Ancient Britain and the Romantic Imagination (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994), 2–​3. 3 Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-​Baptiste Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene. The Earth, History and Us (London & New York: Verso, 2016), 20. 4 Dolmens are still common elements in the Danish landscape, but their numbers have been drastically reduced. Scholars in the eighteenth century recorded their presence in almost every field, and their impact in the landscape, thus, appeared much larger. Erik Pontoppidan, Den Danske Atlas, vol. 1  (Copenhagen:  Kongl. Universitets Bogtrykker Andreas Hartvig Godiche, 1763), 78–​79. 5 Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stroemer, “The Anthropocene,” Global Change Newsletter, 41:1 (2000): 17–​18. Timothy Morton, Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), 8. 6 The argument that, even in ancient times, humans altered nature severely was put forward by the French geologist Buffon in 1778 and, more recently, by American paleoclimatologist William Ruddiman (Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-​Baptiste Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene, 14; William F.  Ruddiman, “The Anthropogenic Greenhouse Era Began Thousands of Years Ago,” Climatic Change 61 (December 2003): 261–​293). Two other tipping points or starting points for the Anthropocene have been proposed:  The European conquest of America and the radionuclides emitted into the atmosphere in 1945 (Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-​Baptiste Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene, 15–​16). 7 My position here is consistent here with Timothy Morton’s argument that the early invention of agriculture and later industrialization are both important not only with regard to any discussion of beginnings but also as part of an understanding of nested loops. Morton, Dark Ecology, 8, 42, 59. 8 For example, by Saxo as described in Vivian Etting and Ingrid Nielsen, “Fædrenes høje,” in Bevar din arv, ed. Ingrid Nielsen (Copenhagen and Hørsholm: GEC Gad and Skov-​og Naturstyrelsen, 1987), 29. 9 Daniel Glyn, A Hundred and Fifty Years of Archaeology (London: Duckworth, 1975), 28; Rowley-​Conwy, From Genesis to Prehistory, 42–​44. 10 Jensen, “Christian Jürgensen Thomsen og treperiodesystemet,” 16. 11 Jørgen Jensen, Thomsens Museum: Historien om Nationalmuseet (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1992), 47–​48. 12 “The mute monuments … let us ascend to the indigenous peoples of the North, let us live the lives of our fathers again, walk and move between them” (“de stumme Mindesmærker … lade os stige op til vort Nordens Urfolk, de lade os leve Fædrenes Liv igjen, vandre og færdes mellem dem”) Christian Jürgensen Thomsen, “Kortfattet Udsigt over Mindesmærker


36 Gry Hedin og Oldsager fra Nordens Fortid,” Ledetraad til Nordisk Oldkyndighed (Copenhagen: Det kongelige Nordiske Oldskriftsselskab, 1836), 28. 13 Gry Hedin, “Image Construction. A  Singular Point of View,” in Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, ed. Cecilie Høgsbro Østergaard (Munich: Prestel Publishing, 2015), 163. 14 Bruno Latour, “Telling Friends from Foes in the Time of the Anthropocene,” in The Anthropocene and the Global Environment Crisis –​Rethinking Modernity in a New Epoch, eds. Clive Hamilton, Christophe Bonneuil and François Gemenne (London:  Routledge, 2015), 145–146. 15 Alan Mikail, “Enlightenment Anthropocene,” Eighteenth-​Century Studies 49:2 (2016): 211–231. 16 Robert W. Rix, “ ‘In Darkness They Grope’: Ancient Remains and Romanticism in Denmark,” European Romantic Review 26 (2015): 441. 17 Gabriele Dürbeck, Caroline Schaumann and Heather I. Sullivan, “Human and Non-​human Agencies in the Anthropocene,” Ecozon@, 6 (2015): 118–​136. 18 I have touched upon the interaction of art, geology, and archaeology. Gry Hedin, “Hieroglyphical Boulders: Johan Thomas Lundbye as Mediator between Art and Science,” European Romantic Review, 26:4 (2015); Gry Hedin, “Seeing the History of the Earth in the Cliffs at Møn. The Interaction between Landscape Painting and Geology in Denmark in the First Half of the 19th Century,” Romantik. Journal for the Study of Romanticisms, Aarhus Universitetsforlag, vol. 2 (2013). 19 In art history, the focus has been on landscape painting as part of nationalism, which is another important context for art at this time, as demonstrated by Monrad, Grand, Oelsner and others (Kasper Monrad, Dansk guldalder:  Lyset, landskabet og hverdagslivet (Copenhagen, Gyldendal, 2013); Karina Lykke Grand, “The Vision for Denmark: A Political Landscape Painting,” in Gold: Treasures from the Danish Golden Age, eds. Karina Lykke Grand et al. (Aarhus: Systime, 2013), 94–​123; Gertrud Oelsner, “En fælles forestillet nation:  Dansk landskabsmaleri 1807–​1875” (PhD diss., Aarhus Universitet, 2016). With respect to archaeology, scholars such as Peter Rowley-​Conwy discuss Thomsen in a broader Danish and British context. Jørgen Jensen also provides important insights on the background of the development of Thomsen’s thesis, including his relationship to the art world. From a broader perspective, Jeff Sanders discusses how paintings by Caspar David Friedrich show the relativity and culturally grounded norms of archaeology (Rowley-​Conwy, From Genesis to Prehistory; Jensen, Thomsens Museum; Sanders, “Sacral Landscapes”). 20 To the literature already mentioned, the following, which have a similar national focus, may be added: Bevar din arv, ed. Ingrid Nielsen (Copenhagen and Hørsholm: GEC Gad and Skov-​og Naturstyrelsen, 1987) and Christian Jürgensen Thomsen: 1788–​29. december –​ 1988, ed. Ulla Lund (Copenhagen: Det Kongelige Nordiske Oldskriftselskab, 1988), Rasmus Glenthøj, På fædrelandets alter: National identitet og patriotisme hos det danske borgerskal 1807–​1814 (Copenhagen, Museum Tusculanum Press, 2008). 21 Scholars such as Robert Rix and Flemming Lundgren-​Nielsen have looked at this in more detail and specify the relationship between poetry and archeology (Robert W.  Rix, “ ‘In Darkness They Grope’: Ancient Remains and Romanticism in Denmark,” European Romantic Review, 26 (2015); Flemming Lundgreen-​Nielsen, “ ‘I som raver i blinde’. Arkæologer og antikvarer set af danske romantiske digtere 1802–​20,” in Oldsagskommissionens tidlige år forudsætninger og internationale forbindelser, eds. Poul Otto Nielsen and Ulla Lund Hansen (Copenhagen: Det kongelige Nordiske Oldskriftselskab, 2010). 22 Sanders, “Sacral Landscapes”; Smiles, The Image of Antiquity; Maura Coughlin, “Place Myths of the Breton Landscape,” in Impressionist France Visions of Nation from Le Gray to Monet, eds. Simon Kelly and April M.  Watson (St. Louis, Missouri:  Saint Louis Art Museum, 2013); Maura Coughlin, “Celtic Cultural Politics: Monuments and Mortality in Nineteenth-​Century Brittany,” in Mysticism, Myth and Celtic Identity, eds. Marion Gibson et al. (London: Routledge, 2013).


Anthropocene Beginnings  37 23 The first four terms were used by the Royal Commission for the Preservation of Antiquities in 1807. The term “sacrifice” (offer) used by, among others, the artist Johan Christian Dahl reflects the presumed practice connected to altars. The Danish term ‘kæmpe’ may refer either to ‘warrior’ or ‘giant,’ which is clear from the often ambiguous use of the term in responses to the 1807 survey (Danske præsters indberetninger til Oldsagskommissionen af 1807 (eds. Christian Adamsen and Vivi Jensen (Højbjerg: Wormianum: 1995), vol. 1, 39, 280; vol. 4, 17, 19, 144). The use of ‘kæmpe’ as ‘giant’ carries into the nineteenth century rejected theories of giants having built the monuments, a belief communicated by Saxo (Etting & Nielsen, “Fædrenes høje,” 29). The terms relating to giants survived long after belief in them was dismissed. Søren Abildgaard, the father of Nicolai Abildgaard, reflects this when he comments on bones found in the dolmen as being “not larger than usual” in his 1771 notebook (no. 9) (Palle Eriksen and Niels H. Andersen, Stendysser: Arkitektur og Funktion (Aarhus:  Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 2015), 40). The term “thingsteads” (tingsteder) reflects the notion that the monuments belonged to a people with a concept of jurisdiction that, in some degrees, resembles current ones. 24 Abildgaard received a commission for four paintings of the eras in European cultural history in March 1784 (Charlotte Christensen, Maleren Nicolai Abildgaard (Copenhagen, Gyldendal, 1999), 136). The sketch was acquired by the Danish National Gallery in 1849. 25 “[E]‌n vild klippefuld Ørk (…) Emblem paa den Usikkerhed, i hvilken Menneskene levede i denne Raahedens Alder! Hvor udtrykkes denne umiskieneligen ved hvert Penselstrøg paa Tavlen! Behøvedes der maaske Synet af et Rovdyr med for endnu kraftigere at minde om Vildheden, Usikkerheden, Uselskabeligheden i denne Tilstand!” Christen Henriksen Pram, “Europas Historie forestillet i Malerier af Hr. Justiceraad og Professor Abildgaard,” Minerva, July (1791), 113. Available at: https://​​cgi/​pt?id=ien.3555600 0942391;view=1up;seq=7. Accessed July 20, 2017. 26 Erik Pontoppidan, Den Danske Atlas, vol. 4 (Copenhagen: Kongl. Universitets Bogtrykker Andreas Hartvig Godiche, 1768). 27 Rowley-​Conwy, From Genesis to Prehistory, 22–​32, 44. 28 Pontoppidan, Den Dansk Atlas, vol. 1, 21, 30–​31, 36. 29 Erik Pontoppidan, Den Danske Atlas, vol. 1, table 3. Development was supposed to happen quickly in keeping with the limited time scale of the Bible. 30 Richard Bernheimer, Wild Men in the Middle Ages. A  Study in Art, Sentiment, and Demonology (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952), 20. 31 Pontoppidan, Den Dansk Atlas, vol. 2, 409, 416–419. 32 The original ‘savage’ people had mixed in and adopted new customs –​or lived far away from others as ‘keltringer’ (Pontoppidan, Den Dansk Atlas, vol. 1, 13–​14, 20, 30, 96). 33 Pontoppidan, Den Dansk Atlas, vol. 1, 78–​79, 107. Pontoppidan’s ideas are probably related to P.F. Suhm’s seminal treatise Om Odin og den hedniske Gudelære og Gudstjeneste i Norden [On Odin and the Pagan Creed and the Divine Sacrament in the North] (1771). 34 “Kirken eller Forsamlings-​Stedet var en Lund, en liden Skoug, og der i et Altere, af hugne Steene, nemlig en stor og fladagtig, hvilende gemeenligen paa 3 noget mindre, ligesom vi endnu finde næsten paa alle store Marke, det man i andre Lande anseer for store Rariteter, nemlige mange Hedenske Altere, eller Offer-​Høye, saavelsom Grav-​Høye, omgivne med en eller fleere Rader af lige saadanne Kampe-​Stene, som have giort Tieneste for Stole at sidde paa.” Pontoppidan, Den Dansk Atlas, vol. 1, 78–​79. 35 For example, in Rasmus Nyerup, “Oversyn over Fædrelandets Mindesmærker fra Oldtiden saaledes som den kan tænkes opstillede i et tilkommende National-​Museum,” in Historisk-​ Statistisk Skildring af Tilstanden i Danmark og Norge i ældre og nyere Tider, vol. 4 (Copenhagen, 1806), 84. 36 He did this survey in accordance with a plan carefully drawn up by the historian Jacob Langebek (Kirsten-​Elizabeth Høgsbro, “En arkivtegnemester på rejse. Arkivtegnemester Søren Abildgaard,” Fund og Forskning, 34 (1995), 139–​158.


38 Gry Hedin 37 Thomsen, “Kortfattet Udsigt over Mindesmærker og Oldsager fra Nordens Fortid,” 29–​ 32, 58. As early as 1825, Thomsen mentioned the resemblance of the Danish stone tools to tools in collections of “weapons and tools of wild Nations” (“vilde Nationers Vaaben og Redskaber”), arguing that such a comparison “paa en meget tydelig Maade forklare, hvorledes vore ældste Forfædre kunne have i Kulturens Barndom brugt disse Sager” (Christian Jürgensen Thomsen, “Kortfattet Udsigt over nordiske Oldsager af Steen fra den hedenske Tid,” Nordisk Tidssrift for Oldkyndighed, 1 (1832), 422, 439. 38 The collection had been arranged according to the three-​period system as early as 1818, and friends of Thomsen may have been introduced to his ideas. Rowley-​Conwy, From Genesis to Prehistory, 3, 39. 39 Titles according to Carl Reitzel (ed.), Fortegnelse over danske Kunstneres Arbejder paa de ved Det Kgl. Akademi for de skjønne Kunster i Aarene 1807–​1882 (Copenhagen: Thieles Bogtrykkeri, 1883), 394, 652. According to the inventory of exhibited works at Charlottenborg, Lund’s painting was exhibited there in 1814 and Stub’s in 1815. 40 Monrad, Dansk guldalder, 56–57. 41 Emma Salling, Kunstakademiet 1754–​ 2004:  Fundamentet  –​de første hundrede år (Copenhagen: Det Kongelige Akademi for de Skønne Kunster, Arkitektens Forlag, 2004), 45. 42 Johannes Ewald, Balders Død. Et heroisk Syngespil i tre Handlinger. En Priisdigt. 1775, in Johannes Ewalds samlede skrifter, vol. 3 (Copenhagen:  Det Danske Sprog-​og Litteraturselskab og Gyldendal, 1969), 40. 43 Peter Friedrich Suhm, Signe og Habor, eller Kierlighed stærkere end Døden (1777), in Peter Friedrich Suhms samlede Skrifter, vol. 3 (Copenhagen: S. Poulsens Forlag, 1789). Available at:  https://​​cgi/​pt?id=chi.096699790;view=1up;seq=7. Accessed July 20, 2017. 44 C.F. Höyer, “Signe and Habor United at the Altar of Freja. Based on Suhm’s Story” (“Signe og Habors Forening for Frejas Alter. Efter Suhms Fortælling”). The title is according to Reitzel (ed.), Fortegnelse over danske Kunstneres Arbejder paa de ved Det Kgl. Akademi for de skjønne Kunster i Aarene 1807–​1882, 275. Suhm, Signe og Habor, 295, 348. 45 Pontoppidan, Den Dansk Atlas, vol. 2, 416–​419; Per Boje, Vejen til velstand  –​marked, stat og utopi:  Om dansk kapitalismes mange former gennem 300 år:  Tiden 1730–​1850 (Odense: Syddansk Universitetsforlag, 2014), 131. 46 Pontoppidan, Den Dansk Atlas, vol. 2, 409–​410, 416. 47 Pontoppidan, Den Dansk Atlas, vol. 1, 78–​79. 48 Suhm, Signe og Habor, 295. 49 Rix, “ ‘In Darkness They Grope’, ” 437–438, 447. 50 “[D]‌en simple, ædle Naturs funklende Lue, den brændende Fantasi og Storhedsaand, som dræbtes i Høkeraandens og Verdenssnildhedens døsige Taager.” Rix, “ ‘In Darkness They Grope’,” 455. 51 For example, in an 1815 edition of the 1808 poem “Gunderslev Skov.” Rix, “ ‘In Darkness They Grope’,” 447–​448. 52 Jens Møller, “Om den nordiske Mythologies Brugbarhed for de skjönne tegnende Kunster: En Forelæsning af Professsor J. Möller, holdt i det skandinaviske Litteraturselskab,” Det skandinaviske Litteraturselskabs Skrifter, 8 (1812), 274. 53 Jensen, Thomsens Museum, 70. 54 Baden commented on Stub’s painting, noting that Stub used the Greek ideal of Perseus when depicting Hoder. Torkel Baden, Om den nordiske Mytologis Ubrugbarhed for de skiønne Konster (Copenhagen: F. Brummer, 1820). 55 Monrad, Dansk guldalder, 59; Jensen, Thomsens Museum, 72. 56 Oelsner, “En fælles forestillet nation,” 131. 57 Marie Lødrup Bang, Johan Christian Dahl 1788–​ 1857:  Life and Works (Oslo:  Universitetsforlaget, 1987), no.  87; Jensen, Thomsens Museum, 43; Østby, “J.C. Dahls Danske Læreår,” 3; Monrad, Dansk guldalder, 310. Eriksen and Andersen identify


Anthropocene Beginnings  39 the dolmen in the 1829 painting as this monument (Eriksen and Andersen, Stendysser, 302). The relationship between Thomsen and Dahl is discussed in detail in Leif Østby, “J.C. Dahls Danske Læreår,” Kunstmuseets Årsskrift, LXI (1974) and N.L. Faaborg, “Den unge C.J. Thomsen som kunstsamler og hans forhold til J.C. Dahl,” Fund og Forskning, 25 (1981). 58 Østby, “J.C. Dahls Danske Læreår,” 40. Østby refers to a letter of November 6, 1816 in which Dahl writes: “Lately, I have not been farther than the manor … and, because of bad weather and rough roads, I have not been able to go out since I accompanied you to see the giant/​warrior grave” (“Jeg har saaledes i den senere Tid ei været saa langt, som Gaarden er stoer (…) og ikke har jeg heller ud kundet komme for Uvær og slette Veje, siden sidst jeg fulgte Dem, for at see den Kiæmpe-​Begravelse”). 59 The drawing shows another unknown site where only part of a ring of stones and two large stones of a dilapidated dolmen remain. The drawing is in the collection of Statens Museum for Kunst, KKS10412. 60 The first being Johan Jacob Bruun, Novus Atlas Daniæ eller Prospecter af alle Hoved-​ og Kiøbstæderne, af alle kongelige Slotte, samt andre kongelige Lyst-​Slotte og Stæder udi begge Konge-​Rigerne Dannemark og Norge og underliggende Fyrstendømme of 1761. Some of Bruun’s prospects served as basis for Pontoppidan’s views of Zealand towns such as Ringsted and Slagelse. 61 Boje, Vejen til velstand, 123–​134. 62 Rasmus Nyerup, Antiqvariske Fodrejse i Fyen i August som et Fortale foran hans 1806 udgivne Oversyn over danske og norske Antiqviteter (Copenhagen: A.S. Soldins Forlag, 1806). 63 Rix, “ ‘In Darkness They Grope,’ ” 440. In an international context, it is interesting that prehistoric monuments were often rendered in guidebooks for antiquarian tours such as, for example, in Lukis’ guidebook (Sanders, “Sacral Landscapes,” 19) 64 Smile analyzes depictions of Stonehenge, pointing out these two modes (Smiles, The Image of Antiquity, 168). 65 Part of the letter dated October 15, 1814 is cited in Østby, “J.C. Dahls Danske Læreår,” 22. The painting as identified by Østerby may be seen at: https://​​wiki/​ File:Johan_​Christian_​Dahl_​-​_​Den_​Esrum_​sjøen_​i_​måneskinn.jpg. Accesed July 20, 2017. 66 “Offeret blødte paa hellige Sten” and “Alterets mossede Stene.” N.F.S. Grundtvig, “Gunderslev Skov,” Grundtvigs Værker, version 1.3. Available at: www.grundtvigsværker. dk. Accessed July 20, 2017. 67 Rix, “ ‘In Darkness They Grope,’ ” 455. 68 Jensen, Thomsens Museum, 43. 69 Villadsen, Statens Museum for Kunst 1827–​1952, 52–​53, 64–​65 70 Jensen, Thomsens Museum, 43. 71 “[U]‌dbredte archæologiske Indsigter,” Jensen, Thomsens Museum, 47. 72 The same year, Thomsen began his rearrangement of the national collection of antiques. Jensen, Thomsens Museum, 53–​55. 73 Dahl lived in Dresden after 1818 with trips to Denmark and Norway from April 10 –​October 23, 1826 and May 27-​November 18, 1834 and to Copenhagen in August 1837 and October 1844 (Sys Hartmann, ed., Weilbach:  Dansk Kunstnerleksikon (Copenhagen:  Rosinante, 1994), 90). Bang discusses the different versions, including one whose whereabouts is unknown today. She lists them as no. 441 (unknown), 485 (Leipzig), and 602 (Copenhagen). In 1838, Dahl did another painting of a dolmen set in a wooded landscape with deer: 853 (Oslo) (Bang, Johan Christian Dahl 1788–​1857). 74 “[M]‌ange udgravede gravhøje og altre af betydning og størrelse giver mig formodning om, at de fleste såkaldte stenaltre ikke er andet end udgravede høje fra ældre tider.” Kirsten-​ Elizabeth Høgsbro, “C.J. Thomsen og fortidsminderne,” 30. 75 The development of Thomsen’s theory in the 1820s may have reached Dahl through letters, Danish acquaintances visiting him in Dresden, or Dahl’s visit to Denmark (and Norway) from April 10 to October 23, 1826 (Hartmann, Weilbach, 90).


40 Gry Hedin 76 Rowley-​Conwy, From Genesis to Prehistory, 41–​44. 77 Hans Christian Ørsted, “Tale om danskhed” (speech given February 4, 1836), Dansk Folkeblad, 53–​54 (1836): 205–​216; Niels Lauritz Høyen, “Betingelserne for en skandinavisk Nationalkunsts Udvikling” (speech held at Skandinaviske Selskab in 1844), in J.L. Ussing (ed.), Niels Laurits Høyens Skrifter, vol. 1 (Copenhagen: Gyldendalske Boghandel, 1871). The notion that the natural formations proper to each region were responsible for the molding of the character of its inhabitants is found in Johann Gottfried Herder’s Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (1784–​ 1791) and in Humboldt’s “Aspects of Nature” (“Ansichten der Natur”) from 1807. In Denmark, it had a long afterlife as is evident in the opening lines of Johannes Steenstrup, Danmarks Riges Historie (Copenhagen: Det nordiske Forlag, 1896). 78 Tobias Boes and Kate Marshall, “Writing the Anthropocene. An Introduction,” The Minnesota Review, 83 (2014): 61, 66–​67.


2 A Montage of Notes from Svalbard Mediating the Arctic through Artistic Research Eva la Cour

FIELD NOTES /​September 1, 2016: I am at the airport in Stockholm. It is early morning and I am about to board a flight to Svalbard via Oslo and Tromsø. In Oslo I  will meet with the other researchers, the paleo-​geologist, the astronomer, the glaciologist, the photographer, the theologian, the historian, the evolutionary geneticist… What a research ensemble! I am excited. But I am also a bit nervous about how to understand my own role on board as an artist. Just read a news article online, about climate change scientists stationed in Greenland. It made me think about the Arctic filter that seems to turn almost any scientist into a heroic man in an untouched wilderness. I don’t know how to take this into consideration myself…this risk of reproducing Arctic stereotypes. I can’t think of any other way than letting myself be seduced, meanwhile trying to analyze my own affection…through the consistent writing of field notes… In September 2016 a group of Swedish researchers from multiple disciplinary fields joined a two-​week boating expedition around Svalbard –​an Arctic Archipelago also called by its older Germanic name Spitsbergen1 and situated halfway between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole. Initiated by the IK Foundation, one of the aims of the Swedish expedition was to identify the island where the scientist Anton Rolandsson Martin (1729–​1785) in 1758 first set foot on Svalbard. In this sense, the expedition is part of a series of expeditions funded by the IK Foundation and connected to the travel routes undertaken in the eighteenth century by the so-​called apostles of the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus. Moreover, the island was expected to prove an ideal future site for Martin’s Eye –​ a satellite-​connected, live-​streaming video-​and sound-​recording field station, which “as the first station among other stations installed in selected –​still wild and unspoiled –​places […] shall record foremost pictures and sound from these environments below the mantra Pure Wilderness.”2 [see Plates 7 & 8] This chapter uses the idea of a live-​streaming field station on a remote and barren Svalbard island as a point of departure for a critical reconsideration of representational transmission. In the chapter, I  shall do this by discussing the notion of ‘mediation,’ when analyzed as something significantly different from representation. Moreover, I  shall situate this analysis in the context of a wider anthropological debate on practice and the construction of knowledge, while addressing how the anthropological connects to the Anthropocentric. However, what follows is also


42  Eva la Cour a chapter about an artistic research project in the framework of which my mode of inquiry itself is practice-​based. In the following I will thus introduce a work-​in-​ progress and experimental film by the same name as the field station mentioned above: Martin’s Eye. Zooming out, the medium of film has since its invention been used as a tool for making distant histories and geographies visible. Mainly made for educational and entertainment purposes, films about and from the Arctic have historically attracted large audiences, while framing the region as an image of frozen wilderness.3 In recent years, however, this image has often been framed by reports of threatening global climate changes and future access to natural resources and new sea routes. Nevertheless, the Arctic is still approached as an image of the ‘authentic’ to be captured for reflection or posterity –​before the ice melts –​rather than as an image, or several images, of our globalized, image-​driven, technified present. In the wake of a critical material turn towards the notion of performativity and the formation of post-​humanist theories across disciplinary fields, I  wonder how to take into account the agency of film-​and image-​making? More specifically, how to investigate mediating and valorizing field practices in and of the Arctic, while considering their feedback within a larger image-​political struggle of attention and access, deeply entangled in the ongoing formation of Arctic landscapes? My aim in this chapter is to explore my own role as mediator and thereby re-​mediate ideas of representation. FIELD NOTES /​September 2, 2016: “Finally here! This is so crazy,” one of the other passengers shouted as he got out of the airplane in Longyearbyen… I have counted. It is the 11th time I am here. It is quite amazing how hard it is to remember the kind of desire that brought me here in the first place. What was I thinking, really? What was I imagining? We –​this ensemble of researchers –​are on a joint mission here, but at the same time we are here as individuals. I have my own agenda here too, in this desolate region.

The Arctic Let me rewind and begin again by situating myself. FIELD NOTES /​September 3, 2016: It was 4pm before we finally took off. It turns out that the theologian and I are sharing a cabin –​basically, we are the women of this research ensemble. We started out by heading towards the enormous Nordenskjold glacier where the captain –​ oh yes, she is a woman too –​had got a notice about a bear on the shore… But shit, I was so clumsy. As I had finally unpacked and collected all my gear, I got up on the deck from the cabin, in my multiple layers of warm clothes, and realized that I had chosen a wrong lens. Day one, and already so exhausted…felt so unprofessional. After a couple of impatient attempts to catch the bear, I began to film the others. “Researchers photographing a bear.” Or “the effect of a bear on


A Montage of Notes from Svalbard  43 people with cameras”… It went on for a long time. I think we postponed dinner for at least one and a half hours. I am a visual artist. Working with audiovisual and spatial forms of montage and display, performance and text, my artistic practice revolves around notions of fieldwork, skilled visions, and mediation. Driven by a desire to come closer to an understanding of the current conditions for visual production in times of global climate changes, political crises, and affective economies, I try to push the boundaries of customary geopolitical, geohistorical, and geoaesthetic approaches to the Arctic. This artistic agenda currently informs a more specific focus on the artistic researcher as fieldworker and expert. This concern is shaped by my training as a visual artist at The Jutland Art Academy in Denmark, but also by parallel studies in media and visual anthropology at Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany. While studying the latter, I became interested in the Arctic as an ‘imaginary geography,’4 which eventually led me to an interest in finding ways to approach the Arctic as a political body and figuration that over the last centuries has gained consistency through representation and thus has begun to ‘speak’ and ‘act.’5 Based on the idea that political bodies and policy-​making might be connected to ‘power’ in a different way than I have been taught, I began to investigate the Arctic as an agential figure6 and potential modes of intervention. FIELD NOTES /​September 4, 2016: After a night of absolutely no sleep, because of swells, we were meant to go ashore at Midøya early this morning –​the island where Anton Rolandsson Martin apparently went ashore in 1758. But we didn’t manage to. The swells continued to be too intense. Therefore we are now continuing along Prins Karls Forland, heading –​I believe –​towards Magdalena Fjord instead. Hopefully we will then return to Midøya whenever the forecast promises better conditions, so we can get to explore this site and examine whether or not it is a suitable location for Martin’s Eye…this fish eye of our ecological lobby. To frame it differently, I  am concerned with questions about how and when images become images, and the authority and agency by which they operate. My approach to these questions particularly draws on the Italian anthropologist Christina Grasseni’s notion of “skilled visions”7 and discourses on practice and the construction of knowledge. The notion of skilled visions (in the plural) covers an approach to vision as a situated, practiced, and socially trained aspect of human sensibility, and in this sense a break with visual anthropology’s traditional focus on visual culture.8 But more importantly, the notion of skilled visions thereby not only approaches vision as an embodied sensibility but also as something embedded in mediating devices, structured environments, and routines. Ways of seeing are connected to modes of looking and characterized by enskilment in the broad sense of the term, which emphasizes vision as something shared and operative within communities of practice and spaces of knowing.9 In this sense, the skilled visions approach offers an insight into how different narratives and value practices relate and interact to (re)produce Arctic topographies.10 To clarify, I  am not concerned


44  Eva la Cour with analyzing how different kinds of skilled visions produce different kinds of images. I  am concened with how different kinds of image-​making processes (and thus perceptions of the world) are given authority through their epistemological foundations, cultural narratives, and frameworks of value. This, finally, relates to the notion of the Anthropocene. Initially articulated as a geoscientific concept and mode of describing our geological era, the Anthropocene has developed as a social imaginary and term that more broadly covers altered perspectives on planetary existence. Emerging from the natural sciences and a world view determined by rationality and politics, where the human and non-​human are inherently separated, the parameters of the Anthropocene highlight the very arbitrariness of this binary. Because, as Chakrabarty has argued, the emergence of humanity as a geological agent (i.e. as a species with the capacity to transform, and even to destroy, its own conditions of existence) fundamentally undermines the constitutive distinction between human and natural histories.11 Breaking, in this sense, with conventional understandings of a nature-​culture divide, the Anthropocene is epistemologically unsettling. More precisely, the Anthropocene can be regarded as a sociopolitical label for the contemporary (a grand new narrative)12 that invites explorations of how lived and shared conditions for human reason and affect fundamentally differ from the conditions articulated through the structural narratives of modernity.13 However, being critical of these narratives, I am concerned with the ways they continue to valorize and condition visual production. I therefore like to understand my artistic research as a way to take part in a collective attempt to unsettle value frameworks and to re-​figure, and co-​figure Arctic landscapes through forms of fieldwork and description with more or less authority. FIELD NOTES /​September 5, 2016: Had a late start this morning. Sat for a couple of hours after breakfast with the environmental photographer, the glaciologist and his drone operator and assistant. We were looking at maps. Magdalena Fjord. I enjoyed listening to the photographer while following his finger moving across the map, carefully reading it, before pointing at a tiny dot and gesticulating in response. He has been there, in the Magdalena Fjord, so many times and carefully covered it photographically. Not only in spatial terms, but also in temporal terms, by rephotographing old archive photographs in order to visualize environmental changes. I am skeptical of the idea of environmental activism through photography, which seems to be the photographer’s drive, but I am deeply touched by his presence and desire to be in this terrain.

The Figure of the Guide: Mediating the Open Terrain Yes, I am writing this chapter as an artist, but also as a researcher, and as much as I  am writing from within the process of making an artwork, I  am writing through the medium of research.14 Situated at the Valand Academy of Art at the University of Gothenburg, however, my research is not based on any preconfigured hypothesis, but on an artistic practice of oscillation between experimentation and speculation. Subsequently, the title of the research project is preliminary and its form fluid: The


A Montage of Notes from Svalbard  45 Figure of the Guide:  Mediating the Open Terrain is projected as a compilation of artworks and text-​based entities. The experimental film Martin’s Eye forms part of this compilation. The Figure of the Guide: Mediating the Open Terrain unfolds around mediation; signaling an action, an occurrence, or a state of being. It does not draw on a specific theory of mediation, but on my speculative ongoing interest in mediation as something significantly different from representation. Drawing more generally on a performative turn within art, anthropology, and media studies, representation functions as a stand-​in for a virtual ‘someone/​something,’ whereas mediation functions transformatively of this ‘someone/​something.’15 Thought of as having an agency in this way, mediation establishes a dynamic relation rather than locking a signifier to a signified. With this distinction as a navigational tool, I am interested in mediation as a means of investigating the role of the artistic researcher within a current political ecology of knowledge practices in the Arctic.16 Moreover, preoccupied in this sense with the mediating and valorizing agency of both discursive and bodily practices –​ e.g. social, political, aesthetic, ethical and epistemic valorizations –​it seems necessary to include my own agency. That is, how to think of my own artistic research practice as a mediating mechanism? FIELD NOTES /​September 6, 2016: Again we gathered for a lecture after dinner. The more than 80-​year-​old astronomer was the lecturer and he took us on a travel far beyond the Arctic region –​into space. I was completely fascinated. But I am struggling with what to present when it is my turn. How can I share what I do? Communicate my expertise, my research practice? It is not just about communicating things, though, but about communicating them to people who come from very different backgrounds and who have different relationships to the same subject. I am already anticipating prejudice and expecting to be misunderstood –​or just not understood. I am anticipating being told that what I  do is “very interesting, but very complex,” or “very abstract.” However, thinking about it, my fear is so absurd! Nothing could be more complex and abstract than astronomy, paleo-​geology or evolutionary genetics! But why then this anxiety not to ‘pass,’ not to be understood? Is it a gender thing? Or, why does the paleo-​geologist’s interest in fish lizards come across without a question mark? So much authority? Is it an artist thing?

Svalbard Before continuing, I wish to clarify that the montage form of this chapter is an attempt to unsettle the idea of a solidified ‘I’ as the work’s logical center. The two intersecting text flows that run through the chapter and the images are rather meant to reflect an approach to subjectivity and image-​making as processes of becoming in conversation with specific temporal and spatial surroundings. My own film project Martin’s Eye similarly manifests itself as an experimental work negotiating different image layers between two situated character positions: a fieldworker on Svalbard and an expert character in a cinematic space. Martin’s Eye is, moreover, a thought experiment about a research ensemble and their expedition to Svalbard, framed by an introduction to the Arctic Dwelling Project. This is a fictitious project that imagines Svalbard as a


46  Eva la Cour post-​national zone and future testing ground for local, self-​sufficient, experimental communities consistent with eco-​cosmopolitan notions of planetary sustainable citizenship. Introduced by the film’s expert character, and through a kind of manifesto drawing inspiration and material from the Arctic Resilience Report 2016,17 the Arctic Dwelling Project debates and plays with the use of notions such as resilience, adaptation, and vulnerability. The ideas behind the (fictitious) Arctic Dwelling Project are developed from the view that climate change is a political crisis (and not one that poses insurmountable technological problems or natural barriers).18 But they are also closely related to the particularities that characterize Svalbard: accessibility due to a relatively mild climate, a well-​developed infrastructure, and a transient international community in Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s main settlement. Moreover, and in contrast to the rest of the Arctic, Svalbard has never had an indigenous population. Despite a long record of human activity, Svalbard was an uninhabited no man’s land until the turn of the last century. In 1920 an international treaty awarded sovereignty over Svalbard to Norway, but only insofar as the archipelago needed to be subject to a unique legal administration.19 In effect, this means that anyone has the right to be on Svalbard, but also that both Norway and Russia subsidize permanent national presence on the islands.20 Historically, this has been in the form of resource-​extractive company towns, while today it is in the form of infrastructures for emerging knowledge and experience economies.21 For these and other reasons, Svalbard is considered a unique Arctic topography. It has, nevertheless, functioned as a photogenic representative of the greater High Arctic region ever since it became a destination for the first tourist boat around the turn of the last century,22 and in recent decades numerous commercials, music videos, wildlife documentaries, and feature film scenes have been shot on Svalbard. A consideration of this image-​making recognizes Svalbard’s function as an image, or a film set, as much as a fieldwork laboratory for natural scientists. Approached as an anomaly in the Arctic region, Svalbard is thus a very particular prism through which to ask: How do dissimilar and changing strata of matter and life compose themselves into a world? How can situated practices of looking be regarded as practices of giving form? Or, more specifically and considering climate change’s visual culture, how have we come to know and assemble Arctic landscapes-​as-​images and the practices (and people) affiliated with these? FIELD NOTES /​September 7, 2016: “Without modifications to the social and material environment, there can be no change in mentalities. Here, we are in the presence of a circle that leads me to postulate the necessity of founding an “ecosophy” that would link environmental ecology to social ecology and to mental ecology”  –​ Guattari.23 I  am quite inspired by the idea that traditional environmentalist perspectives obscure the complexity of the relationship between humans and their natural environment, because they maintain a dualistic separation of human and non-​human systems. Reading Guattari is itself complex, I have the feeling of reading something I  already know, but that reading it makes me understand it in a new way… that the study of ecology is very complex, and includes human subjectivity, the environment and social relations, all of which are intimately interconnected…


A Montage of Notes from Svalbard  47

The Landscape Historically, the role of the artist has been closely linked to the attempts of science to visually represent its findings, or the use of representational practices (that is painting, drawing, etc.) as a tool in science. This can be connected to the role of the artist undertaking long-​term fieldwork in distant lands, such as La Recherche Expedition (1832–​1834) and its Atlas Pittoresque that contains numerous lithographic depictions of Northern Norway and Svalbard. Or, the first Danish scientific northern lights expedition (1899–​1900), during which the Danish painter Harald Moltke with accuracy served the scientific study of northern lights.24 These are examples of how epistemic conventions (of knowledge) and crafts (of depictions) have promoted the very idea of the Arctic ‘landscape’ and its phenomena as pictorial and fixed. But with the invention of photography this relation changed. Not only was the camera regarded as scientifically more accurate and objective, it also allowed for photographs to function sequentially as in actual films and thus for a new mode of considering the temporality of the landscape. A contemporary example is environmental rephotography’s preoccupation with documentation of how Arctic landscapes are changing as a result of global warming.25 FIELD NOTES /​September 8, 2016: Again, woke up early. I was tempted to believe that the captain and I were the only humans on earth awake this morning of sun and sailing next to bird elephants floating in the air just above sea level, ready to sneak down to catch brekkies. It felt as if the boat was not moving much. But the different tools for navigation on the bridge, tracking the path of the boat, showed that we were heading northwards, slowly but steadily. That is the thing! The lack of trees, houses –​anything –​ disorients and distorts any feeling of distance and perspective along these barren islands… This became evident also later today when I tried to follow the bear guard as he walked out to watch for polar bears. He walked forever but barely seemed to get anywhere. It is like the mountains, it is impossible to discern the height of the mountains… From a critical anthropogeographical perspective, however, scholars concerned with debates on climate change’s visual culture have addressed the limitations of much environmental photography. Tim Ingold, for example, has suggested we talk about ‘the atmospheric’ and ‘the weather-​world’ in attempts to radicalize ‘the landscape’ beyond a linear and visual understanding of its temporal character, and to emphasize the dynamic simultaneity of sensorial experiences.26 Similarly critical, Emily Eliza Scott has advocated for perspectives that are “highly situated yet move across registers and scales –​both spatial (e.g., the so-​called local and global) and temporal (e.g., historical time, evolutionary time, and media time).”27 The Arctic environment becomes through an interplay between biophysical processes, topographical sites, located practices and spaces of knowledge. In effect, one cannot be in the landscape, one is part of it; entangled with particles, species, and weathers, but also personal and communal memories, experiences, and anticipations. From an art historical perspective, this resonates with land art and performance art practices of the 1960s, attempting to include the materiality of art’s spatial


48  Eva la Cour and temporal contexts. Regarded as important factors for contemporary art, these practices questioned the representational authority and function often ascribed to ‘the image’ by advocating an idea of the image as a situation; something that happens. Thus, much contemporary ‘aggregative art,’ as art historian David Joselit points out, is preoccupied exactly with imagining different models of image formations.28 Much contemporary art is preoccupied exactly with the work of art as a manifestation through which images are received and transmitted, in and of specific surroundings. I draw on this understanding of the image in my work with the live-​edited film Martin’s Eye. In the cinema space images are received and transmitted as encounters (and responsive feedbacks) between the space, live-​streaming cameras, actors, musicians, and video editors as well as a responsive audience and the audiovisual material shot during fieldwork on Svalbard. FIELD NOTES /​September 9, 2016: We are stuck on the boat today, here close to Likholmen (also called Deadman’s Island) to the north, and the famous Virgohamna to the south. We can’t go ashore because of a bear that we –​I and the evolutionary geneticist –​saw up close in the morning…it is their land, their possession. We are the visitors, and thus we are the ones to withdraw. Therefore, I  have spent some time by myself in the cabin, and I  am deeply touched actually by something I read…that the civil war in Syria has prompted the first withdrawal from the seed storage above Longyearbyen, the famous vault built to safe-​guard the world’s food supply in the event of a global catastrophe, such as an outbreak of disease or nuclear war. Apparently researchers in the Middle East have now asked to withdraw a range of drought-​resistant crop seeds, including wheat, barley, and grasses, because the scientists are unable to access the facility in Aleppo in Syria where they usually would get these seeds… As far as I  understand the seeds are still there and safe in cold storage, but because of the damage to the surrounding buildings caused by the war they are inaccessible. All this, finally, connects the debate on landscape to the long-​standing awareness of how interaction with (humanly designed and labored) objects and technologies affect the way our minds are shaped. Firstly, mapping technologies of all kinds throughout history have played an important role in the possession of territory, which can be understood in relation to desires of scientific, and thus authoritative pictures of the whole.29 The drone, as a contemporary example, enables the human eye to have a far distant perspective and a broad overview. Secondly, multiple kinds of transporting, guiding, protecting, or recording object devices are not only animating the human (eye) but also being animated through their application by human subject bodies. In other words, if technology affords the ways we fundamentally relate to our surroundings, we have to talk about the becoming-​landscape as a lived experience in conjunction with technology, or simply hybrid-​subject-​objects.30 This concludes what we may already know: That there is no environment external to human beings.31 Yet it opens a political dimension regarding how the environment becomes, or how different kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing are invariably both situating and


A Montage of Notes from Svalbard  49 situated.32 Based on an unsettled notion of landscape as unfolded above, my thesis is that this is to be explored through an approach to experience and mediation as simultaneous and mutually dependent processes. A way of understanding this in relation to Svalbard thus goes via exploring how communities of practice(s) or spaces of knowledge(s)  –​centered for example around scientific research, coal extraction, or nature guiding –​code and highlight the Arctic landscape accordingly, and articulate and produce different representations of it.33 FIELD NOTES /​September 10, 2016: Too tired to write proper notes tonight. Keywords: Desert, Africa-​Arctic relations, climate change narratives, Michael Bravo…

Artists as Mediators of Associations Conceptualizing and constructing Martin’s Eye, I  regard myself as a mediator, in many ways crafting the infrastructure of an imaginary space; as phantasmagoric glue. Imagine a blue-​and-​yellow icebreaker in calm waters surrounded by pristine mountain tops and glaciers, seen from above. Zoom in and see a man with a fishing pole who leans against the railing of the boat’s lower deck, while other men hold binoculars to their eyes. Imagine then a cinema space in which these imageries are projected on the screen while an expert is lecturing to an audience addressed as the Steering Group of the Arctic Dwelling Project. Drawing on ideas of experimentation with polyphonic and collective writing and film-​making, assemblage, and remediation, Martin’s Eye is a film orchestrated as a cross-​edit between these two main perspectives –​a submerged and seduced perspective, on the one hand, and an explanatory and analytical perspective, on the other. In addition, a third perspective is woven into the film, showing two sets of hands operating an editing switcher, letting you, the viewer, understand that the film is being live-​edited. To put it differently, Martin’s Eye is a film figured by means of three particular elements: a fieldworker’s video recordings from Svalbard, an expert’s lecture in a cinema space, and a live-​production-​switcher. FIELD NOTES /​September 11, 2016: “Apprehending what is significant… may require “escaping the fascination of the picture” by adopting another perspective –​a partial or partisan perspective, the perspective of a part. From this…, the whole will not appear as a whole. It will appear with a hole. The perspective from which the hole appears is that of the subject…” in conversation with Jodi Dean. In 1924 Herbert Ponting released a silent movie called The Great White Silence, filmed during the British Terra Nova Expedition sailing from New Zealand to Antarctica to conquer the South Pole. The film is a mixture of footage, photographs, and intertitles, in effect a lecturer’s show with Ponting’s words transferred to the intertitles. But the most notable thing, I find, is that Ponting tinted the black and white film in different colors, which resulted in the polar scenes unfolding in strange, otherworldly ambers, blues, and greens. Fascinated, I initially imagined Ponting sitting in front of a magic lantern with a range of color filters at his disposal. Later, however,


50  Eva la Cour I learned that color tinting is actually a kind of color gluing that is applied uniquely frame by frame (film by film). My motivation to explore the notion of live-​editing is nevertheless inspired by my misconception of Ponting’s film, and the idea of a live-​performed color-​filtering sensitive to feedback (from the audience). That is, if a mediator transforms, translates, contorts, modifies, and creates associations, can a live mediator then be understood as a person (or operation) who reconceives the mediating techniques and practices? Or as someone who implements a shift in the context of mediation, rendering the situation itself an image? So far, this is how I consider my agency of mediation as different from an agency of representation: as a non-​linear transmission, and thus as an operation that includes the ‘observer’ in the representational dilemma. If the Arctic is approached as a political body or figure that over the last centuries has gained consistency through representation, a speculation on mediation is a speculation on the ‘power’ of that consistency. Trying to understand the Arctic as an ‘agential figure’ through an understanding of mediation is in other words an attempt to explore a new understanding of power which includes a concern with the ‘governance’ of our perceptive sensibilities. FIELD NOTES /​September 12, 2016: Today we went ashore at Skansebukta, a scenographic bay area with the remnants of an old plaster mine. The friendly sun was shining, and the barren landscape appeared extraordinarily colorful. I  decided to mic up the paleo-​ geologist, and followed him closely. I followed him climbing up a hillside, while listening to him mumbling to himself. I  eventually stopped in order to get a steadier and smoother recording of his movements. He got into trouble going any higher eventually, because of loose gravel, and he began to discuss (with himself) an alternative route. I listened carefully and saw him slide downwards and venture deeper into a gorge in the terrain. At one point he disappeared from my sight and I no longer received any input from the mic, and suddenly I became aware of my own breath. I looked up, oriented myself and realized how far I was from the rest of the group which had continued along the shore. I decided to try and find an angle from which I could see the paleo-​geologist from above. I left the camera on, hanging from my neck, producing fragments of images, as I began to step across the soft soil, which wasn’t any easy maneuver carrying all of my equipment, and I  noticed how my breath intensified. But the scratching sound of my Gore-​Tex pants was even louder. Suddenly, however, I clearly heard the voice of the paleo-​geologist in my earphones again, discussing whether or not to bring back particular findings for the collection at the museum –​what to collect, what not to collect? I still couldn’t see him, but he ought to come into sight any moment, since the sound receiver reconnected with his microphone. I grabbed my camera and began to scan the terrain, following the curves of the gorge.

Anthropology For many years Svalbard was considered irrelevant for anthropological studies because of its lack of an indigenous population or local communities in any consistent


A Montage of Notes from Svalbard  51 place-​bound understanding of the term.34 However, shifts of inquiry within the field towards multi-​sited ethnography, science-​and-​technology studies, ecology, and ontology have changed Svalbard as a site for anthropological fieldwork, by destabilizing any wholeness of whatever worlds we are experiencing being in.35 Today, when more than 50% of human beings live in cities, and the scale of human global land use (forestry, mining, farming, etc.) has set infinite fingerprints upon the earth’s atmosphere and oceans, “There can be no ‘us’ and ‘them,’ no definitive boundaries between human and non-​human, and no space for science outside of the world it engages with.”36 In fact, Svalbard might, with its multiple and hyperconstructed particularities, arguably be considered a particularly relevant field for contemporary anthropological studies of anthropocentric natures. By this I mean studies of the ways we regard nature carry deep implications for how we organize society, assign responsibility for environmental changes, and assess social impact.37 But also in terms of anthropological research, shifting inquiries may recontextualize epistemic categorization, scientific disciplines, cultural narratives, and value frameworks, and thus implicitly address how encounters between study and field give form to Arctic landscapes. FIELD NOTES /​September 13, 2016: Today we passed a huge bird cliff and decided to stay for a while in order to be able to photograph a colony of ptarmigans bathed in sunshine. What is so fascinating about the bird cliffs is that they so closely connect life in the sea, in the air and on land. The biologist explained to me that during the breeding season seabirds transport large amounts of nutrients from the sea to the bird cliffs, and that in one season a couple of little auks adds about 1 kg of feces to the soil which acts as fertilizer that eventually makes the slopes beneath the cliffs turn extremely green and lush. Well, in a lot of different ways the seabirds enrich and contribute to the vegetation, which then is eaten by herbivores like reindeer, geese and ptarmigans. This is what they live on. The biologist on the other hand lives on studying these creatures… My head is spinning. A concrete example of shifts is the degree to which the settlements on Svalbard over the last 30 years have transitioned from being driven by coal mining to being driven by tourism and research.38 Covering a turn from a focus on material values to more immaterial ones, this transition has implied new scientific and environmental narrative frameworks that manifest as investments in real estate, infrastructure, communication, and data-​storing.39 But it also manifests –​in terms of strategic planning, policy-​making and research –​through an emerging focus on environmental remediation or ‘rewilding,’40 on the relationship between affective economies and emotional communities,41 and on transitionings of post-​extractive settlements towards future destinations of the memorable and experienceable,42 etc. Similarly, to probe nature as part of any anthropological analysis is “a search for a new understanding of the (temporary) wholeness of whatever worlds emerge in the anthropological study.”43 To know that there are no definite boundaries between nature and culture or between the human and the non-​human, and no such thing as unmediated science, requires, I would argue, very particular human capacities for making meaning.44 It is for this reason that it seems so relevant to contextualize the encounter between field and study, within the wider debates on practice and the construction of knowledge.


52  Eva la Cour FIELD NOTES /​September 14, 2016: Everybody is so excited about the drone. It is so smooth, steady and precise as it obviously navigates via GPS. I am a bit critical…just as I am trained to be, I guess. So, let me admit that I am also fascinated, absolutely…maybe even a bit jealous as the video footage I am shooting appears so extremely handheld and hopelessly shaky compared with the footage generated by the drone. But I am most of all puzzled by the way the drone interacts with its surroundings. The birds for example. The other day it was literally attacked by a flock of birds. I hoped that it had recorded itself being attacked, but unfortunately not. I have to read more about remote sensing technologies. In the 1980s, anthropologists such as James Clifford and George Marcus showed how ethnographic representation often was/​is given authority through narrative operations and textual structures. In response, they called for explorations of the relation between ethnographic writing and thought experimentation, scientific fiction, and polyphonic voices, through forms of remediation and assemblage (a.o.).45 Meanwhile, and in response to a later phenomenological and sensorial turn, others called for more embodied forms of experimental ethnographic approaches, e.g. to memory and the senses.46 These approaches have informed both ethnographic and artistic debates and practices over the last thirty years. But more interesting is how the difference between these approaches reveals a tension at the heart of anthropology, between distance and proximity.47 This is interesting because it seems to be precisely this tension that a critical material turn towards the notion of performativity and the formation of post-​humanist theories are challenging (epistemologically). For instance by addressing the need (again and again) to begin in the middle of things and to pay attention to (narrative) frictions, as the anthropologist Anna Tsing has suggested, arguing that connections at any scale must be charged and enacted in the sticky materiality of encounters.48 Or, e.g. by paying attention to ‘skilled visions,’ covering the disciplined and disciplining (rather than spontaneous, personal, and subjective) aspects of sensibility, as the anthropologist Christina Grasseni has suggested. Because this is how the skilled visions approach offers a way to hold a critical focus on imaging technologies as mediators of meaning, power, and knowledge while at the same time drawing on the anthropology of the senses. I like to think that contemporary anthropology, particularly by paying attention to narrative frictions and material performativity with a skilled visions approach, can provide tools to investigate the dynamic processes by which images become images. If there is no way of seeing in the singular, and if ways of seeing are dependent on the material and practical relationships with particular surroundings, ideas of a clean separation between the operation of communicational media and practices of imagination and knowing are impossible.49 This, I would argue, opens up the field for consideration of feedback mechanisms and, in this sense, for how an eco-​political focus on mediation is a focus on practice, and vice versa. Moreover, paying attention to narrative frictions and material performativity challenges the constructed binary between man and nature, as it draws attention to the power relations between framing subjects and framed objects. More specifically, and coupled with a skilled visions approach, this mode of paying attention suggests that Arctic landscapes and Arctic actors co-​ evolve within communities and frameworks of expertise and value practices. In the


A Montage of Notes from Svalbard  53 Anthropocene, new modes of theory-​making coupled with a skilled visions approach may thus be a way to take part in ethical, aesthetical, social, political and epistemological re-​evaluations of visual practices. But they may also provide important insights “into whichever margins may be left for local negotiations by the hegemony of standards,”50 as Grasseni writes. In relation to the Arctic, a concrete example of such standards is depictions of Arctic sea ice levels in public media: In Eyes on the Ice the historian of science and technology Nina Wormbs examines particular depictions of the Arctic sea ice minimum in September 2007.51 She explains how the depictions are mosaics made of thousands of sequential images captured by remote satellite sensors made into swaths, which then are stitched together to look like one photograph instead of thousands (with as few ‘frictions’ as possible). Wormbs thereby shows how particular image technologies impact their representational authority and functioning, but also how the sea ice depictions are articulated in public media. In addition to this, she shows how standardization takes place at almost every level of knowledge production as visual data is assembled and affective structures are reproduced. This, I would argue, leaves an interesting space for artistic practice-​based investigations of other visual practices in their skilled and contextual dimension. FIELD NOTES /​September 15, 2016: Sat with the drone operator for a while this afternoon, looking as his stitching of hundreds of images of the Larus Glacier turned into a mosaic, an assemblage made to look like a photograph. I wonder if he is going to include the images that reveal the glaciologist and himself operating the drone in the zodiac. They appear like a tiny dot in the dark blue sea, and would be easy to remove in Photoshop. But I think he will include himself in the picture, he has humor and he is young.

Concluding Remarks In September 2016 I  joined the Swedish expedition to Svalbard, documenting the other participating researchers on board and their individual and collective undertakings over the course of two weeks. I closely followed and filmed their investigations of the barren islands where Anton Rolandsson Martin first set foot on Svalbard, and where the IK Foundation plans to install a live-​streaming video-​and sound-​recording field station. Informed by auto-​ethnographical trends and debates around the self and subjectivity in documentary films,52 I tried to let myself be seduced by what I saw in the viewfinder of my camera (this hybrid-​subject-​object) and, in this sense, embody an investigative approach. Accordingly, my video recordings are handheld, site-​responsive, and conditioned by the weather, gear logistics, the shaking icebreaker, and my relationships to the individual researchers on board. My video recordings are documentary in an intuitive sense, and not pre-​scripted. However, Martin’s Eye is not a documentary but a thought experiment and a live-​ edited film in which the researchers’ investigations are presented as research activities within the fictitious narrative framework about the Arctic Dwelling Project. Opening with the shot of the blue-​and-​yellow icebreaker in calm waters (filmed not by me, but by a drone) and a descriptive text/​voice-​over, Martin’s Eye begins by promising a classic dramaturgical structure. But after a short while, you, as a viewer, are addressed


54  Eva la Cour as the Steering Group of the Arctic Dwelling Project while you see yourself in the cinema space. In this way the audience is embedded in the film’s multiple layers of articulations and visual representations, and in the attempt of the filmic experiment to re-​mediate the idea of representational transmission. Regarded as a mediatic orchestration, Martin’s Eye is an experimental attempt to de-​frame the Arctic landscape-​as-​image. Juxtaposing the role of the fieldworker with the role of the expert, and by communicating with the Arctic landscape through the documentary image, the filmic experiment is moreover an attempt to explore the subjective and affective structures of perception that pattern and animate scientific authority (and objectivity).53 Or, an attempt to attune to modes of art and theory-​ making in the Anthropocene. Because, such modes may exactly be about rewriting the role of the artist (as much as that of the anthropologist) in relation to the natural sciences’ monopoly when it comes to fieldwork, form, and description.54 In this chapter I have tried to address how both roles take part in producing Arctic terrains. By emphasizing an anthropological approach to the enskilment of visions within communities of practices and spaces of knowledge, I  have tried to argue that the Arctic terrain and the Arctic landscape-​as-​image co-​evolve. Critical of the IK Foundation’s planned field station as a source of objective representational data, I have used it as a point of departure for a turn to the notion of mediation. By writing about my artistic mode of investigation –​about Martin’s Eye as a work in progress –​ I have attempted to share my concerns with the operational agency of image-​making in, of, and in relation to the High Arctic.

Notes 1 In what follows, I will use the Norwegian place name Svalbard, invented as part of a larger politics of Norwegianization of the North around the turn of the last century. For a detailed discussion on this see: Berg, “From ‘Spitsbergen’ to ‘Svalbard’. Norwegianization in Norway and in the ‘Norwegian Sea’, 1820–​1925.” 2 Quotation and more information:​ilinnaeus/​iprojects/​spitsbergen. php 3 MacKenzie and Stenport, Films on Ice. 4 The concept of imagined geographies originates from literary scholar Edward Said. It refers to the perception of a space created through specific imagery, texts, and/​or discourses. See: Said, Orientalism. 5 Ryall, Schimanski, and Wærp, Arctic Discourses. 6 The notion of an ‘agential figure’ is inspired by the notion of agency as used within science and technology studies as well as in relation to Karen Barad’s notion of agential realism. 7 Grasseni, Skilled Visions. 8 Ibid. 9 Turnbull in Hastrup, “Comparing Climate Worlds: Theorising across Ethnographic Fields.” 10 Saville, “Political Ecologies of Knowledge”; Hastrup, “Comparing Climate Worlds: Theorising across Ethnographic Fields.” 11 Chakrabarty, “The Human Significance of the Anthropocene”; Davis and Turpin, Art in the Anthropocene. 12 Stengers, “In Catastrophic Times.” 13 Davis and Turpin, Art in the Anthropocene. 14 Kirkkopelto, “Artistic Research as Institutional Practice.” 15 Bolt, Art beyond Representation; Andreasen and Larsen, The Critical Mass of Mediation.


A Montage of Notes from Svalbard  55 16 Demos, Decolonizing Nature. 17 The Arctic Resilience Report was approved as an Arctic Council project at the Senior Arctic Official’s meeting in November 2011, initiated by the Swedish Ministry of the Environment. To see more: www.arctic-​​arr 18 Demos, Decolonizing Nature. 19 For more information:​en/​Toppmeny/​About-​Svalbard/​Laws-​and-​ regulations/​Svalbard-​Treaty/​ 20 Several other nation-​ states subsidize activities on Svalbard as well, e.g. by co-​ funding research stations, etc. 21 Arlov, Svalbards historie. 22 Ibid. 23 Guattari and Genosko, The Guattari Reader. 24 The first Danish scientific northern lights expedition is an important reference for other of my artistic works. For example, the video installation Pre-​Studies for a Film (Argos Center for Media Art 2015). 25 Martinsson and Klett, “Environmental Rephotography Visually Mapping Time, Change and Experience.” 26 Ingold, Being Alive. 27 Scott, “Archives of the Present-​Future,” 136. 28 Joselit, “Against Representation.” 29 Scott, “Archives of the Present-​Future.” 30 Spinney, “A Place of Sense.” 31 Hastrup, Anthropology and Nature. 32 Haraway, “Situated Knowledges”; Turnbull in Hastrup, “Comparing Climate Worlds: Theorising across Ethnographic Fields.” 33 For further discussions on visual practice as coding, highlighting, and production of material representations, see Charles Goodwin, “Professional Vision.” 34 Jensen, Livet i Longyearbyen. 35 Hastrup, Anthropology and Nature. 36 Ibid., 2. 37 Demos, Decolonizing Nature. 38 Avango and Roberts, “Heritage, Conservation, and the Geopolitics of Svalbard: Writing the History of Arctic Environments.” 39 I am thinking of SvalSat outside Longyearbyen, for example, recognized as the most optimally located commercial ground station in the world for satellite control. However, I am also thinking of the Global Seed Vault, which is a seed storage facility representing the world’s largest collection of crop diversity, likewise located outside Longyearbyen. 40 E.g. Dolly Jørgensen on the science and politics of environmental remediation. 41 E.g. Kirsten Thisted on the art of Pia Arke. 42 E.g. Dag Avango on material legacies as resources for sustainable futures. 43 Hastrup, Anthropology and Nature, 2. 44 Wetherell, Affect and Emotion. 45 Clifford, The Predicament of Culture. 46 Feld and Basso, Senses of Place. 47 Grasseni, Skilled Visions. 48 Tsing, “More-​than-​Human Sociality: A Call for Critical Description.” 49 Boyer, “From Media Anthropology to the Anthropology of Mediation.” 50 Grasseni, Skilled Visions, 4. 51 Wormbs, “Eyes on the Ice.” 52 Lebow, The Cinema of Me. 53 Davis and Turpin, Art in the Anthropocene. 54 Tsing, “More-​than-​Human Sociality: A Call for Critical Description.”



Part II

Changing Narratives of the Anthropocene and the North



3 Northern Landscape and the Anthropocene A Long View Mark A. Cheetham

‘North’ is a relative term, both geographically and culturally. As Canadian scholar Sherrill Grace suggests, the capital ‘N’ reminds us that the concept is of our making and highly variable: “North is multiple, shifting and elastic; it is a process, not an eternal fixed goal or condition. It is, above all, Other, and as such emphatically a construction of southerners (or in earlier stages Europeans, Romans, Greeks), paradoxically invoked to distinguish us from those who are more southern.”1 I too am adopting the stance typical of writers about the North in Canada, that is, a ‘Southern’ perspective, writing from the southernmost metropolis (Toronto) and region (Southern Ontario) of a country whose settler populations have for centuries habitually thought of and projected themselves and the landscapes they colonized as ‘Northern.’ North has typically been taken either as aggressively negative (a murderous climate) as well as transcendently positive (source of mystical purity and renewal). Clichéd as the designation typically is, Canadians are often happy to be labelled as Northern. For example, a wildly successful branding campaign in 2014 promoting Canada’s only professional basketball team, the Toronto Raptors, adopted the slogan “We the North,” the phrase that CEO Tim Leiweke calls the team’s “Cultural anthem” and creed.2 We read the following about the campaign on its designer’s website: “Sid Lee partnered with the Toronto Raptors to unite people around a mindset and pride of place. We The North isn’t a campaign, but an example of how an identity-​shaping truth can spark a brand crusade.”3 The irony is that Toronto is the southernmost large city in Canada and not the most northerly city to have a team in the NBA. Portland and Minneapolis are further north, if only geographically. That most of the Raptors’ players are American only underlines the relativity of the denomination ‘North.’ One of the many ironies of deploying North as a place and an identity is the disenfranchizement of the Indigenous peoples who have for millennia lived in these regions and evolved cultures specific to them. These far-​flung and diverse groups, however, are not therefore more genuinely Northern; they are defined, as we all are, by much more than their environments.4 From a North American vantage point, we can productively think about images of the landscapes of the North in three overlapping groups, each with paradigmatic visual expressions: from ‘first contact’ between Indigenous peoples and explorers until late in the nineteenth century; an early to mid-​twentieth-​century stage in which discourses and mythologies of the North were used in Canada to define a national character; and contemporary ‘eco art,’ in which issues of the environment and climate change dominate.5 These distinctions are intended to be heuristic. Inevitably and self-​ consciously, I am construing these phases from the present and from the perspectives of eco art as a relatively recent site of negotiations concerning landscapes, place, and


60  Mark A. Cheetham identity. Because earlier conceptions of the North remain potent in contemporary culture, however, there is much to be gained by thinking in terms of an extensive, eclectic, yet also continuous visual engagement that pictures the North as a particular part of the earth and cultural affiliation over several centuries of colonization. In Art History, most scholars specialize in only one of these phases, perceiving several periods where a geologist, for example, might see only one. What if we construe the Anthropocene as an eco-​art-​historical designation and blend humanist and scientific terminologies to look at visualizations of the North in terms of an Early Modern, Modern, and Contemporary Anthropocene? What this thought experiment may lose in scientific precision it gains in interpretive possibility. As Davis and Turpin suggest in Art and the Anthropocene, for example, “becoming-​geological undoes aesthetic sensibilities and ungrounds political commitments.”6 Taking this ‘long view’ means sacrificing depth for breadth but has the advantage of alerting us to the long process of visualization that undergirds how North is imagined. The long historical view also acknowledges the temporal span of what is now variously called the Anthropocene –​ the controversial term used to describe the epoch in which human activity has become a force of nature (Crutzen) –​the Capitalocene and Chthulucene (Moore; Haraway), the last of which underscores the main cause of global warming, industrialization, or ‘Anthrobscene,’ Jussi Parikka’s memorable term, calculated to stress the obscenity of the wanton disregard for and humiliation of the integrity of the earth, of humans, of non-​human animals, and of other organisms and inanimate materials.7 More than capital, the protocols of modernity are the real culprit here. If one looks to the sorry tale of modernization both in and beyond capitalist societies in the twentieth century, the Soviet Union’s and then China’s rush to modernize industry and agriculture need to be seen as major contributors to current climate woes. All depictions of the North by non-​Indigenes were made during this extensive epoch, whatever we call it, whether or not it was a self-​conscious category, and whether or not we acknowledge the ongoing controversy about when it began and when or how it will end. Another reason for taking the long view pertains to our understanding of eco art. The North is more significant economically than ever before; it is increasingly industrialized and militarized. As part of the cryosphere, it is also highly vulnerable to climate change. For these reasons, it is not sufficient to consider eco art only as a phenomenon within contemporary art, as an equally important (or equally inconsequential) trend among many. Eco art is not a fashion or style among others: at its best, it is the site of frank engagements with many pressing crises in the Anthropocene, from species depletion to climate change to resource shortages, issues that entail reassessments of human nature and anthropocentrism in relation to the planet.

Early Modern Anthropocene While the exploration of the Northern and Arctic regions of North America began with the Norse in the eleventh century and was reignited by Giovanni Caboto’s British-​sponsored voyage in 1497 to what is now called Newfoundland, the preponderance of European pictorial images of its peoples and lands follow from the voyages in search of the fabled Northwest Passage, beginning in the sixteenth century with Martin Frobisher (1576, 1577, 1578), John Davis (1585, 1586, 1587), and many others.8 Images of exploration in this region proliferated in the following centuries, leaving British names on the Western maps and consciousness of Northern North


Northern Landscape and the Anthropocene  61 America. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries especially, the list of expedition leaders grows very long: James Cook, John Ross, William Parry, and –​most notoriously because his disappearance in 1845, on his third voyage, sparked no fewer than 34 rescue missions and because the cannibalism perennially assumed of Indigenous peoples was practiced by his starving crew –​John Franklin.9 Franklin and his men died in the Arctic. The Northwest Passage that he and so many others sought was only successfully navigated by sea in 1903–​1906, by Roald Amundsen. But Franklin’s story remains current: HMS Erebus was discovered only in 2014 and HMS Terror in 2016. Then and since, most images of these Northern regions circulated widely as prints based on written accounts, then in photographs. Less common but still numerous were paintings by, or based closely on sketches by, the visitors themselves. Landscape depictions from these quests emphasized two elements:  exploration, with its rhetoric of heroism, and the perennial exoticism of what was first called ‘natural history,’ whether of human or other ‘specimens.’10 A prime example is The Skirmish at Bloody Point, Frobisher Bay (1585–​1593) [see Figure 3.1]. This important image is thought to be based on a sketch by John White –​a meticulous observer of the flora, fauna, and peoples of North America, particularly at the short-​lived Roanoke colony in what is now Virginia, USA, of which he later became governor. Likely painted in the late 1580s, we see a violent event in August of 1577 during Frobisher’s second voyage to Baffin Island, a graphic presentation of a battle between a handful of British in a boat, firing muskets at a group of Inuit armed with bows and arrows above them on the shore. White may or may not have been present, but written descriptions of Frobisher’s exploits were disseminated in England and describe the other Inuit, some in kayaks, shown here.11 This disturbing image stands as a departure point for a consideration of Northern landscape in the Anthropocene. European interests in the North were always economic. Frobisher was searching for the Northwest Passage to facilitate trade between Britain and Asia and to discover minerals. He deployed his crew to extract ore from the far North (as well as people, as we will see), a commitment to monetary gain that has escalated to this day as oil and gas deposits are found beneath the seabed in the Arctic and because global climate change has made the Northwest Passage navigable and thus economically expedient on a large scale. While Crutzen and other scholars place the beginning of the Anthropocene in the Industrial Revolution in mid-​eighteenth-​century Britain, Jason W. Moore construes the phenomenon as a complex of power relationships under capital, one that began in the sixteenth century with the imperial exploration that we see in this image. As both he and Donald Worster argue, to understand the Anthropocene we need to look at the roots of industrialization and its infrastructure in earlier times and especially in the capitalization of North and South America.12 This is the primary way in which the euphemistically titled ‘skirmish’ –​five or six Inuit were killed –​can be thought of as an image of the Anthropocene. Frobisher was in the North to plunder resources and to find a sea route conducive to British trade. Relevant to the differences between peoples in this image is the objection to the use of ‘Anthro’ on the grounds that not all humans have contributed equally to anthropocentric climate change. The Inuit were not miners but rather raw materials for the colonizers. The battle we see is, I suggest, closely related to an event from Frobisher’s voyage to the same region a year earlier. When five of his crewmen disappeared in a small boat, Frobisher assumed that they had been captured and sought an Inuk hostage with whom to bargain for their return. He abducted a single Inuk and his kayak, taking both back to London that


Figure 3.1 After John White, The Skirmish at Bloody Point, Frobisher Bay, 1585–​1593. Watercolor, with bodycolor and pen and grey ink on paper. 386 x 264  mm. © Trustees of the British Museum.


Northern Landscape and the Anthropocene  63 year and displaying them to great acclaim, much of which glory reflected on Frobisher himself.13 He also brought back 200 tons of what he wrongly believed was gold ore. Both were ‘resources.’ What we might call the logic of the Anthropocene vis-​à-​vis nature ensued: he planned another trip. On his arrival in the Arctic in 1577, Frobisher again sought his lost crewmen and again tried to take hostages. One was abducted separately, and a young woman and her child were captured at ‘Bloody Point,’ the occasion for this picture. This trio was also brought to England. Like the man the year before, they were a spectacle but died soon after. Here and in many images of the time, the landscape of the North is an amalgam of physical forms and its use by peoples construed as exotic and primitive. As land is transformed into landscape, we learn about local topography, Inuit dress, and weaponry described in eyewitness accounts. These details are part of one narrative as related from the British perspective, that of the battle. But what of the most prominent visual element in this watercolor, the Inuk in his kayak that dominates the foreground? Stretching from bottom corner to corner, the lateral display of his boat defines the horizontal extent of the image. This paddler seems separate from the conflict, making his image more an ethnological record for the European gaze, even a recollection of the captive from Frobisher’s 1576 expedition. We do not know how this painting came to be: it could be a direct copy of White or it could be an interpretation of written accounts of Frobisher’s voyages. With hindsight, a perspective we share to some extent with the artist who painted this work, I therefore see this as a composite image, one that combines the battle narrative from 1577 with that of a curiosity surrounding the exotic ‘specimen’ captured the year before. Supporting this interpretation is Adriaan Coenen’s depiction in his Visboek (‘Fish Book,’ 1577–​1579) of Frobisher’s 1576 seizure of the Inuk and his kayak. Here the kayak is displayed horizontally as it floats alongside one of Frobisher’s ships, that is, in the same manner as in Figure 3.1. Conceived in this way as a carrier of European attitudes towards the land and people of the Americas, The skirmish at Bloody Point, Frobisher Bay is an early example of what we could now call an Anthropocene conception of the North as exploitable resource, one that informs later landscapes of the region and can motivate the eco art of the present to offer other views about the North. We do not have an Inuit version of the events in this bay, which, characteristically, bears the name of its Western ‘discoverer.’ Seeing it as a Northern landscape of Anthropocene hubris, however, as I am proposing, might take us one step closer to a fuller appreciation of what this image shows and what the Anthropocene as a concept in turn accomplishes. Zoe Todd makes the point forcefully: “As a Métis scholar, I have an inherent distrust of this term, the Anthropocene, since terms and theories can act as gentrifiers in their own right, and, and I frequently have to force myself to engage in good faith with it as heuristic. While it may seem ridiculous to distrust a word, it is precisely because the term has colonized and infiltrated many intellectual contexts throughout the academy at the moment that I view it with caution…. I ask myself: ‘What other story could be told here? What other language is not being heard? Whose space is this, and who is not here?’ ”14 Explorers from Europe and the USA increasingly framed the landscapes they encountered in the North through the two pervasive aesthetic discourses of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the sublime and the picturesque. Both rubrics are, from today’s perspective, typical of the Anthropocene in that they assume a divide between the human and nature. Whether exemplified in on-​ the-​ ground ‘improvements’ in


64  Mark A. Cheetham picturesque landscape parks or in the exultation of the transcendent sublime, these ways of seeing nature depend on a sense of inexhaustible resources (material and aesthetic) available for human exploitation. As Anne Bermingham and others have amply demonstrated, the picturesque was both aesthetic and ideological in the sense that it formulated views through economic, gender, and class constraints as well as the conventions of earlier landscape depiction.15 I. S. MacLaren has emphasized that the picturesque was an important structure for seeing the Arctic in the nineteenth century, one that attempted to normalize its largely unfamiliar landscape features to those of England. “The Englishman who discovered the Picturesque abroad,” he writes, “was achieving three purposes: he was affirming England’s belief in its own imperial destiny by stamping foreign tracts as English in appearance; he was conducting his travels/​ explorations in a sufficiently orderly manner to be able to perceive the composed qualities of nature; and, most importantly, he was nourishing his own aesthetic identity as an Englishman.”16 It was a colonizing discourse.17 As MacLaren goes on to show, for example, John Franklin sited Fort Enterprise in the MacKenzie delta area of the western Arctic of Canada in 1820 explicitly because of the locale’s supposedly picturesque qualities. Even when aesthetic dissent is registered, it is within the terms of the picturesque. One of Franklin’s compatriots wrote of this area that “[William] Gilpin himself, that celebrated picturesque hunter, would have made a fruitless journey had he come with us … nowhere did I see anything worthy of your pencil. So much for the country. It is a barren subject, and deserves to be thus briefly dismissed.”18 While the picturesque is often wrongly overlooked as a way of construing the North, the best known images of these regions are those that were constructed and received through the paradigm of the sublime.19 The German painter Caspar David Friedrich took his theme from newspaper accounts of dangerous expeditions to the North for the majestic Sea of Ice (Das Eismeer in German; also called The Arctic Shipwreck) of 1823–​1824, likely including Parry’s in 1819–​1820, and he made his observations of ice on the banks of the River Elbe near Dresden. For the Romantics, the sublime in nature overwhelms our senses and our ability to understand what we see … almost. In varying ways, Burke, Kant, Schiller, and, we may suppose, Friedrich, believed that while the sublime is enormous in all senses and terrifying, our human capacities for reason and religious belief ultimately allow us to take moral strength from such depictions. Here the ship and its crew are clearly lost, but the powerful triangular composition has the pinnacles of ice and even the ship’s shattered mast pointing to a brightening sky, easily construed as a sign of the divine. Another paradigmatic image of the Sublime North is American Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church’s The Icebergs (1861) [see Figure 3.2]. More an adventurer than Friedrich and devoted to the pioneering environmental explorations of Alexander von Humboldt, including those to the Arctic, Church hunted the sublime as Gilpin did the picturesque. In 1859, Church secured a ship to take him close to icebergs off Greenland and Labrador. He was accompanied by the Reverend Louis Legrand Noble, whose account, After Icebergs: with a Painter…, was published in New York and London in 1861 as a lure to Church’s painting. Noble evoked the attraction of his quarry: “True to all the forms of nature that swell to the sublime, an iceberg grows upon the mind astonishingly.”20 For Church and his enthusiastic audiences in New  York, Boston, and London, where he toured the painting, those associations included the divine source of nature’s magnificence, the particulars of ice formations, and a sublime sense of the small part that we humans ultimately play in


Northern Landscape and the Anthropocene  65

Figure 3.2 Frederic Edwin Church, The Icebergs, 1861. Oil on Canvas. Framed dimensions: 85 x 133 x 5 in. (2 m 15.9 cm x 3 m 37.821 cm x 12.7 cm). Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Norma and Lamar Hunt. Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art.

this whole. As in Friedrich’s Sea of Ice, The Icebergs included a crushed ship, one to whose fragmented mast Church added detail, forming a conspicuous cross in his studies and in the last version of the oil, shown in London in 1863.21 Crucial in the context of the Anthropocene North was the painting’s evocation of the glory and tragedies of Arctic exploration –​Lady Franklin attended the UK opening –​and the fact that its title at its first showing, in New York City in April of 1861, was The North: Church’s Picture of the Icebergs. Church’s modification of his title and the details of the ship in the huge canvas bear witness to the shifting ideological deployment of the North. A devout Christian and Union patriot, ‘North’ at the outbreak of the American Civil War connoted a cause and a geography in which New  York City was the center. Icebergs could be political. The Anthropocene is an epoch in which human impacts on the earth have increased exponentially through population growth, exploration and attendant species transplantation, industrialization, and resource exploitation. Conceptions of North are both indicative of and conducive to these changes. What was it about the familiar norms of the sublime and picturesque that mobilized the Anthropocene imagination of the North and then saw a retreat from these paradigms, both of which fell out of favor by the turn of the twentieth century? The sublime conveyed the conception of the North as thrillingly terrifying, the ultimate test of human strength, and of nature as the work of a Christian god. Yet most images of the Sublime North were not paintings at all, let alone works of this scope. So plentiful are the prints and photographs of ships caught in the ice, towering cliffs and icebergs, and diminutive, valiant men struggling to find the Northwest Passage and the Pole, that this lexicon was thoroughly conventionalized by the turn of the twentieth century. Its version of the North became


66  Mark A. Cheetham a commonplace through publications such as the Illustrated Arctic News: published on board H.M.S. Resolute; Captn. Horatio T. Austin, C.B., in search of the expedition under Sir John Franklin (1852). The picturesque encourages visual exploration of terrain, the trivialization of human and non-​human animal inhabitants as ornamental details, and, to use the term widely deployed in the eighteenth and nineteenth century by landowners and professional landscape gardeners, it promotes ‘improvement,’ that is, changing what is found to make it more like what one knows elsewhere. It is not too much to say that the picturesque made the world safe for imperialism. The sublime differed in appearance, but in terms of its treatment of the earth, it in turn celebrated the putative heroism and divine right of Northern exploits.22

Modern Anthropocene A second phase in the imagining of Northern landscape equated national identity with the Canadian Arctic. Because it was so pervasive and still holds considerable sway, a central example is the imagery, rhetoric, and reception of the Group of Seven in Canada. In a definitive essay, John O’Brian lays out how the twinned notion of North/​Wilderness motivated artists and writers in Canada to define the nation as Northern.23 Codified and disseminated by a brotherhood of artists active in Central Canada from c.1911 but consolidated as the Group of Seven only in 1920 (after the displacements of WWI), the North as they conceived and painted it was largely empty, white (in all senses), male, pure, and free. North for these artists was imagined from cities. Toronto’s purpose-​built Studio Building was the base from which members of the Group traveled further and further north geographically, for example. Buffalo, New York’s Albright Gallery was where two of its most important members, Lawren S. Harris and J.E.H. MacDonald, saw an exhibit of contemporary Scandinavian art in 1913 that turned their heads. These Northern landscapes were in MacDonald’s terms “indigenous,” that is, essential Scandinavian landscapes not made to look European, as was the case with most Canadian self-​representation through landscape at this time. Artists such as the Swede Gustaf Fjaestad glorified their own regional landscapes, often in winter. Their example spurred Group members to look at their own land with similar honesty and intensity and thus to counteract what the art critic Harold Mortimer-​Lamb observed about an exhibit of photographs in the same year: “Most of the pictorial work one sees –​and this also applies to Canadian painting –​could have been done anywhere; in Holland or France, or England…yet to some man some day inspiration will come, and he will give expression to the spirit of our Northern solitudes.”24 The picturesque was swept away by the Group of Seven, but in its place Harris especially developed a renewed and highly mystical vision of the Northern Sublime. The story of the Group’s relationships with North is long, complex, nuanced, and still topical in Canada and the USA, thanks most recently to the exhibit The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris, curated by actor, musician, and art collector Steve Martin and seen in Los Angeles, Boston, and Toronto in 2016. Promotional literature from the show’s stop at the prestigious Museum of Fine Arts in Boston largely repeated the mythologies of North promulgated by Harris and his confreres a century earlier:  “His scenes of an evocative northland, isolated peaks, and vast expanses of shimmering water are considered essential images of the country,” we read.25 But this is only part of the story. For example, North was distilled in a painting


Northern Landscape and the Anthropocene  67 of 1935 by Harris didactically titled Winter Comes from the Arctic to the Temperate Zone [see Plate 9], a work that was not in Martin’s large exhibition. Painted after his trip to the Arctic in 1930, and after the last Group of Seven exhibition in 1931, when the cosmopolitan Harris was experimenting with abstraction as artist in residence at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, here we see the North as a cleansing force in society. The spiritual North purifies the South and mirrors in a reversed sequence Harris’s own quest for more remote and, from the vantage point of conventional landscapes in North America and Europe, dramatically barren terrain in the Canadian Arctic. Moving into the image from a tawny hillock in the foreground to a sun-​dappled tree in the snow, through an increasingly blue, spare, and geometrically simple vocabulary of Northernness, we realize that lines of rejuvenating force emanate from the distant mountain, zigzagging their way to infinity beyond the lateral confines of the frame. Harris’s views on the ameliorative qualities of the North were unshakably nationalistic: “It seems that the top of the continent is a source of spiritual flow that will ever shed clarity into the growing race of America,” he wrote. “We Canadians, being closest to this source, seem destined to produce an art somewhat different from our southern fellows … perhaps of a certain conviction of eternal values. We were not placed between the southern teeming of men and the ample, replenishing North for nothing.”26 Harris’s is again the sublime of the Anthropocene, but where the collective as well as individually heroic ‘conquering’ of the North functioned in the nineteenth century to obscure so much of the economic and technological specificity of the North, Harris’s Theosophical beliefs removed North from the confines of time altogether.

Contemporary Anthropocene Just as paintings by the Group replaced the niceties of the picturesque with supposedly authentic Northernness, their initially controversial but soon immensely popular versions of landscape in Canada and its North particularly were questioned by a range of artists in Canada. Crucial in redirecting the question of what North meant in the 1960s and 1970s –​and also characteristically Postmodern and then contemporary in their opposition to Romantic and Modernist paradigms of landscape and of the North, I would argue27 –​were N.E. Thing Co.’s conceptual and ecological work on the notion of North and in the Arctic in the late 1960s. Iain Baxter founded the N.E. Thing Co. in 1966 in Vancouver (NETCO, as it’s also called, was legally incorporated in 1969), which he co-​administered with Ingrid Baxter until 1978. He has worked since under the surname ‘Baxter&.’ NETCO produced a plethora of landscape-​related conceptual art with a strong environmentalist inclination, including photographs of piles of lumber and other ‘natural’ products fueling British Columbia’s resource economy. Some of their work explicitly focused on the idea of North, whether close to Vancouver or in the Arctic. P-​Line Straight (1968), for example, was Ian Baxter’s playful way of demarcating land and artistic property by urinating in the snow. Territorial Claim (1969) and related works were the results of NETCO’s extended mockery of mapping and colonialist territoriality generated on a brief trip to the Northwest Territories in Canada in 1969, an excursion they shared with American artist Lawrence Weiner and critic Lucy Lippard, among others. Lippard’s account of this trip underlines the travelers’ distress at what they found in this very un-​Romantic North: a government/​company town (Inuvik) dedicated only to profiting from resource extraction.28 Another notable example is a delicate yet polemical revision of North by Canadian visual artist


68  Mark A. Cheetham and film maker Joyce Wieland, Water Quilt (1970–​1971). Here sixty-​four pillow-​like forms supporting botanically accurate images of wildflowers from the Canadian Arctic are tied together and mounted on canvas. But this is no pastoral meadow. Viewers are invited to read the texts that literally underlie these seemingly innocent images. Each overlay reveals an excerpt from economist James Laxer’s 1970 book The Energy Poker Game, an exposé of American plans to take over Canada’s water resources by re-​routing north-​flowing rivers toward the thirsty market south of the 49th parallel. The book’s subtitle announced the threat that exercised Wieland and many others worried about continental ‘sharing’ of resources well before the North American Free Trade Agreement signed in 1994. Michael Snow’s film La Région Centrale (1971), and Paterson Ewen’s Northern Lights (1973) provided similar critical attention to North from a Canadian perspective.29 Many artists active today reimagine the North in terms of ecology and climate change. They often want viewers to have an emotional response to these issues and in this way to augment a strictly ‘scientific’ understanding of the Anthropocene. Visualizations of North can be more succinct and compelling than scientific data, as N.E. Thing Co. co-​founder Iain Baxter&’s tongue-​in-​cheek maxim to describe the impact of one of his own ecological works registered in 1969 suggested: “A word is worth 1/​1,000th of a picture.” The Icelandic/​Danish artist Olafur Eliasson and the Greenlandic/​Danish geologist Minik Rosing also put the point succinctly: “Facts are one part; [but] just as guilt does not inspire initiative, people will not act on facts alone. We are inspired to act by emotional and physical experience. Knowledge can tell us what we should do to achieve our goals, but the goals and the urge to act must arise from our emotions.”30 Eliasson has taken up the theme of North repeatedly, picturing its icons in a photo series of Icelandic waterfalls, for example, and more recently taking this version of North to Paris with Ice Watch, one of the seats of former empire from where it was imagined in the sixteenth century, when the French settled North America. Here eighty tons of ice blocks sourced from a fjord in Greenland mark the hours of a gigantic and relentlessly melting timepiece. Part of the collective effort to raise awareness about planetary climate disruption called ‘artists4climate,’ and displayed in the prominent Place du Panthéon, Paris, at the time of the 2015 COP 21 climate negotiations, Ice Watch brought home to an urban context not only the effects of global warming but also the urgency to take collective action on climate change. An earlier ‘melting’ work was pointedly titled Your Waste of Time (2006) and used ice from Vatnajökull, Iceland, the largest glacier in Europe. Icebergs have captivated as well as frightened us for centuries, and as we have seen, have been central to one of the standard topoi of Romantic visual imagery, ‘man’ threatened by nature. The long view of visual engagements with and constructions of the far North that I am outlining here from a predominantly Canadian perspective allows us to see that German artist Mariele Neudecker’s There is Always Something More Important [see Figure 3.3], a multi-​media installation from 2012, offers a new perspective on this polar phenomenon. Compellingly out of place in a climate controlled gallery space, and unnaturally static, her naturalistic but also clearly synthetic iceberg is familiar from the long landscape tradition described above. Neudecker does what Church, Harris, and many other artists tried to do: come very close to an iceberg. She accomplishes what we can’t do ‘in nature’ by anatomizing the form, cutting it in cross section and installing two eye-​like video monitors near its anthropomorphized ‘face’. We don’t see inside the structure through these portals, however, but


Northern Landscape and the Anthropocene  69

Figure 3.3 Mariele Neudecker, There is Always Something More Important, 2012. Fibre glass, pigment, plywood; 2 channel video on monitors, looped. 65 cm x 207 cm x length variable approximately 420 cm. Installation view, ARCTIC, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, 2013/​14. Courtesy the artist.

instead move visually back to the seascape in which icebergs typically float. We see ice flowing from one ‘eye’ to the other across a gap. Our eyes and thoughts move, but the iceberg remains uncannily still in its gallery setting. It’s in this meditative gap, this suspension of the practical, scientific imperatives of the Anthropocene, perhaps, that we might parse her unusual title. “There is always something more important” than … acting on climate change, Neudecker’s words invite us to think. The sublime fearsomeness of the North is historically and environmentally inflected in Canadian conceptual artist Kevin Schmidt’s A Sign in the Northwest Passage, 2010 [see Figure 3.4]. For this simple work with complex associations both past and present, he made a billboard-​sized sign into which he gouged apocalyptic texts from the Christian Book of Revelation. He attached flotation drums to the sign’s base and placed it on the sea ice near Tuktoyaktuk in the western Canadian Arctic, in the vicinity of Franklin’s settlement in 1820. Schmidt knew that this ice would melt and move in the summer; part of the project was to return to discover and salvage its remains. But he found nothing and only added more human detritus to the ocean. “The Sea Turned Into Blood” and other admonishments proclaimed by the sign could make us reflect on current environmental change in the North, particularly the unpredictable but clear decline in the amount of sea ice in the region. To a remarkable degree only apparent when we have in mind a long landscape tradition, the text that Schmidt redeploys is replete with references to the earth and its ecosystem: to waters, hailstones,


70  Mark A. Cheetham

Figure 3.4 Kevin Schmidt, A Sign in the Northwest Passage, 2010. Courtesy the artist and Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver. © Kevin Schmidt.

earthquakes, etc. Two other aspects of A Sign in the Northwest Passage stand out when we consider them through the long view of the Anthropocene and of landscape depiction. Schmidt emphasizes that he was on a journey in making, installing, and later revisiting this work. He first drove its components to the Arctic from Vancouver. In a 2011 video with the same title, he travels over the ice by snowmobile, embarking on a voyage to his sign in the vaunted Northwest Passage. His trip is quick and uneventful, a sharp contrast to centuries of exploration in this area. The work exists in two other formats: a large photograph of the sign and a replica of it at full billboard scale. These versions have been toured to various cities, not unlike Church’s The Icebergs and, given their Biblical references, with a like-​minded tone of revelation. They have literally come from the Arctic to the temperate zone again, as in Harris’ painting of that name, to the South’s gallery system from whence most art about the North stems. Or should we simply say from the city, where the North is often made? As Schmidt’s and Neudecker’s works suggest, landscape painting is not central in today’s eco art practices. But how this landscape genre has construed North remains important. The American painter and photographer Diane Burko’s paintings of the cryosphere in Greenland make this connection apparent. She believes in and depicts a scientific understanding of glaciation and other phenomena. “Art can communicate science,” she says. “My obsession with nature at its most awe-​inspiring naturally leads


Northern Landscape and the Anthropocene  71 me to want to preserve and protect it. That’s why I want to show how our environment is being threatened by climate change.”31 In one large-​scale painting from 2015, for ­example –​ Jakobshavn-​Ilulissat Quartet, 2015 [see Plate 10] –​she depicts a glaciated area of western Greenland from above across four large panels. The leftmost painting is of sea ice near the shore; on the far right is an aerial image that shows a considerable amount of open land where the glacier once was. In the center two panels we have pulled back to the vantage point of a satellite image, with all the scientific authority that this viewpoint suggests. Here Burko has set in a map of Greenland for orientation. Incorporating scientific information, she “quotes the recessional maps used by glaciologists to indicate such change over time. The one I referenced for my painting traced change from 1850 to 2012.”32 Praising her references to scientific data, the co-​authors of a 2016 article state unequivocally that The prominent red stylized time stamp in the lower right corner is evocative of common scientific images of glaciers. Juxtaposing a clearly ‘painted’ glacier, Burko blurs the lines of authority and science, pushing viewers to consider how glacier narratives are produced, circulated, and given credibility and authority across time and space, and by whom. Her paintings, which utilize up-​to-​date scientific data such as individual glacier recession rates, inhabit a socially problematic more-​than-​science position of being simultaneously ‘representationally accurate’ but also ‘representationally artistic’. As Burko demonstrates, and as these commentators agree, “glacier artwork does teach about glaciology, even if it is not satellite imagery from ‘true’ satellites.”33 I noted at the outset that Indigenous perspectives on North are sadly absent from the visual record of the Early Modern and Modern Anthropocene. That imbalance is changing under the aegis of eco art. Burko’s work offers a new and effective way to use Western scientific observations about the North. Inuit knowledge of this environment offers others. Can these contemporary approaches to reasserting and redefining North collaborate? Recalling Zoe Tod’s warnings cited above, I am well aware of the danger of recolonizing North from a Southern and non-​Indigenous angle by overemphasizing the import of the work I have discussed, and by ventriloquizing the purposes and import of contemporary Inuit art as ecological. However indirectly, this work should have the last word on the North in the Anthropocene. The documentary film Qapirangajuq:  Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change, 2010, directed by Inuk Zacharias Kunuk and Canada’s Ian Mauro for Isuma TV, was the first on this subject in the Inuktitut language and examines interrelationships between the land and peoples of the Arctic. Through the commentaries of numerous Inuit witnesses, the film gives an Indigenous perspective on climate change and the North as environment though which we can begin to approach other Inuit art in the contemporary Anthropocene. Rita Nashook says, “Southerners don’t want to understand Inuit ways … and treat us like we know nothing.” The film presents dozens of testimonies about climate change in the Arctic and the inability of a people who have had to observe the environment expertly in order to survive for millennia to even predict the weather or when ice and animals will arrive and depart. The impacts are rapid and devastating and call for collaboration between those who hold traditional Inuit knowledge about the earth and Western scientists.34 The Southern conception of North is now also inflected by explicitly ecological art from the Arctic. Carvings by Jaco Ishulutaq, for example,


72  Mark A. Cheetham

Figure 3.5 Geronimo Inutiq, Arcticnoise, 2015. Media Installation, Trinity Square Video, Toronto. Courtesy the artist, Igoolik Isuma Productions, and Vtape.

are also a way of conveying traditional ecological knowledge between generations of Inuit. “I carve all sorts of things…some carvings depict how one should live life, and some [are] on the climate change,” he reports.35 Global Warming, 2010, shows native animals ascending a massive walrus skull that arcs over the land and sea, an encapsulation of change, life, and death in the Anthropocene Arctic. ARCTICNOISE (2015)  [see Figure 3.5] by Geronimo Inutiq  –​who goes by the moniker ‘madeskimo’ and says pointedly in interviews that he was born in Frobisher Bay, now called Iqaluit, in Nunavut –​abjures traditional Inuit carving and symbolism to reconstruct North through video and sound mixes. Presented by co-​curators of this installation for the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto Britt Gallpen and Yasmin Nurming-​Por, Inutiq’s video installation revisited the pianist Glenn Gould’s iconic 1967 “Idea of North” radio program, sampling its testimonies of what North meant to Gould’s five respondents and editing in clips from the Igloolik Isuma Archive, supported by his own electronic soundtrack. Inutiq’s is a contemporary North, one that acknowledges, mixes, and celebrates a spectrum of cultural influences.36 He brings us full circle to Frobisher and to Gould, earlier players in the conception of North, whose actions and ideas remain with us. According to Inutiq, “The conversation in ARCTICNOISE is not just about these three topics —​Glenn Gould, The Idea of North, the Igloolik Isuma archive and my work as an independent media artist —​but it enters into a bigger conversation about the changing North and how the North is also joining the Internet revolution.”37


Northern Landscape and the Anthropocene  73 Mary Simon, a national Inuit leader interviewed in Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change, makes a point about Southern versus Inuit conceptions of the North that is key to understanding Northern landscape in the Anthropocene. “On the topic of environment, Southerners focus on borders, which prevents them from getting connected,” she claims. “When Inuit talk environment, we are one.” As a planetary and cultural epoch that has defined North as we know it, the Anthropocene has a fraught relationship with boundaries. On the one hand, we are all subject to this epoch. The effects characteristic of the Anthropocene –​from CO2 loads to species extinction to massive climate migration in the human population –​necessarily cross physical and political borders. On the other, still powered by the need for fossil fuels and geographical expansion, the industrializing imperatives of the Anthropocene constantly reassert national and economic borders, seek trade advantages through the Northwest Passage, and mine resources in the North. Global warming and water or air pollution show no regard for national borders or the fragile boundary of our human skin. Borders of all sorts are questioned and usually transgressed by ecological thinking and in eco art. Eco art that re-​envisions the North hopes to contribute to ways of thinking and being that will redefine the Anthropocene as an epoch of cooperation rather than exploitation.

Notes 1 Grace, Canada and the Idea of North, 16. An excellent survey of conceptions of North globally is Davidson, The Idea of North. The fact that this phrase is repeated in so many titles is a testament to its source, pianist and music theorist Glenn Gould’s one hour radio “docudrama” “The Idea of North,” which aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in December, 1967. 2​story/​sports/​nba/​raptors/​2014/​07/​08/​tim-​leiweke-​toronto-​canada-​basketball-​drake-​steve-​nash-​masai-​ujiri/​12364599/​ 3 http://​​en/​work/​Raptors/​We-​the-​North 4 See Grace, Chapter 8, on this diversity of race, language, culture, and geography. 5 ‘Eco Art’ is a common short form for ecological art. As Sam Bower suggests, the term overlaps with several others: “At we use ‘environmental art’ as an umbrella term to encompass ‘eco-​art’ /​‘ecological art’, ‘ecoventions’, ‘land art’, ‘earth art’, ‘earthworks’, ‘art in nature’ and even a few other less-​common terms.” I believe that ‘environmental’ is the more specific term and use ‘eco art’ as the umbrella designation. Artists, art historians, and theorists began to use both eco and environmental to describe art practices c. 1990. In 1989, Félix Guattari used the term ‘eco-​art’ to describe the “praxic opening-​out” to society and the environmental concerns of the planet that defined ecology for him. In a note to what was then a new term, he adds, “The root ‘eco’ is used here in its original Greek sense of oïkos, that is, ‘house, domestic property,’ ‘habitat,’ ‘natural milieu’.” (Guattari, The Three Ecologies, 33, 95). “Eco” also seems now to be the most widely used prefix or modifier, perhaps because ‘ecology’ –​in Bower’s straightforward definition, “the interdependence of living organisms in an environment” –​underlines planetary interconnectedness, which fits easily with current notions of globalization. 6 Davis, Turpin, “Art & Death: Lives Between the Fifth Assessment & the Sixth Extinction,” 3. 7 Crutzen, “Geology of Mankind.” Haraway, “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene:  Making Kin.” Parikka, The Anthroposcene. The wide use of the term Anthropocene has led scholars to ask about its precedents. A full account of this and related terms as they relate to contemporary art is found in T.  J. Demos’s five-​part commentary posted on the Fotomusuem Winterthur website: http://​​author/​tj-​demos/​. Accessed June 22, 2016. See also Rigby, “Writing in the Anthropocene:  Idle Chatter or Ecoprophetic Witness?”


74  Mark A. Cheetham 8 I will use British examples throughout this chapter, though there are of course many others. 9 On the mythology of Franklin, see Grace, “Re-​Inventing Franklin.” 10 See Harkness, “Elizabethan London’s Naturalists and the Work of John White.” 11 On contemporary narratives of Frobisher’s trips, see Fuller, Remembering the Early Modern Voyage and Sturtevant, Quinn, “This New Prey:  Eskimos in Europe in 1567, 1576, and 1577,” 68ff. 12 Moore, “The Capitalocene:  Part I:  On the Nature & Origins of Our Ecological Crisis.” Worster, Shrinking the Earth: The Rise and Decline of American Abundance. 13 For a detailed account of this incident and John White’s images from North America in general, see Sloan, A New World: England’s First View of America, and Vaughan, Transatlantic Encounters. 14 Todd, “Indigenizing the Anthropocene,” 244. Métis are of mixed Indigenous and European heritage. They are legally recognized as Indigenous in Canada. 15 Bermingham, Landscape and Ideology: The English Rustic Tradition, 1740–​1860. 16 MacLaren, “The Aesthetic Map of the North, 1845–​1859,” 90. See also MacLaren, “The Aesthetic Mapping of Nature in the Second Franklin Expedition.” While the Picturesque was a strongly normalizing, even imperialistic mode of seeing, its variety and nuanced inflection should not be forgotten. On this point, see Michasiw, “Nine Revisionist Theses on the Picturesque.” 17 See Mitchell, “Imperial Landscape.” 18 Cited in MacLaren, “The Aesthetic Map of the North,” 90. 19 See Wilton, Barringer, The American Sublime:  Landscape Painting in the United States, 1820–​1880. 20 Noble, After Icebergs: With A Painter…, 113. 21 See Howat, Frederick Church, Raab, Frederic Church: The Art and Science of Detail, and Wilton, Barringer, The American Sublime. 22 While my focus here is on the sublime in visual culture, close parallels can be drawn with its uses in literary contexts. On the latter, see Benjamin Morgan, “After the Arctic Sublime.” 23 O’Brian, “Wild Art History,” 21. 24 Mortimer-​Lamb, Photograms of the Year, 34. 25​exhibitions/​the-​idea-​of-​north-​lawren-​harris 26 Harris cited in Larisey, Light for a Cold Land: Lawren Harris’s Life and Work, 63. 27 While the debates around the terms ‘postmodern’ and ‘contemporary’ are too extensive and thorny to enter into in detail here, we need to keep in mind, first, that what Rosalind Krauss deems poststructuralist postmodernism was “driven by a critique of representation that questioned its truth” (Art since 1900: modernism, antimodernism, postmodernism. Hal Foster … [et al.]. 2nd ed. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2011: 640). It rejected Modernism’s paradigms in serious ways. Secondly, whenever we claim that the contemporary in art begins, we cannot properly ignore the changes to artworld practices and perspectives wrought by postmodernism c. 1970–​1990. 28 Lucy R.  Lippard. “Art within the Arctic Circle.” The Hudson Review 22, no.  4 (1969): 665–674. 29 See Beyond Wilderness for a full discussion of such reactions and re-​definitions of the North/​Wilderness dyad. 30 Rosing, Eliasson, “Ice, Art, and Being Human.” 31 Burko in Verchot. 32 Burko in Orlove. 33 Mark Carey, M Jackson, Alessandro Antonello and Jaclyn Rushing, “Glaciers, gender, and science…”16. 34 See for example the list from the Nunavut Climate Change Centre: http://​climatechange​en/​understanding-​climate-​change/​climate-​change-​impact. On scientific collaboration, see http://​​en/​project/​arcticnet-​integrated-​regional-​impact​studies-​iris


Northern Landscape and the Anthropocene  75 35 Ishulutaq quoted in Rathwell, Armitage, “Art and artistic processes bridge knowledge systems….” The authors’ research found that “of the 30 artists interviewed in the Cape Dorset and Pangnirtung, 16 of them described making artworks on the theme of climate change and/​or sea ice change.” 36 The research platform MICH (Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage) exemplifies such collaborations. 37 Kate Hennessy, “Interview.” Geronimo Inutiq, ARCTICNOISE. Vancouver: grunt gallery, 2016. 26.


4 “We All Have to Live by What We Know” Activating Memoryscapes in the North Baffin Inuit Drawing Collection to Understand Arctic Environmental Change Norman Vorano On the surface, the drawing [see Plate 11] looks like a conventional landscape in the western picturesque tradition depicting a placid Arctic spring. In the foreground stand two men clad in caribou skin parkas and jigging for fish through a crack in the ice. In the middle ground, along the shoreline, a tent and barely discernible figures are engaged in activity. Behind this, rolling hills fade into infinity. Created in 1964 by the Pond Inlet Inuk Cornelius Nutarak (CM, 1924–​2006), the graphite and pencil crayon drawing has an idyllic, pastoral sensibility. In the upper quarter, a text box with Inuktitut writing breaks the picture’s visual space. Numerical pagination in the upper margin suggests the drawing’s place within a larger narrative sequence. Translated, the syllabic text contains a lively description of the scene: This is during springtime. Just as they left they caught fish. There are plenty of fish, so they catch a lot of fish. They use jigs with hooks. They use fishing spear. They catch the fish for food. During springtime. They also hang them to dry for jerky. They have tents made of sealskins. The men are catching fish. During springtime. The people just left the camp. The Inuit jig to catch a fish. They mostly catch fish during springtime. They also can catch fish from lakes. When we are jigging it is so much fun. That was how we caught fish back then. It was very exciting when we caught fish. Catching plenty of fish in one area that is how we are still doing it. Just like the one you see during springtime on the shore. And on a lake just after it froze. There would be small group of people fishing on lake. We used to catch quite a bit of fish. We caught them for food. The fish are healthy and delicious.1


“We All Have to Live by What We Know”  77 Is the drawing a simple recording of the past? Several ambiguities and details suggest a sense of purpose beyond merely documentation. The artist has not identified who is shown in the drawing nor indicated whether the scene was real or imagined. The image offers few historical markers to date the scene, an endeavor further complicated by the fact that the text shifts between the past and present tense. The positive emotions associated with the scene are plainly evident throughout the text. Although it could depict something from living memory or an imagined scene, the artist repeatedly states that it occurred in the spring, as if to underscore the social significance of the changing season, when the cracking ice and bubbling brooks foretold the cyclical fragmenting of winter encampments and the shift into more dispersed social groups as people traveled to new lands to hunt and fish. It is more than a snapshot of the past:  the writing and image evoke memory to describe an activity that occurred at some point in a collective past –​“that was how we caught fish back then” –​while asserting the continuity into the present –​“that is how we are still doing it.” The artist offers a picture of an indeterminate but certain past that moves effortlessly and without rupture into the present. Traditional knowledge of the land and the environment embedded in Indigenous art, like Nutarak’s drawing, can contribute to contemporary discussions of the Anthropocene. Inuit have lived in the Eastern Arctic of Canada and Greenland for nearly one thousand years. In this challenging environment, they have developed complex systems of knowledge about the land, environment, and the natural floral and faunal resources, which supported countless generations through time. Over the past forty years, however, the human impact on the Earth’s climate, which has a disproportionate effect in the circumpolar regions, has radically altered Inuit perceptions of the changing natural world. By looking at the intersection between Inuit graphical expressions from the 1960s, Indigenous knowledge, and contemporary climate change discussions, I argue that Inuit in the Eastern Canadian Arctic have experienced a ‘double impact’ of colonial modernity in the twentieth century. The first impact was primarily through the social effects of colonial modernity, resulting from a now well-​ documented range of government orchestrated colonial programs aimed at assimilating Inuit into settler society. The second impact upon Inuit culture –​which is only now coming into sharper focus –​stems from global environmental change as a result of human activities. Rather than seeing these two processes as distinct and consecutive, this chapter regards both as being inextricably linked through what contemporary scholars describe as the “Capitalocene,” the epoch-​making transformations of capital, power, and nature that began with the age of capitalism –​and European colonialism –​ in the fifteenth century.2 To explore these ideas, this chapter examines and contextualizes a small selection of Inuit drawings created in 1964 from the North Baffin region of Nunavut, Canada. These drawings reveal profound and complex links between Inuit perceptions of self-​identity, geography, ecology, and the environment. They are also entangled in a long history of Inuit-​white encounters, in which graphical expressions on paper became a means of communicating geographical and ethnographical information from Inuit interlocutors to external interlopers. The practice of using drawing to mediate the transfer of knowledge in the Arctic became widespread in the nineteenth century, though unevenly practiced. For Greenlandic Inuit, there is a substantive history of graphic art on paper dating back to the mid-​nineteenth century with Aron of Kangeq’s scenes of Arctic life that borrow from Western perspectival traditions.3


78 Norman Vorano In Alaska, the late nineteenth century saw an explosion of pictorial arts due to the mission school at Wales as well as the influx of outsiders during the gold rush, with artists such as George Ootenna and Guy Kakarook noted for their multi-​perspectival and photographic-​like scenes, respectively.4 In the Western Canadian Arctic, the fur trader Roderick MacFarlane solicited a substantive collection of some of the earliest Inuvialuit graphic arts, documenting life around the MacKenzie Delta in the 1860s.5 By contrast, barring a few isolated examples, graphic art in a pictorial or landscape style did not flourish in the nineteenth-​century Eastern Arctic, where two-​dimensional graphical expressions were generally restricted to simple pictographic images incised on ivory. The isolated examples of cartographic and landscape pictures created for European traders by Eastern Arctic Inuit guides in the early nineteenth century around South Baffin Island and Hudson Bay do, however, suggest that the practice was broadly known. The paucity of graphical art in the Eastern Arctic changed dramatically after the Second World War, when a formal market structure for Inuit prints on paper emerged through the intervention of white arts advisors and patrons, backed by the federal government.6 By the 1960s, Inuit graphic arts became a lucrative business in communities like Cape Dorset, Puvirnituq and Baker Lake, with other communities in the Canadian Arctic starting their own fine-​art print studios in the decades to come. The drawings examined in this chapter have a somewhat different origin story. Culled from a much larger collection (numbering 1,860 drawings in total), they were created by 159 individuals from four Inuit communities in the Eastern Canadian Arctic:  Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik), Clyde River (Kanngiqtugaapik), Arctic Bay (Ikpiarjuk), and Igloolik. The drawings were made between February and May of 1964, when a non-​Indigenous artist by the name of Terrence Ryan (1932–​2017) traveled to the upper reaches of Baffin Island, where he distributed paper and pencils and invited people to “draw anything.”7 Ryan, who was then employed in the Eastern Arctic community of Cape Dorset as “arts advisor” at the community-​owned print studio, wanted to collect “before such chances are gone, drawings…by a people who will in all likelihood not express themselves in like manner again.”8 Funded in part by a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, then a newly created national funding agency to support Canadian artists, Ryan’s efforts resulted in an expansive collection that documents a diverse array of themes: Inuit history, life before white people, hunting practices, Inuit myths and lore. The collection also includes many drawings of everyday life, created when the north was on the cusp of profound –​and for many, profoundly dislocating –​social, political, and cultural transformation. While I discuss the genesis of this collection in more detail later in this chapter, its origins speak to conflicting Inuit and white perceptions of cultural change and continuity during the transformations of colonial modernity in the Arctic, a process that was particularly intense during the 1960s.9 Moreover, the collection is situated at the intersection of different, and at times competing, forces, including that of the art market, the commodification and institutionalization of Inuit traditional geographical and ecological knowledge10, and the invention, negotiation, and trafficking of cultural capital as an invented “tradition” in the modern world.11 Contemporary research suggests that works of Indigenous art can further efforts to reclaim Indigenous land-​and natural resource management policies, and contribute towards a self-​conscious tradition of Inuit environmental stewardship in the twenty-​first century.12 In examining these drawings in relation to contemporary discussions of the Capitalocene, the chapter raises methodological questions concerning


“We All Have to Live by What We Know”  79 the way Indigenous visual art and material culture can be seen as contributing towards cross-​cultural research on the environment. Has the commodification of Inuit traditional knowledge (Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit) shaped strategies of community participation in the past or today? How, if at all, has the twentieth-​century fine arts market simultaneously enabled or curtailed the transmission of Indigenous knowledge through visual art? Art is not a neutral field of expression, but reflects different and at times competing interests and ideologies concerning value, authenticity, and quality. Often overlooked by researchers as being too market-​oriented, “acculturated,” or “prompted,” Inuit visual expressions on paper can provide a valuable documentary record of the way Indigenous concepts of land and the environment have been perceived in the past.13 Yet these questions are worth considering given the shifting methodologies of collaborative research, as Western environmental scientists are increasingly using art and aesthetics to link Western and indigenous knowledge systems about the environment.14 The North Baffin drawings provide evidence of the impact of colonial modernity in the mid-​twentieth-​century Arctic, when a way of life known for generations was rapidly becoming a cultural memory to be recorded for posterity. To illustrate the ongoing relevance of these drawings, this chapter draws together textual and visual analysis of the drawings along with oral interviews conducted with the descendants, kin, and friends of the artists. I gathered these interviews in the communities of Pond Inlet in 2016, and Clyde River in 2015 and 2016 as I prepared a traveling exhibition featuring fifty of the drawings.15 As I had learned through my interviews, art doesn’t speak for itself: it was the discussions with Inuit collaborators that best “activated” the drawings’ potential to generate Indigenous understandings concerning issues around memory, land, environmental change, and identity. The active process of contemporary interpretation brought the drawings back to life; the images provoked memory, unlocked knowledge, and shaped thoughts about place, the environment, and identity. This is evident in the discussion around the work I began with. I discussed Nutarak’s drawing with Jayko Alooloo, an elder hunter and administrator from Pond Inlet. Although none of this information was recorded in the text, Alooloo immediately identified the exact location where the scene unfolded. “This drawing has a story that explains how we used to live in another side of the world, a place called Kuttujuumi, Nuvuarjuk [point or cape], where we lived in the summer.” Gesturing to a small clump of rocks in the background of the drawing  –​barely distinguishable to my eyes, as I was drawn to the fishing scene in the foreground –​Alooloo zeroed in on just one of the many directional signposts embedded within the drawing. “It is called Kuttujuuk because it’s a river where water flowed from a glacier. During that time we lived in sealskin tents. Then we fished through the ice by the shore, and in the spring when the ice is open…there is a big rock just behind Kuttujuuk that you can see [in the drawing], which is called Nutarasungniq [trans: “smells like an infant”], a rocky area.” Alooloo’s interpretation of the drawing draws from an active cultural memory that links practices on the land into a network of social and personal relations that carry over into the present. The drawing and its response underline the way Inuit have literally transformed the Arctic landscape through their occupation of it: by diverting streams, making rock cairns and Inuksuit as place markers, and in the stone remnants of old campsites that are spread across the land. The drawing conveys collectively held cultural meanings about trailways, waterways, hunting grounds, and seasonal campsites, all connected to larger narratives of identity. As evident in the place name


80 Norman Vorano Nutarasungniq, with its olfactory associations (‘likely strewn with rotting kelp’), these cultural meanings were multisensory and embodied. Place names provide critical information about the land, environment, weather, hazards, and resources, as well as connecting people to narratives about their identity.16 Stories bind people together, and to the land. Conversely, the land binds people to knowledge systems and ways of perceiving the world. The drawings are situated at the precise juncture where people, land, and stories overlap.

Capitalocene and the Double Impact of a Colonial Modernity in the Arctic The North Baffin drawings were solicited during a period of intense colonial modernity in the 1960s. Inuit experienced sweeping social and cultural transformations after the Second World War, as the forces of ‘modernization’ that swept through the Arctic drove semi-​nomadic families off the land and into sedentary communities. The whole-​ cloth reorganization of Arctic administration in Canada’s postwar world involved, among other things, the federal government’s effort to institutionalize capitalist and noncapitalist forms of production in the Arctic.17 In an effort to remake Inuit in the likeness of settler society, Church-​run residential and day-​schools removed children from their families and prohibited the use of Inuit language, Inuktitut, forcing English upon children and adults alike. The lure of the North’s abundant oil, mineral, and gas reserves created, in the words of sociologist Marybelle Mitchell, a form of “dependency capitalism” that linked emerging Northern economies to the assimilationist objectives of the Canadian state through the accrual of surplus capital.18 The concept of the Capitalocene offers a powerful way of conceptualizing the complicated interlinkages between cultural and environmental stresses in the Indigenous North. In contrast to the term Anthropocene, the Capitalocene identifies a causal rather than coincidental link between the global rise of capitalism and biospheric instability. With that in mind, Inuit have suffered a double jeopardy of colonial modernity in the late Capitalocene: the first shock wave is represented by a range of now well-​documented social transformations stemming from the attempted assimilation of Inuit culture into Canadian society; the second shock wave—​which is now occurring at an accelerating pace—​stems from the environmental changes that have a direct and disproportionate impact upon Inuit culture and sense of self-​identity. Ominously, this process calls to mind McBrien’s notion of “becoming extinction,” the biological and cultural erasure resulting from the organization of capitalist production and its impact upon the world.19 While I  am uncomfortable with the assumptions around “untouched” authenticity that echo in McBrien’s “becoming extinction,” since many Indigenous communities have strategically and imaginatively adopted capitalist and non-​capitalist forms of production to resist the assimilative forces of colonial modernity, the link between capitalism, culture, and the environment is one worth pursuing. To expand on the historical processes outlined in the paragraph above, a larger historical picture is warranted. Colonial modernity in the Arctic has its roots in the whaling era, when Scottish and American whalers began harvesting whales for their oil and bone, which powered European and American cities and industries. This systematic trade with Inuit in the eighteenth and nineteenth century introduced forms of wage labor and surplus accrual in the Arctic, along with new conceptualizations of class and authority.20 This economy, modified with the advent of the fur-​trapping and occasional wage employment in the early twentieth century, essentially remained intact


“We All Have to Live by What We Know”  81 until the late 1950s. Then, as Canadian enterprise set its sights on the Arctic’s vast reserves of oil, minerals, and gas, the federal government exerted a greater administrative presence in the Arctic, sending waves of teachers, administrators, police, nurses, and other agents of change into the north to “make mainstream Canadians out of the Inuit,” as the anthropologist Louis-​Jacques Dorais wrote.21 Residential schools, greatly expanded in the post WWII era, were immensely traumatic for families as they ruptured the intergenerational transmission of Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture.22 By the early 1970s, the last of the small groups of independent Inuit families who lived a semi-​nomadic life on the land had moved into wood-​framed houses erected by the federal government. There, they adopted a wage economy and a raft of social services, and were depending increasingly upon processed food and industrially manufactured goods shipped up from the south. Seasonal life on the land changed from being an unselfconscious but enormously complex cultural practice to a self-​ conscious “tradition” that helped Inuit mark their own cultural difference within their experiences of modernity.23 As these social changes in Arctic life were having their greatest impact, a different type of change began to be felt in the 1970s as seasonal patterns began to alter, almost imperceptibly at first. Gradually over the past forty years, the incremental warming of the Arctic has begun to shift the way Inuit make sense of the natural and geographical world. The warming of the north has introduced new animals, insects, and birds. It has threatened the habitat of existing animals. The warming has rerouted the breeding grounds of many Arctic marine and land animals and created more hospitable conditions for animal parasites. These shifts in the natural world have greatly affected food security. The long-​held patterns of life structured around the seasonal movements of animals were thrown into disarray due to the less predictable rhythms of the changing ecology. Even the transformation of sea ice has shifted cultural perceptions of self and belonging. Seen as an obstacle to most Southerners, the annual formation of ice had traditionally brought more freedom and mobility to Inuit, as it reoriented their relation to the land every spring and fall. By sheeting over the bays, inlets, and rivers, the seasonal formation of ice essentially shrinks space by allowing one direct travel between areas normally separated by jagged coastlines, as does the hard-​packed snow that drastically cuts travel time between otherwise distant places, making lands more accessible through the winter months. Not only the formation of ice but the breakup of ice was tied to once-​predictable patterns of cultural life. The leads and cracks forming in the spring sea ice called hunters from various camps to harvest belugas, migrating to their calving areas. In recent years, however, these patterns have been changing with alarming rapidity and results. Hunters have noted with greater frequency that sea ice forms later in the season and disappears much earlier than ever, creating a longer season of open water. The thinning ice allows seals to retain more breathing holes through the winter, making them harder to catch during a critical time of the year when marine harvesting was essential food security.24 As the glaciers that used to blanket much of Baffin Island continue to recede at an alarming pace,25 the freshwaters that feed the fertile streams have changed fishing and sealing patterns. Arctic peoples from Alaska, Canada and Greenland perceive great changes in the Arctic weather patterns and are justifiably apprehensive; families that once depended upon subsistence or commercial hunting are forced to find alternative sources of food and income, which threatens vulnerable people who have little


82 Norman Vorano recourse to other employment opportunities.26 For Inuit, the capitalist forces of modernization that have drastically altered their way of life in the mid-​twentieth century are now returning to change the very environment in which they have lived for many centuries.

Inuit Memoryscapes and the North Baffin Drawings Inuit conceptualizations of the Arctic land and the environment run deep, shaped by centuries of dependence upon coastal marine resources in the north.27 Social scientists and historians have long remarked upon Inuit resourcefulness and adaptability to the long, cold winters, short summers, and paucity of land-​based vegetation and resources.28 Their capacity to live and thrive in such circumstances is attributed to a complex intellectual culture that includes a sophisticated awareness of Arctic geography, land-​and water routes, the seasonal availability of food, and ability to respond to changing climate patterns through time.29 Prior to their shift into communities in the 1960s, Inuit maintained a semi-​nomadic subsistence life consisting of seasonal migrations to hunting and trapping grounds along the coasts to areas in the interior, as well as regular travel for socializing, trading, or marriage. As their lives were entirely constituted on the land and sea, it is no surprise that Inuit cultural beliefs were deeply imbricated with markers and signposts that related directly to the geography and its many features. Places, trails, hills, bays, and waterways in the Arctic had precise and collectively shared place names that embodied both cultural and linguistic concepts.30 Thus, what appeared to be an empty, barren, and monotonous wasteland to the many Europeans and Settler North Americans who ventured into the Arctic was in fact a rich archive of unique memories and stories for the Inuit, evoking a wide network of ancestors, friends, enemies, historical narratives, mythological beings, and kin. The identification of myth, history, and place can be readily seen in other drawings from the North Baffin Collection. In a graphite on paper drawing by Atoat Shappa (1894–​1976), the artist recounts a memory she had as a child when she traveled by dog team with her family from a region near Igloolik to Pond Inlet, a distance of 400 km [see Figure 4.1]. The drawing offers a top-​down, cartographic view of the land, clearly depicting an inlet named Kagilujua (large bay) and an unnamed lake. Tracks leading from the bay drive towards an oblong lake within which are five figures, all shown in side profile. One of the figures is seated beside two human skulls, lending an element of mystery and danger to the scene, while the other four figures stand astride their dog team and sled. On the reverse of the drawing, the artist wrote the following narrative: …When I was a child, on the other side east of Igloolik, we were living in a tent, on our way to crossing the sea. My father and my mother were pulling the sled. They were slow because they only had three dogs. Their destination was Pond Inlet. We had just crossed and when I was walking I heard a voice. Apparently, a person saw us when we were still far away. That person started yelling. My father said, ‘He is eating, this is terrifying!’ When we reached that person, there were human skulls scattered around him. That person was eating human flesh. That person could not walk, and he was in the middle of the lake. This is my short story.31


“We All Have to Live by What We Know”  83

Figure 4.1 Atoat Shappa (Arctic Bay, NU 1894–​1976 Arctic Bay NU), Story of the Woman at the Lake, 1964, Graphite on paper, 50 x 65  cm. Canadian Museum of History, IV-​C-​6508.

In several North Baffin drawings such as this one, places were imbued with narratives that told harrowing stories about history, the land, and identity. The scene of cannibalism warned others that it is essential to always know where you are on the land, and that one’s success in hunting and traveling is not guaranteed by the number of dogs one has, but by one’s knowledge of sila (weather) and nuna (land). Stylistically, the artist’s combination of a top-​down perspective and side perspective is not uncommon in Inuit graphic arts. The synthesis of multiple perspectives on the same picture plane can be found in many historical examples that precede the North Baffin Collection, on paper, etched on ivory bows and drills, as well as in commercially released Inuit graphic arts created for the art market in the mid-​twentieth century.32 In an interview with the author, Peter Paneak, an elder from Clyde River, acknowledged the validity of the lived experience of the artist, “the person who drew this picture had experienced it, and was older than us,” before speaking of the great challenges his ancestors faced when they traveled great distances over the land, beyond the visible or auditory range of others. For Paneak, the significance of the drawing was in its ability to teach us lessons about the present, as he quickly pointed out the way technology has made people less resourceful and less dependent upon traditional wayfinding techniques today. “Nowadays we are able to talk to people who are out hunting all day long. And if they don’t answer when someone tried to talk to them [through radio or satellite phone] it becomes a serious issue.” His contemporary interpretation of the drawing


84 Norman Vorano underscored the ongoing value of the traditional knowledge that inspired the original drawing: even the most robust modern communication technologies can fail in the Arctic, leaving hunters in a precarious position where their only resource is their traditional knowledge. Within the North Baffin Collection, we can readily see that the Inuit world view was one that recognized the inherent linkages between weather patterns, historically personified by the awe-​inspiring spirit sila.33 These patterns were connected to the movements of animals and their geographic environments, which together created an abiding sense of place and identity that was striated by both physical and spiritual forces. The anthropologist Mark Nuttall described the way Inuit perceived and created mental images of land as “thoughtscapes” or “memoryscapes,” which refer to collectively held beliefs about the physical territory based upon social interactions and movements over the land through time.34 For Nuttal, these memoryscapes are historically rooted in oral culture, manifest in song, stories, and kinship, but they are also linked to practices associated with the creation and use of material culture, which represent a repository of knowledge handed down over generations. Memoryscapes are not limited to particular sites or communities, but shared widely and are near encyclopedic in scope, covering the entire Inuit universe. The anthropologist Claudio Aporta notes that Inuit memoryscapes are malleable and shift over time, but they are “extensive, complex, and precise,” and extend over large expanses of territory.35 The notion of land as a memoryscape is, of course, a neologism that plays upon the Western term ‘landscape,’ a genre of pictorial representation that has roots in Classical Antiquity. Although there are many facets to the Western landscape tradition, beginning in the seventeenth century, landscape painting came to embody an aesthetic standard of beauty associated with the land but entangled in questions of property and class, merchant capitalism, the sublime, and the divine. Indeed, as art historians have argued, the links between the global spread of capitalism and the technologies of visual representation that came to define Europe’s landscape tradition are complex but ever-​present.36 Codified by formal rules and framing devices that demarcated a fore-​, middle-​and background, Western landscape painting functioned to draw the viewer’s eye into a panoramic vista, giving them an imaginary access to a depicted space rendered as an objectified reality existing anterior to their presence.37 Operating around a single viewing point, the Western landscape gives the viewer a slightly elevated platform from which to survey with militaristic precision topographical features in a systematic and predictable fashion, albeit modified by the artist’s subjective stylistic concessions. During the pre-​contact centuries, Inuit did not have a graphical tradition of representing land or geography on a two-​dimensional medium. As such, memoryscape is a practical way to think through Inuit graphic arts that make reference to place and land. The term memoryscape, in contrast to landscape, both interiorizes and socializes geography, linking places and land features to living, deceased, or imagined people, and the social relations that are constituted around them. I suggest the term memoryscapes less as a way of thinking about the formal properties of Inuit ‘landscape’ depictions –​because, as we shall see, those formal properties vary considerably –​and more as a strategy of reading these visual images in a way that privileges interrelationships between people and the land at various intervals in time. As the anthropologist Tim Ingold said, “It is only by virtue of his belonging to a community that a person acquires a relation to a determinate portion of natural space.”38 Under such circumstances,


“We All Have to Live by What We Know”  85 then, the Inuit drawings are both aesthetic and mnemonic, demarcating a set of “traditional” practices that are interwoven with an Inuit identity, but framed within real spaces that constitute a key element of the social lives of community members. This is evident in another drawing by Cornelius Nutarak  [see Plate 12]. In this drawing, the artist breaks the page into two segments. The bottom third is composed mainly of text and a small pictorial vignette of a seal hunter and his tools, and the top two-​thirds is composed of a landscape scene with a standing man in the foreground, two dog-​teams with a person seated on each sled, and another standing man in the middle ground, astride an sled. A  line of sheer cliffs and mountain peaks stretches across the upper portion of the drawing on the horizon. Nutarak’s text identifies the events depicted in the image as a seal-​hunting scene, and reminisces about his youth. This is how I used to go hunting. I went seal hunting; at times I caught a seal, one for a whole day. Sometime for one day or sometime three days, even four days. Sometimes [I hunted] on beautiful days and other times on windy days. When we feel our catch is enough we start heading home to our land. That’s what we did. Alone during early spring, or anytime, we catch our game. We hunt for self, we get caribou and any wild animals for food. We get very excited and happy once we get enough supply of food for elders. We hunt for ourselves and so we can feed our dogs. When they are fed well, they are happy and active. As people, we get happy when we catch seal for food. It is so much fun seal hunting on ice. We catch seal even when it’s really cold outside. That is how we do it because our ancestors did it, and we are just following them. Our fathers did the same thing. We would leave with our fathers and learn from our fathers about hunting. We did the same thing when we became adults, just like them. The land has much wildlife. We hunt with our fathers and learn from them. We are doing same thing as what they knew. There was always one time that is more abundant than other times. They know this stuff. Their children are learning and understanding this from the older people.39 Invited to talk about this drawing, Jayko Alooloo identifies the background as Bylot Island, and the location as Eclipse Sound, near present day Pond Inlet. Alooloo notes that the area was frequented by “outsiders” who would build iglus there to hunt seals and trade into Pond Inlet. “People coming in from the outside would temporarily live there for seal hunting or for food or heat,” said Alooloo, “the drawing shows how they used to prepare for all the work of hunting…how they hunted seals through the ice holes, used seal dens, bullets, knives, and other tools while hunting.” Although hunting can often be a solitary venture, what is of interest here is the way certain places on the land were associated with social activities, including seal hunting, and that the memories around particular drawings evoke the social bonds that draw different individuals and camps together on the land.

Contemporary Research –​Place Names, Environment, and Inuit Traditional Knowledge Drawings such as this can play an important role within the evolving and more community-​based modes of Arctic climate research. In 1973, the national Inuit political advocacy group, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, pressed the federal government


86 Norman Vorano of Canada to produce the first comprehensive record of Inuit land use across the Canadian Arctic. Though largely restricted to the contributions of ‘professional’ anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians, the ensuing three volumes, Inuit Land Use and Occupancy Project, included voluminous quotes by contemporary Inuit informants and collaborators.40 Created at the behest of an Inuit political organization, the study can be regarded as an early milestone in the changing paradigm of Arctic research, as it begins with the premise that the interlinkages between Inuit traditional knowledge and environmental, historical, and land-​occupancy practices across Inuit Nunangat have a contemporary political value.41 Subsequent to that publication, and in part due to the internal debates within social sciences and political pressure from Indigenous organizations, researchers have continued to move away from salvage anthropology or the use of Inuit respondents as passive research subjects towards more reflexive and participatory models that, among other things, attempt to find productive and mutually beneficial collaborative relationships that link Western and Indigenous research methodologies.42 Since the creation of the Nunavut in 1999 and the rise of Inuit political and cultural organizations, the recognition of Inuit traditional knowledge has become a formalized part of the legislative, research, and policy agenda for the Territorial government.43 The formation of the North Baffin Drawing collection is situated between these shifting modes of arctic research. Although Ryan used the language of salvage anthropology in his grant application  –​that is, to capture an ethnographic or artistic snapshot of Inuit culture before it is deformed by outsiders –​it progressively anticipates the more collaborative models of research that would transform Arctic studies a generation later. Unlike the prescriptive focus upon the ‘authentic’ around which salvage anthropology hinged, Ryan invited participants to record their world in whichever way they chose, not romantic images of Inuit life at the moment of first contact with Europeans. These changes have brought new (old) voices to the research table, particularly concerning climate, environment, and geography. Over the past two decades, environmental researchers and anthropologists have increasingly recognized the mutual benefit of integrating Inuit perspectives with their Western scientific modes of inquiry to study the impact of global climate change. Contemporary researchers have sought Inuit oral history and Inuit toponomical knowledge to overwrite the European names on Arctic maps with Inuit place names, regarded not just as abstract markers but as repositories of cultural memory.44 These projects recognize the value of Inuit narratives about the land in informing broader scientific inquiry about the changing environment, and in helping to identify environmental indicators of climate change.45 Such projects have employed GPS mapping with oral history and memory to understand Inuit geographic concepts as being highly dynamic and relationally linked to sea ice characteristics, snow patterns, weather predictions, and astronomy.46

North Baffin Drawings and the Marketplace for Inuit Art and Inuit Knowledge One of the most salient features of the North Baffin drawing collection is that participants were not just creating drawings about Inuit life, they were creating for an Inuit audience. This is markedly different from commercially released Inuit prints, which were winning rave reviews in the early 1960s as a type of ‘primitive modern’ art


“We All Have to Live by What We Know”  87 in Southern galleries. By contrast, individuals who contributed to Ryan’s endeavor were shielded from the kinds of pressures that the print studios faced, owing to the studios’ need to sell up to fifty copies of every print to remain commercially viable. The economies of scale seen in the print venture endowed audiences with a great deal of power in the marketplace. As Janet Berlo has argued, the audience’s blinkered view of ‘authenticity’ encouraged the production of an inordinate number of romantic depictions of Inuit life, of cheery scenes with little to no overt political messages.47 As stated earlier, the North Baffin drawing collection was amassed in the early months of 1964 when Terry Ryan (1932–​2017) traveled to three coastal communities in the North Baffin region. Ryan distributed paper and pencils, and invited participants to “draw anything” with a promise that he would purchase all completed drawings. After traveling by dog team to the outlaying encampments, over the course of four months he collected a little over 1,860 drawings created by 87 men and 72 women, mainly between the ages of 20 and 60. Although he offered little in the way of instruction about what or how artists should approach the drawings, his general invitation and the vagaries of interpretation may have suggested ideas. On one such occasion, his interpreter in Clyde River thought Ryan wanted “stories” rather than pictures, which resulted in many pages of narrative text without any visual images.48 At certain points, Ryan communicated to his participants his intent to preserve the drawings for posterity, for display, and to share with others. As such, many contributors may have simply taken it upon themselves to record whatever they felt was important to preserve for posterity, be it through text or image. A majority of all 1,860 drawings contain some degree of Inuktitut writing, either single words to “name”an object, person, event, or place in the drawing, or short paragraphs or sentence fragments printed on the front or back of the page to provide clarity about what is being depicted in the drawing. The drawings reveal a compulsion to record history and thoughts, and to mark significant places, as can be seen in the number of cartographic-​like drawings that chart place names. One such example is this drawing by Josephee Tassugat, from Clyde River  [see Figure 4.2], who depicted long, wavering lines of variable thicknesses over an unadorned background. The lines signify rivers and coastlines that swell in thickness to indicate lakes or slow running water, which link different places—​all named with a traditional toponym—​into an expansive network over an indistinguishable background. Of significance here is the way cartographic information is communicated, with emphasis put on coastlines and streams, the traditional junctures between water and land, and passageways between culturally significant places. The documentation of place names or the recording of traditional knowledge was not an expressly stated intention of Ryan when he applied for a Canada Council grant in 1963. Undoubtedly, his project was born from his earlier experiences working directly in the marketing of Inuit art. That began in the summer of the 1960, when he was hired to manage the thriving print and art studio in Cape Dorset. He encouraged drawing and distributed paper to Inuit men and women in the community, then worked with the salaried printers –​all Inuit men –​to select from these drawings examples that could be translated into commercially released prints for sale in editions of 50. By 1963, printmaking had already become a big business in the Canadian Arctic. It was not only generating more than $63,000 (unadjusted for inflation) for Cape Dorset alone, but it was being exported to other Arctic communities


88 Norman Vorano

Figure 4.2 Josephee Tassugat (Clyde River NU 1934), Coastlines, 1964, graphite on paper, 50 x 65 cm. Canadian Museum of History, C209-​16.

by the federal government, which was pouring more resources into the regulation and management of Canada’s quickly growing Inuit art industry.49 Ryan, as the intermediary connecting Inuit graphic artists with a worldwide network of dealers that carried Cape Dorset’s annual collections in galleries around the world, had a vantage point that offered him an unvarnished view of the art-​buying predilection for “authentic primitive art” and its associated strictures of “authenticity.” Ryan’s


“We All Have to Live by What We Know”  89 decision to travel to the North Baffin region, which did not have an active print program, represented his effort to cultivate Inuit graphic arts outside the restrictive pressures of the marketplace. Even so, Ryan could not escape the historical commoditization of Inuit cultural knowledge that had a long history in Inuit-​white relations. As whalers and explorers pressed further into the Eastern Arctic in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, drawing was an invaluable tool to convey their knowledge in cross-​cultural contexts. The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), which received a Royal Charter in 1670 for an exclusive trade monopoly over the Hudson Bay drainage area, created some of the most substantive and systematic cartographic maps of the Arctic. Historian Richard Ruggles notes that, between 1670 and 1870, about fifty Indigenous men of the Canadian Arctic and Subarctic were recorded as being involved in the preparation of HBC maps, either by drawing original sketches or by providing information to Company employees.50 In search of the Northwest Passage, the Royal Navy Officer John Ross made three expeditions to the Arctic between 1818, 1829 to1833, and 1850. Anxious to create credible and accurate maps of the areas around the Boothia Peninsula, during his second voyage Ross enlisted the services of two Inuit men, Ikmalik and Apelagliu, to verify the presence of a passage between the eastern and western oceans. Ross created a watercolour of Ikmalik, whom he dubbed “the hydrographer” and Apelagliu in the captain’s quarters of The Victory, which was subsequently rendered as a lithograph for his wildly successful Narrative of a Second Voyage in Search of a North-​West Passage in 1835 [see Plate 13].51 Ross’s recollection acknowledges the connection between his guides’ deft graphical skills and their deep geographical knowledge. “Some paper containing a sketch of the land already known between Repulse bay and Prince Regent’s inlet, was now laid before them, with the names of the different places marked. These were at once recognised; and Ikmallik then taking the pencil, proceeded to prolong the sketch from Akullee, following very nearly, for a very considerable space, the line already traced by Tulluahiu. After this, he prolonged it still further westward, instead turning to the north, as the latter had done; then continuing it to the north-​west, in a direction more favourable to our views.”52 Ross’s accompanying “Chart Drawn by the Natives” identifies a variety of place names in Inuktitut, some of which are still used today. The practice of using drawing to negotiate cross-​cultural encounters continued into the twentieth century. Ethnologists, missionaries and archaeologists solicited Inuit drawings for various purposes, chief of which was to document traditional knowledge, map the terrain, and record place names. The Canadian anthropologist Diamond Jenness recalled his fieldwork in the Western Arctic between 1912 and 1914, that “wherever you wander, if you give a notebook and pencil to an Eskimo, whether he can write or not, he is almost certain to fill the book with drawings of men and animals, hunting scenes and scenes of social life.”53 During the Fifth Thule Expedition of the 1920s, the Danish ethnologist Knud Rasmussen invited the shaman Anarqaq to draw some of his spirit visions, and recalled how his initial reluctance soon gave way after they negotiated a payment and terms was deemed equitable to both parties. Although Ryan’s Canada Council grant application spoke of the need to collect Inuit graphical expressions before the intrusion of modernity across the Arctic, for more than two centuries the pencil was a means of sharing knowledge across cultural lines and of supplementing income.


90 Norman Vorano

From Memoryscapes to Place Names One of the few scholars to analyze the North Baffin drawing collection in toto, the historian Jean Blodgett, wrote that “the drawings are often personal and specific rather than general; this is what we do, this is an experience I had, this is my land, this is what our ancestors used to do [italics in original].”54 Blodgett was correct to underscore the culturally possessive relation that Inuit had to the land, as many of the drawings in the North Baffin Collection do signal a sense of ownership and custodianship over the land, while simultaneously acknowledging the dynamics of cultural change and modernity. The art historian Janet Catherine Berlo has discussed the “double meaning” of some of the North Baffin drawings, which both illustrate a dispossession of land at the same time as they evoke long-​standing relations to the land—​but lived through representation rather than through experience, as was the case in the past.55 These two views are not incompatible, and both capture a certain truth about the collection. But they do not capture the full picture either. The drawings depict a past and are redolent of memories of time and place on the land; they evoke, in the words of Mark Nuttal, “memoryscapes,” or the mental images of land, nature, and the place of humans in the world.56 This is evident in the drawing by Clyde River resident Davidee Piunngittuq, which is divided in equal measure between a text and an image [see Plate 14]. The image, colored in black and yellow, depicts several land forms from above like a topographic map with place names meticulously positioned at strategic points. The map on the proper left, an oblong form with a sawtooth and a flat side, resembles a two-​dimensional version of the late nineteenth-​century Ammassalik wooden map created by a Tunamiit hunter for a Danish collector. In addition to naming places, Piunngittuq’s text ruminates upon the intrinsic connection between his experiences on the land and the Arctic environment and his identity as an Inuk, while asserting the necessity of carrying forward these links for future generations. “We all have to live by what we know,” wrote Piunngittuq, “and the ones who are born will need to know…the land does not starve all people. In the spring and summer some of the land has beautiful scenery and in the winter it would become difficult to hunt, even land that wasn’t scenic.” Piunngittuq’s words are an eloquent reminder that to have knowledge of the land and its seasonal changes is to have everything required for sustenance and life. Although hunting and fishing are now largely practiced as “cultural activities” and not wholly by necessity, Piunngittuq’s words are no less true today. The North Baffin drawings are not only a repository of historical and traditional knowledge, but they have the capacity to spur discussion, unlock memory, and foster a variety of contemporary interpretations by northerners –​to empower them in the new paradigms of climate research now occurring in the north. Those collaborative paradigms are resulting in maps of the Arctic being redrawn and are creating new understandings of the human impact of environmental change. In recent years, anthropologists, community organizers, and climate scientists have worked with Inuit communities to replace the names on colonial era maps with Inuit names. “Project: Place Names,” led by the Government of Nunavut’s Inuit Heritage Trust, is officially rewriting the map of the Arctic to incorporate Inuit traditional knowledge and ways of understanding place. Running parallel to this, organizations such as the International Polar Year, World Wildlife Foundation, Tides Canada and others have sponsored a variety of different research projects that combine Western


“We All Have to Live by What We Know”  91 models of environmental research with Inuit traditional knowledge to better understand how the north’s flora and fauna has evolved during the Capitalocene. While the bulk of these projects solicit Inuit knowledge through oral research, they rarely explore the potential that visual arts can play in understanding the complex impact of environmental change on Indigenous life. The North Baffin drawings can have an extraordinary value in the contemporary world to empower Inuit to speak truths about the value of their culture within debates about environmental change and global warming. The drawings provide more long-​standing and archival-​based evidence of Inuit perceptions of land and the changing environment than can be captured by contemporary oral history. When interpreted and shared internally and externally, the drawings have the potential of further empowering communities to reimagine and understand their own past and culture within the politics of contemporary land claims and new paradigms of collaborative research.

Notes 1 Translation Rhoda Kayakjuak, 2016. 2 Jason Moore, Capitalism and the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital (New York, NY: Verso Books, 2015), 6. 3 Eigil Knuth, Aron of Kangeq, 1822–​ 1869:  The Seal Hunter Who Became Father of Greenland’s Art of Painting (Copenhagen: Danish National Museum, 1960). 4 Susan W.  Fair, “Early Western Education, Reindeer Herding, and Inupiaq Drawing in Northwest Alaska: Wales, the Saniq Coast, and Shismaref to Cape Espendberg,” in Eskimo Drawings, ed. Suzi Jones (Anchorage, AK:  Anchorage Museum of History and Art, 2003), 35–​75. 5 David Morrison, “Painted Wooden Plaques from the MacFarlane Collection: The Earliest Inuvialuit Graphic Art,” in Arctic, Vol. 59, No. 4 (December 2006), 351–​360. 6 Norman Vorano, “Travelling Prints:  James Houston, Un’ichi Hiratsuka and the Early Cape Dorset Print Studio,” in Inuit Prints, Japanese Inspiration: Early Printmaking in the Canadian Arctic (Gatineau, QC: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2011), 23–​59. 7 The collection was acquired by the Canadian Museum of History in 2014. 8 Canada Council of the Arts Archive, Terry Ryan File, Canada Council Grant Application, 1963. 9 Terrence Ryan, “Eskimo Pencil Drawings: A Neglected Art,” in Canadian Art, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Jan/​Feb 1965), 30. 10 Nancy Wachowich, “Cultural Survival and the Trade in Iglulingmiut Traditions,” in Critical Inuit Studies: An Anthology of Contemporary Arctic Ethnography, Ed. Pamela Stern and Lisa Stevenson (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2006), 122. 11 James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), 7. 12 Kaitlyn Rathwell and Derek Armitage, “Art and Artistic Process Bridge Knowledge Systems about Societal-​ Ecological Change:  An Empirical Examination with Inuit Artists from Nunavut, Canada,” in Ecology and Society, Vol. 21, No. 2 (2016): np. 13 Robert Christopher, “Inuit Drawings: ‘Prompted’ Art Making,” in Inuit Art Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Summer 1987), 3. 14 Rathwell and Armitage, “Art and Artistic Process,” 1. 15 The exhibition, Picturing Arctic Modernity: North Baffin Drawings from 1964, included interpretive interviews of community members talking about the drawings. Co-​produced between the Canadian Museum of History and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University, the exhibition was created with the assistance of the Pond Inlet Archives,


92 Norman Vorano Ittaq–​Ilisaqsiviq, and Piqqusilirivvik. Scheduled to travel to Nunavut in the summer and fall of 2017, the exhibition and related research marked the first time many people in the communities ever saw examples of these drawings. 16 Shari Gearheard, et al., The Meaning of Ice: People and Sea Ice in Three Arctic Communities (Hanover, NH: International Polar Institute Press, 2013), 20. 17 Marybelle Mitchell, From Talking Chiefs to a Native Corporate Elite: The Birth of Class and Nationalism Among Canadian Inuit (Montreal and Kingston, ON:  McGill Queen’s University Press, 1996), 447. 18 Mitchell, From Talking Chiefs, 457. 19 Justin McBrien, “Accumulating Extinction: Planetary Catastrophism in the Necrocene,” in Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism, ed Jason Moore (Oakland, CA: Kairos, 2016), 116. 20 Mitchell, From Talking Chiefs, 87. 21 Louis-​Jacques Dorais, Quaqtaq: Modernity and Identity in an Inuit Community (Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 1997), 31. 22 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Canada, Canada’s Residential Schools Volume 2: The Inuit and Northern Experience (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-​Queen’s University Press and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 2015), 74. 23 Wachowich, “Cultural Survival and the Trade in Iglulingmiut Traditions,” 122. 24 Gearheard et. al, The Meaning of Ice, 133. 25 Christian Zdanowicz, et. al, “Summer Melt Rates on Penny Ice Cap, Baffin Island:  Past and Recent Trends and Implications for Regional Climate,” in Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, Vol. 117, Issue F2 (June 2012), 16. 26 Cunera Buijis, “Inuit Perceptions of Climate Change in East Greenland,” Etudes/​Inuit/​ Studies, Vol. 34, No. 1 (2010), 48. 27 T. Max Friesen and Charles D. Arnold, “The Timing of the Thule Migration: New Dates from the Western Canadian Arctic,” in American Antiquity, Vol. 73, No. 3 (2008) 537. 28 Asen Balikci, The Netsilik Eskimo (Garden City, NY: The American Museum of Natural History Press, 1970), 3. 29 Renée Fossett, In Order to Live Untroubled:  Inuit of the Central Arctic, 1550–1940 (Winnipeg, MB: University of Manitoba Press, 2001), 195. 30 Darren Keith, “Caribou, River and Ocean: Harvaqtuurmiut Landscape Organization and Orientation,” in Etudes/​Inuit/​Studies, Vol. 28, No. 2 (2004), 40. 31 Translation by Rhoda Kayukjuak, edited for clarity and condensed by author. 32 Joan Vastokas, “Continuities in Eskimo Graphics Style,” in Artscanada, Vol. 27, No. 6 (December-​January 1971), 70. 33 Knud Rasmussen, Intellectual Culture of the Hudson Bay Eskimos:  Report Of the Fifth Thule Expedition 1921–​24, Vol. 7, No 1 (Copenhagen: Gyldendalske Boghandel, Nordisk Forlag, 1929), 71. 34 Mark Nuttall, Arctic Homeland:  Kinship, Community and Development in Northwest Greenland (Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 1992), 39. 35 Claudio Aporta, “From Inuit Wayfinding to the Google World: Living within an Ecology of Technologies,” in Nomadic and Indigenous Spaces: Productions and Cognitions, ed. Judith Miggelbrink et al. (London: Routledge, 2013), 248. 36 Ulrike Gehring and Peter Weibel (eds.), Mapping Spaces:  Networks of Knowledge in Seventeenth-​Century Landscape Painting (Munich: Hirmer, 2014), 37 Marylin J. McKay, Picturing the Land: Narrating Territories in Canadian Landscape Art, 1500–​1950 (Montreal and Kingston, ON: McGill-​Queen’s University Press, 2011), 37. 38 As quoted in Aporta, “From Inuit Wayfinding to the Google World,” 15. 39 Translated by Rhoda Kayukjuak, edited and condensed by the author. 40 Milton M.  R. Freeman (Director and General Editor), Inuit Land Use and Occupancy Project, Volumes 1, 2, and 3 (Ottawa, ON: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1976).


“We All Have to Live by What We Know”  93 41 Inuit Nunangat is “Inuit homeland.” Within today’s political boundaries, this area encompasses lands and coastal areas circumscribed by the Inuvialuit Settlement Area, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunanatsiavut. 42 Michael J. Kral and Lori Idlout, “Participatory Anthropology in Nunavut,” in Critical Inuit Studies: An Anthropology of Contemporary Arctic Ethnography, Ed. Pamela Stern and Lisa Stevenson (Lincoln, NE and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2006), 57. 43 Edmund Searles, “Anthropology in an Era of Inuit Empowerment,” in Critical Inuit Studies:  An Anthology of Contemporary Arctic Ethnography, Ed. Pamela Stern and Lisa Stevenson (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2006), 97. 44 Béatrice Collignon, Knowing Places:  the Inuinnait, Landscapes, and the Environment (Edmonton, AB: Circumpolar Research Series, 2006). 45 Anne Henshaw, “Pausing along the Journey:  Learning Landscapes, Environmental Change, and Toponymy Amongst the Sikusilarmiut,” in Arctic Anthropology, Vol. 43, No. 1 (2006). 46 Claudio Aporta, “From Map to Horizon:  From Trail to Journey:  Documenting Inuit Geographic Knowledge,” in Etudes Inuit Studies, Vol. 29, Issue 1–​2 (2005). 47 Janet Berlo, “Drawings of Napachie Pootoogook,” in Inuit Art Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Winter 1993), 6. 48 Terrence Ryan and Jean Blodgett, “Interview with Terry Ryan,” in North Baffin Drawings, ed. Jean Blodgett (Toronto, ON: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1986), 12. 49 Richard Crandall, Inuit Art: A History (Jefferson, NC: MacFarland and Co., 1999), 143. 50 Richard Ruggles, A Country so Interesting:  The Hudson’s Bay Company and Two Centuries of Mapping, 1670 –​1870 (Montreal: McGill-​Queen’s University Press, 2011), 7. 51 John Ross, Narrative of a second voyage in search of a North-​west passage: and of a residence in the Arctic regions during the years 1829, 1830, 1831, 1832, 1833: including the reports of Commander, now Captain, James Clark Ross, R.N., F.R.S., F.L.S., &c. and the discovery of the Northern Magnetic Pole (London,  A. W. Webster, 1835). 52 Ross, Narrative, 259–​260. 53 Diamond Jenness “Eskimo Art,” in Geographical Review, Vol. 12 (April 1922), 162. 54 Jean Blodgett, North Baffin Drawings (Toronto, ON: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1986), 22. 55 Janet Berlo, “Portraits of Dispossession in Plains Indian and Inuit Graphic Arts,” in Art Journal, Vol. 49, No. 2 (Summer 1990), 138. 56 Nuttall, Arctic Homeland, 39.



Plate 1 Nicolai Abildgaard, The Wild and Raw State of Nature: Allegory on One of Four Major Eras in Europe’s Cultural History, 1784. Oil on canvas, 29.5 x 29.5  cm. Statens Museum for Kunst. © SMK photo.


Plate 2 Johan Ludvig Lund, Habor’s Return from the Battle, and his Reception at King Sigar’s Court, 1813. Oil on canvas, 141 x 178  cm. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Academy Council.


Plate 3 Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein Stub, Hoder Disguised as Harp Player Enters the Cave of three Valkyries and Receives a Strengthening Magic Potion, 1814. Oil on canvas, 140 x 174 cm. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Academy Council. Photo: Frida Gregersen.


Plate 4 Jens Peter Møller, Membership Piece. Møn and the Town of Stege Seen in the Background of the Church of Kalvehave. Recorded Close to Langebæk near Vordingborg, 1815. Oil on canvas, 94 x 137.9 cm. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Academy Council.

Plate 5 Jens Christian Dahl, Moonlight Landscape Showing a Region with a Sacrificial Site at Stensby Mølle near Vordingborg,” 1816. Oil on canvas, 37 x 54  cm. KODE Bergen. Photo: Dag Fosse.


Plate 6 Jens Christian Dahl, Winter Landscape. In the Foreground, a Disturbed Giant/​Warrior Grave. The Subject taken from the Vicinity of Vordingborg,” 1829. Oil on canvas, 173 x 205.5. Statens Museum for Kunst. © SMK photo.

Plate 7 Eva la Cour, (Untitled), 2017. Video still. © Eva la Cour.


Plate 8 Eva la Cour, (Untitled), 2017. Video still. © Eva la Cour.

Plate 9 Lawren S. Harris, Winter Comes from the Arctic to the Temperate Zone, 1935. Oil on canvas, 74.1 x 91.2 cm. McMichael Canadian Art Collection.


Plate 10 Diane Burko, Jakobshavn-​Ilulissat Quartet, 2015. Oil on Canvas. Four-panel spread: 42 x 228 in. 1)  From the Edge, 42 x 42 in, Oil and Flashe paint on canvas, 2015 2)  Landsat Jakobshavn B, 42 x 72 in, Oil and Flashe paint on canvas, 2015 3)  UNESCO National Heritage II, 42 x 72 in, Oil and Flashe paint on canvas, 2015 4)  Modis 2009, III, 42 x 42 in., Oil and Flashe paint on canvas, 2015. Courtesy the artist.


Plate 11  Cornelius Nutarak (Clyde River, NU 1924–​2007 Pond Inlet, NU), Fishing at a Crack in the Ice, 1964, Graphite and colored pencil on paper, 50 x 65  cm. Canadian Museum of History IV-​C-​6949.

Plate 12  Cornelius Nutarak (Clyde River, NU 1924–​2007 Pond Inlet, NU), Seal Hunting, 1964, Graphite on paper, 50 x 65 cm. Canadian Museum of History, IV-​C-​6946.


Plate 13 John Ross (original), on stone by J.  Brandard, Ikmalikc and Apelagliu, 1835, lithograph, 31 x 25 cm. Photo: akg-​images.


Plate 14  Davidee Piunngittuq, We All Have to Live By What We Know, 1964, graphite and colored pencil on paper, 50 x 65 cm. Canadian Museum of History, IV-​C-​7628.


Plate 15 Eija-​Liisa Ahtila, Horizontal –​Vaakasuora, 2011, 6-​channel projected high definition installation; 6 min; Dolby Digital 5.1 (Inv.#13560), photo: John Berens, © Eija Liisa Ahtila and Marian Goodman Gallery.

Plate 16  Eija-​ Liisa Ahtila, Anthropomorphic Exercises (On Film), Series A:  Aspect Ratio /​ Kneeling Spruce, 2011, Green pastel on Parisian paper, 54.6 x 166.1 x 4.8  cm (Inv.#13542) photo: John Berens, © Eija Liisa Ahtila and Marian Goodman Gallery.


Plate 17  Eija-​Liisa Ahtila, Anthropomorphic Exercises (On Film), Series A: Point-​of-View /​ With a Human, 2011, Green pastel on Parisian paper, mirror, stool, 137.8 x 57.8 x 4.8 cm (Inv.#13549) photo: John Berens, © Eija Liisa Ahtila and Marian Goodman Gallery.


Plate 18 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, dimensions vary. From the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design 2016, © The National Museum photo.


Plate 19 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, dimensions vary. From the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design 2016. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, © The National Museum photo.


Plate 20 Still from the music video Moon, 2011. Written by Björk and Damian Taylor. Directed, produced, and art directed by Björk, Inez and Vinoodh, M/​M Paris and James Merry. © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd.

Plate 21 Still from the music video Mutual Core, 2011. Written by Björk, director:  Andrew Thomas Huang, producer: Árni Björn Helgason. © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​ nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd.


Plate 22 Still from the music video Hollow, 2011. Written by Björk, director:  Drew Berry, producer: Max Whitby, Touch Press © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd.


Part III

Media and Blurred Boundaries between Nature and the Human



5 Conversations between Body, Tree and Camera in the Work of Eija-​Liisa Ahtila Katarina Wadstein MacLeod

In the winter of 2012 the Finnish artist Eija-​Liisa Ahtila (b. 1959) brought a life-​size spruce tree into Moderna museet in Stockholm in the form of the film installation Horizontal. To fit the tree, c. 10 meters tall, into the restricted gallery space, it was turned on its side and cut up into a six-​channel video projection. Lying on its side, it swayed gently in the wind with the sound amplified through a forest soundscape. To come upon a tree is an ordinary experience, but Ahtila showed how a meeting between a human being and a tall tree is complicated in a natural environment. In nature we would have seen little more than its base, but the gallery setting enabled a rare, yet seemingly familiar, close-​up. Horizontal helps visualize the triangular relationship between the human eye, technology, and nature. In this case, the human senses are extended through camera technology to observe what we cannot see merely with our eyes, like the top of a tree [see Plate 15]. Ahtila has a self-​declared interest in contemporary theory regarding the necessity of a decentered subject position, posthumanism, and research on the age of the Anthropocene.1 The post-​humanist perspective in her work, and the need to see beyond human dominance, has been emphasized by American studies and posthuman theorist Cary Wolfe.2 How Ahtila’s subversive use of filming techniques and projections create narrative structures that negate a universalist vanguard position has also been well explored.3 On the one hand, what Ahtila seems to ask through Horizontal is whether we can shift our understanding of the world to be less human-​orientated by encountering a tree on its own terms. On the other hand, this film is firmly positioned in a profound humanist tradition of portraying nature in art. Horizontal both references and questions art historical terms and genres that are so established they have become normalized; such as nature and landscape studies, or the neutrality of technology. This article follows the art historical trajectory of Ahtila’s installation, a rather overlooked aspect of an otherwise well-​researched contemporary artist. Through concepts such as looking, imagining, and staging –​deep-​seated in the human subject –​this text explores how the anonymous spruce in the film converses with art historical conventions of depicting landscape and nature and imaginations about the North.

Point of View Since Ahtila started to exhibit in the 1980s her art has changed tone, subject, and aesthetics but she has kept rehashing the relationship between the camera eye and


98  Katarina Wadstein MacLeod the human subject.4 A key question for the artist is how to do away with a universalist notion, and this is explored in several of her artworks without resolution. How to refute a single point of view? Ahtila’s larger body of work has been interpreted through the ways in which it deals with a fragmented subject, staged through multiscreen projections and layered narratives. Taru Elfving, for example, has explored how the viewer is addressed in Ahtila’s work and in particular how her girl figures are constructions of multiple experiences and thus challenge the viewing subject.5 Maeve Connolly is concerned with the site of artists’ film and the potential of multiscreen projections for engaging with critical narratives.6 Where is Where, 2009, is a good example of a film from Ahtila that shows an understanding of how the viewing subject’s point of view can never be complete, but will always be somewhat lacking. It tells the story of a poet who revisits a case study, by the French psychoanalyst and theorist Franz Fanon, about two boys who murder a third boy, their friend, to revenge the French mass murdering of Algerians.7 Any singular perspective is deconstructed through the multiscreen installation, the choice of story and languages spoken (Arabic, Finnish and French). The cultural theorist Mieke Bal is concerned with how Ahtila’s use of medium and installation techniques interacts with the narrated subject matters. In her book Thinking in Film she writes that “The point Where is Where? makes, evolving from the murderous act, is the distinction between responsibility and guilt.” She clarifies that what the film shows us is that, although the Finnish poet is innocent regarding the atrocities carried out in Algeria in the 1940s, she (and the viewers) have “responsibility for it –​and for its consequences, in which and on which we live.”8 For the visual culture theorist Nicholas Mirzoeff in his book The Right to Look, Where is Where makes us into a European subject, or puts the viewer “in the place of a European.” The staging of the film emphasizes a sense of not having a right to look and the economy of looking is turned around.9 The Algerians in the film own the space and the European viewer (regardless of his or her own definition of him or herself) is positioned as someone without interpretative prerogative but whose history is associated with and dependent on colonial guilt. After having dealt with subjects such as psychiatric illness, stereotypes of young women, and post-​colonial violence, with Horizontal Ahtila turned to a plain tree projected on a single wall. At first the point of view may seem remarkably singular. It is a straightforward narrative with minimal content. The film, where nothing much happens but the spruce tree gently swaying in the wind, is puzzling, given that is by this artist who has taken femininity, religious traditions, and colonial guilt head on. In this film installation there seem to be few narrative options; we meet the tree face to face without any overt manuscript or melodramatic turns.10 With Horizontal the focus has changed from humans to what surrounds humans, a gesture that can be understood to express a wider concern about climate change: we need to think about something else than our human selves. Ahtila has positioned her later work within a field of research that tries to understand the Anthropocene vantage point and posthumanist studies.11 This is achieved by her choice of themes, her own writings. and by inviting other writers and scholars to correspond with her work. For the Moderna museet exhibition, Ahtila invited the aforementioned Cary Wolfe to comment on her work. For Wolfe the consequence of what he defines as posthumanist theory is a profound critique and rethinking of the human as a central subject. In posthumanist theory the starting point is a new paradigm where technology has overturned the human as the key agent and the ‘post’ in posthumanism denotes a


Conversations between Body, Tree, Camera  99 shift that decenters the human as the center of the world. Within humanism, Wolfe argues, we need to move to a state of ‘post’ through deconstructing our privilege of interpretation.12 To interpret a work of art we need to consider the impact of seeing, or the more culturally defined gaze, viewing, and viewer position. In the concept of the Anthropocene, where humans have a prerogative, viewing seems to have particular importance. Widespread understandings of nature are channeled through viewed imagery –​be it gallery installations or televised nature programs. In the triangular drama produced in Horizontal, between the human spectator, camera, and spruce, ‘to view’ seems a key term. ‘To View’ as in viewing a work of art, or to argue a point of view in order to propose an alternative. It turns out that the very word ‘view’ carries a cultural history of the human relationship to nature, even conquering nature. ‘View’ is imported into English from two French words, vue, which is ‘a view’, and voir which is ‘to see.’ In English ‘to see’ and ‘a view’ become intertwined. Its first meaning as an act of looking is noted in 1581, shortly after, in 1606, ‘a view’ is recorded in the meaning of the sight or prospect of a landscape or extended nature. ‘View’ as equal to ‘landscape’ in relation to painting is noted in the year 1700. But ‘a view’ as in expressing an opinion was noted already in 1571.13 Horizontal seems to reflect a similar perspective: That to view is not just to see, it is to make a point, create a position, and define a human activity as both dependent on nature and different from it.

Looking at Landscapes This little monograph does not claim to point the way to a new science. Perhaps it should be called a stroll into unfamiliar worlds, worlds strange to us but known to other creatures, manifold and varied as the animals themselves.14 (Jakob von Uexküll) It might appear to be a simple idea; to make a portrait of a tree. It just stands there and has little opinion on the matter. Ahtila admits it was the opposite. It turned out to be a complicated photography session to film this tree, which took her and the crew a lot longer than expected. Instead of being an easy target for human fantasy the tree turned out to be hard to frame and a profoundly unfamiliar specimen. First, it was a challenge to find a tree of the right proportions. Second, it had to be in the right kind of spot with as empty a background as possible: this was not conceived as a group portrait. Also, the ground had to allow for erecting a scaffold or using a scissor lift. Third, it was not a matter of mere filming but a mastering of complex camera techniques.15 For the tree to fit into one camera shot the view had to be distant and instead of a portrait it would have been a landscape view. Similarly, a close-​up in a single frame would result in a cropped detail rather than the desired portrait. The ambition with this film, for Ahtila, was to show “how nature and such specifically human expression as cinematic expression don’t meet. There is discrepancy so that, even if they do exist in this world together, they are parallel.”16 The film, and its process, taps into a long tradition of looking at nature through landscape depictions, constructing nature, and cramming in vast landscapes onto limited canvases. Ahtila has attempted a portrait of a tree, but it is highly uncertain what is portrayed in this work. If in previous film installations Ahtila has elaborated with multiple narrative layers through


100  Katarina Wadstein MacLeod multiscreen projections, in Horizontal the narrative layers are to be found in conventions of rendering nature and landscape in art, and traditions of looking. Viewing Horizontal is without doubt a cinematic experience. Yet, the film, screened in museums and galleries from Helsinki to New York, has the potential to lure the urban gallery visitor, sitting in the cool gallery space enveloped by this forest soundscape, into feeling like they truly are in nature. Ahtila invites the viewer to encounter nature as a walk in the forest might be imagined. Or, rather, the tree mimics a memory of nature mediated through art. When we experience Horizontal, we have chosen the experience of going to an art gallery. Instead of stepping into a forest to personally encounter a spruce tree, we step inside the framework of depictions: it is a place where we go to view. With Horizontal, Ahtila has deconstructed a visit to nature by distilling its pure essence: a serene meeting with a statuesque spruce tree; all other sounds eclipsed but the gentle swishing of its needles. The artificiality of this experience questions whether there is such a thing as ‘pure experience.’ Nature has proved a potent source to challenge what one is looking at, and particularly so in the relationship between depictions and experiences of originals and copies. For the art historian Rosalind Krauss, nature is inscribed into a postmodernist paradigm for re-​evaluating the truth of art. When deconstructing the idea of copy and original, as both central and detrimental to a modernist tradition, she picked the circular relationship between experiences of nature and depictions of nature. For Krauss, we are so caught up in reproductions that we have lost any sight, and possible use, for the idea of the original.17 Even if we could imagine a nature untouched by humans –​to the human eye it would be simply neither natural nor neutral. “We” in Krauss’s text should be understood as that human subject formed by enlightenment and captured, according to a theorist like Rosi Braidotti, in a universalist-​orientated humanist culture.18 To deconstruct the idea of a truth of art Krauss turns to Jane Austen’s provincial protégée Catherine in Northanger Abby. What begins to dawn on Catherine is that her countrified notions of the natural –​ “that clear blue sky” is for instance “proof of a fine day” are entirely false and that the natural, which is to say, the landscape, is about to be constructed for her by the more highly educated companions.19 Catherine gets a lecture on the picturesque and for Krauss this shows how the Western, modern subject is deeply programmed by a pre-​existing pictorial understanding: “For it is perfectly obvious that through the action of the picturesque the very notion of landscape is constructed as a second term, of which the first is a representation. Landscape becomes a reduplication of a picture which preceded it.”20 In other words, Krauss argues that a narrative exists in our minds before we step into nature, and when “we” see a vista, a blue sky, or a spruce, it is through a pre-​existing narrative. In this experience, from Austen to Ahtila, there is no such thing as natural or neutral ‘looking.’ When Ahtila takes a single tree and goes to the trouble of depicting a portrait rather than a landscape, she plays with the genres of landscape painting and portraits. The tree trunk cuts across the image, flat and horizontally, like a horizon. The image also includes a life-​size adult human figure, standing next to the tree. The human being is dwarfed by the massive tree; its diminutive size proves that there is no prospect whatsoever for the human figure to overlook this tree, to take it in, or be our window. It’s

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Conversations between Body, Tree, Camera  101 as if this figure was in an inverted relationship to landscape paintings such as Caspar David Friedrich’s (1774–​1840) Wanderer above the Sea of Fog or Woman before the Rising Sun (Woman before the Setting Sun) from 1818, featuring his “Rückenfigur.” The human figures in Friedrich’s iconic paintings stand dazzled by the sublimity of nature, by its beauty, but equally their mere presence at the center of the image conquers the landscape which expands at their feet. The figures’ backs in the Friedrich paintings mimic its viewers. The figures’ gaze becomes the viewer’s gaze, taking in the landscape vistas. The wanderer is like the artist, a mediator between nature and human; an interpreter.21 Friedrich, along with other artists like his friend and colleague the Norwegian artist Johan Christian Dahl (1788–​1857), developed a theme of landscape views featuring a single tree as main character, for example Dahl’s Nordic Landscape with Trolltindene, 1823.22 The painting features a dramatic interpretation of a famous spot in the mountain chain, framed by coniferous trees on either side. To the left, one barren pine hangs into the image, just below what looks like a couple of spruces standing tall. In View over Hallingdal, 1844, a single spruce dominates the breathtaking landscape in front of the viewer despite being shifted to the left.23 The landscape unfolds in front of this tree and the spruce is like the “Rückenfigur”: a stand-​in for the viewer. In Friedrich’s painting Mountain Landscape, 1823, a barren pine lies fallen across a ravine, emphasizing the otherwise dramatized landscape. Trees fallen, barren, or standing tall are part of what for Friedrich was implicit divine nature.24 A  lonely pine or spruce, as much as a “Rückenfigur,” portray a deeply felt melancholia.25 The viewing subject becomes the figures in the paintings, their experiences are ours:  overcome and conquering. The mere scale of Horizontal with its soundscape may once again cause us, the gallery visitors, to be overwhelmed by the intensity of the experience. But, precisely through the display of scale between the tree and the human body, we are reminded of our insignificance compared to nature in general and this massive tree in particular. Perhaps Horizontal has most affinity with a painting like Friedrich’s Fir Trees in the Snow, 1828, where we are placed in front of a row of firs, obscuring any landscape view through this group portrait. We are made to contemplate a set of what Joseph Leo Koerner describes as an unremarkable thicket. Yet, what captures our interest is “a humanizing plot.”26 Before Horizontal we are sitting in front of a single and ordinary tree. What makes these trees visible and worthy of our contemplation are the artistic projections onto canvas or onto the wall. Similarly, it is the artistic elaboration that creates the sense of being out of control, and makes the impression overwhelming or even causes a “dizzying sense.”27 W. J. T. Mitchell convincingly argues that landscape has never been a motif to objectively capture in representation. He shows how rendering landscape in paintings, across the centuries, has been a form of power to create and maintain social identities. He even goes as far as to state that paintings of landscapes have shaped different cultures’ views on nature and society.28 The spruce tree in Horizontal speaks of the possibility of seeing nature and even the complexity of seeing as such. In the quote at the top of this section the scientist Jakob Johann von Uexküll, who founded a research institute in Germany in the 1920s devoted to “Umwelt Forschung,” speaks of “unfamiliar worlds’’.29 His claim was that these worlds, of animals and nature, were as familiar to a particular specimen as that was strange to any other specimen. In his notion of “Umwelt,” Uexküll proposes that each living being has its own universe, its own surrounding.30 A few years before filming Horizontal, Ahitla discovered the potential of Uexkülls writings. His writings

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102  Katarina Wadstein MacLeod from the 1920s equip the artist with a systematic way to argue the validity of a diversified perspective, not only between humans but between different specimens. Although Uexküll’s insights may not change science as of today, they may help shift the understanding of human subjects’ place in the world. In this respect, any claim of an original understanding of nature becomes by necessity more than one. In her most renowned film installation, The House, Ahtila pushed the claim of what reality may be and how dramatically different these are for different beings. As we follow the female character, who manifests symptoms from a variety of psychiatric illnesses, we are not so much looking at, as seeing with her. Her erratic behavior seems logical within the film, like flying through the sky, climbing walls and blacking out the whole house.31 But, with few exceptions, Ahtila has explored the behavior of human subjects, however much their alternate realities may appear as parallel.32 The art historian Maria Hirvi-​Ijäs argues the artist turned a corner with The Hour of Prayer –​in which explorations of the inner psyche shifted to alternate subjects, in this case a dying dog.33 By contrast, in Horizontal it is as if nothing can transgress the different worlds that are represented. In a sense, this encounter is on the tree’s terms: its size refutes the narrow framework of cameras and gallery spaces. In some ways, we glimpse the tree’s perspective; compared to the tree, the human body is a diminutive figure by its base. Yet, by cramming it into the gallery frame, with the help of advanced filming techniques and a large camera crew, what comes to the fore are human platforms for looking. Or, as put by Mieke Bal, when confronted with the lengthways-​tipped tree we are “compelled to revise our view of the tree.”34 She also argues that this looking happens in two directions: “The tree, in other words, which is so much larger than we are, is also looking at us.”35 But we are not only looking at each other, the spruce tree, and the museum visitors. As both the tree and the human figure are tipped onto their sides, the two-​way direction implicit in the portrait genre is twisted. Instead of looking back, the viewer and the tree seem to look beyond each other. The human subject and the fir tree inhabit worlds that in Ahtila’s imagination are so parallel that they cannot even meet face to face. W. J. T. Mitchell suggests that ‘landscape’ is so bound to the human subject that it could be considered a verb.36 That is, instead of uncovering what it means in a specific context, or what it symbolizes in different periods, we should try and focus on what it does to us in representation. For Mitchell, representation has effects. Art depicting landscape does not merely reproduce but also produces meaning.37 In her study of nature programs on Swedish television (similar to those on Discovery Channel), gender scholar Hillevi Ganetz has shown just how much representation of nature matters and the scope of its influence. Television programs, more than any other medium, including real-​life experiences, have formed our understanding and knowledge of nature and, in particular, animals. Thus, cameramen and (predominantly male) presenters have introduced the nature of the world to people sitting on their sofas across the world. Narratives of nature and wild animals, Ganetz demonstrates, are replicas of societies; human societies with their gender structures are masked as objective facts when lions, elephants and insects are filmed. As it happens, animals do not always live the lives we have typically portrayed, narrated, and been taught. Their relationships and sexualities, for example, have been much contested and studies show that these are both more similar and more different to those formed in human society.38 TV-​viewers and gallery-​goers see renditions of nature through the imagination of TV producers and artists. Imagined nature informs how nature is encountered,

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Conversations between Body, Tree, Camera  103 perhaps even respected and understood. Imagination, or fantasy, to use Mieke Bal’s word, is a powerful thing: “The royal road to the real-​but a real conceived as a kind of ‘augmented’ reality –​is fantasy.”39 Bal considers Ahtila’s The House and its potential for understanding a reality that in psychiatric care is so parallel it is diagnosed as an illness. However, her reflection lends itself also to Horizontal, where the full installation of the piece: the darkened room, the exact distance that the benches are placed from the screen and the sound of the tree tops, serve as an augmented reality that the real experience does not allow for. Horizontal highlights how looking is central to the human being. But it also unveils how human imagination, with the help of camera techniques (or oil on canvas as in the case of Caspar David Friedrich), makes us see. The combination of narrative and camera is a powerful concoction, creating realities duly met with suspicion. Nature, as Ganetz argues, is inscribed in representation through narratives that echo human society. The camera itself, which helps make lions, insects, and spruces visible to the human eye, is a contested means for capturing anything natural.40 In the end the film Horizontal was no longer about the tree at all but about the human eye, its perception, and how we use technology as an extension of our Anthropocene gaze.

Imagining Nature Often in Finland, the spruce is seen as less important among other trees –​both as a building material and as part of the visual surroundings. I am frankly afraid that people will not recognize anything when they look at the drawings.41 In the introductory remarks in an interview by Cary Wolfe with Eija-​Liisa Ahtila, Wolfe points out the importance of landscape and climate for the artist.42 His observation is hardly controversial: nature and landscape clearly play a pronounced role in many of Ahtila’s film installations. In Where is Where the documentary material places us in a North African landscape and in Fishermen, 2007 we encounter a West African landscape. However, her film installations are dominated by a Finnish, or Nordic, landscape as in The House, The Hour of Prayer, or The Annunciation. In each of these films the story is set against a specific geography in the Northern hemisphere, where long camera shots take in vast conifer forests, with and without heavy snow. Before embarking on filming the large tree in Horizontal, Ahtila explored the potential of spruces for emotional expression in a series of drawings titled Anthropomorphic Exercises (On Film) 2011, where spruces are given human characteristics. In one set of drawings the tree deals with rain. In another it turns heavy with snow and transforms into a snowman with piercing red button eyes. It flies off the page as a bird and bends over to fit onto the page as an over-​tall human in a small room [see Plate 16]. In yet another, Point of View/​With a Human, as a preamble to the film Horizontal, the spruce is cut up into three sections leaving the top section empty  –​where the tip should be [see Plate 17]. Ahtila describes these studies as preparations for the film installation the Annunciation, which is partly about exploring how to express scripted emotions in Christianity, fundamental to Western society. In this piece the landscape is clearly emphasized. The story takes place in the autumn and winter when a group of actors rehearse the biblical story for a Christmas play. The film starts with a bird’s eye view of the vast landscape with its never-​ending forests enveloped in a misty white sky and treetops heavy with snow. The eye turns out to belong

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104  Katarina Wadstein MacLeod to a black raven. For Mieke Bal the opening scene with the raven is metaphorical for art. We cannot see like the raven amongst the tree tops. Even the close-​up of the bird itself seems impossible to make happen. This close-​up shot and bird’s eye perspective are reminders, for Bal, that imagination help us see what our eyes cannot.43 But the raven looking out across the snow-​clad forest is also a reminder of another narrative within Norse mythology. Odin sent his two ravens across the world to collect information that he, more akin to humans, could not find himself. This symbolic hint is not further explored in the narrative that unfolds when the amateur actors rehearse the biblical story, but it sets the tone of the many layers of storytelling that Ahtila explores. The raven, the snow, and the conifer landscape allow its viewers to tune into a rich tradition of images and narratives about the North. When Ahtila picked a single fir for Horizontal, she chose a protagonist that is so familiar to a Nordic experience that she worried it would barely be seen at all.44 Pinewood and spruce wood are such cheap, common materials used for construction, paper production, and celebrating Christmas, that we barely pay them any attention. Driving through Finland, Norway. or Sweden is for long stretches an exercise in enduring sameness: vast masses of pine or spruce forests flow by; dense, impenetrable, and repetitive. It is just there. But a tree in depiction is anything but “just there” or insignificant. It carries a with it a specific tradition of imagining nature, and more specifically, imagining the North through nature. Ahtila selected a tree with the slightest of significance, not an impressive oak tree, or fragile birch tree, or any illustrious leaf tree but a mere spruce with a history of being regarded as commonplace and subject to mass consumption. But Ahtila had no need to worry that it was too common to be seen. Conifers, pine, and spruce, have a firm presence in art from and about the North. Since the eighteenth century, artists like the aforementioned Johan Christian Dahl, or the Swedish painter Elias Martin (1739–​ 1818), or Norwegian August Cappelen (1827–​1852) feature single spruces or pines as foreground figures or background settings. With the impetus of national romanticism pines and spruces again came to the fore, through artists such as the natural romantic Finnish painter Fanny Churberg (1845–​1892).45 When another Finnish painter, Akseli Gallen-​Kallela (1865–​1931), captured the Finnish landscape in his ongoing attempt to represent Finnish culture, spruces and pines are present. Single trees and forests feature as backdrops to lakes, animals, and scenes from the Kalevala series. When H. C. Andersen wrote one of his moral tales, The Fir Tree in the mid-​nineteenth century, the protagonist was again a fir. The story tells us humans, through the character of the tree, to treasure the small moments in life. When Wolfe points out the importance of landscape and climate for Ahtila, through the reflection that he was in Texas and she in Finland during their conversation, and of course the many landscape shots in her film installations, he did so through a posthumanist reasoning in the age of the Anthropocene. But the observation also comes close to a cliché about the North, its people, and artists. If there is one thing that typically has been seen to characterize the Nordic countries and its northern parts, it is landscape and climate.46

Staging Nature Ahtila’s tree in Horizontal invokes a complex history of understanding the human subject through narratives about nature. As we have seen, W. J. T. Mitchell proposed

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Conversations between Body, Tree, Camera  105 that landscape in representation should be understood as a verb, that is, an action or something that is constructed. Nature is not natural when transferred through the human eye onto an artistic material but subject to interpretation, narrative, and intention. The cultural geographer Augustin Berque argues that the word ‘landscape’ is a good example of how humans transform nature into narrative. In Europe the idea of organizing the visual experience of nature into landscape began in the 14th century. Without humans, “landscape” ceases to exist: it is simply unbound nature. Or rather, landscape comes to exist through urban society; it is when someone crosses the city wall that you go from a defined world into the “anti-​world.” In Emperor Augustus’s era at the turn from BC to AD, Berque points out this was a literal stepping out from the city borders into the untamed “anti-​world.” In present-​day times that stepping out may be more metaphorical. Cities look different, some are never-​ending, others embedded in nature, and culture is hardly restricted to urban conditions.47 Horizontal does several things. It evokes imaginations about Nordic landscapes and their people.48 It relates to theoretical concepts regarding the nature of art and its role. It is a statuesque example of the parallel worlds the Moderna museet exhibition title referred to. The installation makes it clear that the two different organisms which meet in the gallery space, the human and the tree, have different perspectives, or “Umwelten,” to use Uexküll’s phrase. It is simply impossible for a human being to be face to face with this large-​sized spruce, which is underlined by the adult in a blue jacket who only reaches up to its very base. The human looks diminutive and a lot more out of place, tilted on his side, than the large tree –​with its roots in the ground to the left of the room and its top reaching towards the sky to the right. Furthermore, this tilting with the top to the right mimics a Eurocentric reading from left to right. In this piece, Ahtila also corresponds with fears and traumas of our time. Climate change is real and measurable. The little figure at the base may recall the futility of humans, our guilt and responsibility for those other parallel worlds we are set to destroy.49 Horizontal may not be an imperative to act –​Ahtila refrains with consequence from imperatives, but it is a call to start to think. Ahtila’s shift from exploring the human psyche in regard to feminist and post-​colonial experiences to nature corresponds both to the impetus in posthumanism and to a general shift in contemporary art. An urge even to turn to nature; to make audiences think about culture and nature with reference to the environment. The year after Ahtila showed Horizontal, the Belgian artist Berlinde de Bruyckere (b. 1964)  also brought a massive tree in its entirety into a gallery space for the Belgian pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2013. Ahtila employed the medium of film, de Bruyckere made a wax cast. The Belgian pavilion was blackened out and it took several moments for the eye to distinguish that the massive piece at the center of the room was a large tree trunk. The curator for the exhibition (selected by de Bruyckere), the Nobel-​prize winner J.M Coetzee, described the installation as “monstrous, melancholic, poetic work that speaks of death, decay, and dashed dreams.”50 The title Cripplewood is a literal description of the piece, wood that has been crippled but mended through art. It is not only mended but de Bruyckere has made the wax cast anthropomorphic with bark scraped off its branches and made to look like bones laid bare. The wounds are flesh-​ like, the bandages dirty with bloodstains and the body in the middle of the room was “pseudo-​anatomical.”51

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106  Katarina Wadstein MacLeod In de Bruyckere’s piece the tree is a stand-​in for human behavior and human experience in a tradition traceable from Ovid’s Metamorphoses to H. C. Andersen’s tale about the Fir tree/​Graentraet.52 Various articles retell how de Bruyckere encountered the fallen tree, the original for the wax cast, in a field in France. It suggested to her an association with a collapsed cathedral, and was reminiscent of the effects of uprooting:  “I was touched by its having been uprooted, she said. People who are uprooted, you never can really place them again. It’s much more violent than cutting a tree down. Uprootedness gives a feeling of loneliness.”53 The two artists Ahtila and de Bruyckere employ elements from nature to do the talking, and in so doing converse with a specific cultural and geographical context. De Bruyckere’s allusions to Catholicism and Greek mythology are outspoken (with references to e.g. Lucas Cranach’s paintings or the myth of Actaeon) in her employment of wood, trees, and its branches as metaphors for human suffering, death, and relationships. In Ahtila’s body of work we are culturally situated by the spoken languages of Arabic, Finnish, French, or a dog’s bark, but even more so through the landscape settings of pine and spruce forests; bare, gloomy, covered in snow, and under the guard of a raven. It may seem a remarkable shift, from dealing with society’s ills and wrongs against “others”: women, psychically ill, the victims of colonialism –​to end up with a spruce. Yet, with reference to Uexküll’s proposal that each living being has its own “Umwelt,” its own perspective and viewpoint, the shift seems logical. Ahtila and de Bruyckere are far from alone in extending the feminist project to an engagement for the environment. In her seminal book The Death of Nature, Carolyn Merchant shows why the two, the feminist movement and the environmental movement that began in the 1960s and evolved in the 1970s, are closely interlinked. Nature is not only commonly described in the feminine. The ideas of “woman” and “nature” have been, in Merchant’s thesis, subjected to control and domination across the centuries through similar metaphors:  holy and evil, nurturing and dangerous.54 The questions posed within a feminist critique are easily transposed onto questions within an eco-​critique and it has led someone like the gender theorist and philosopher Rosi Braidotti to deeply question what any humanist enterprise might entail. For Braidotti it is through a thorough understanding of the human and its relationship to nature and technology, that a productive future can be formed.55 Ahtila’s tree in Horizontal is, through this reading, perched on a threshold between a deeply set cultural tradition of depicting natural landscapes and a theoretical endeavor of reaching beyond the humanist paradigm. But what does it help, one may ask, to keep investigating how we are limited to our own scope? Pointing out differences between humans, cameras, and trees; or that we see and depict it all with self-​ interest? The mere questions of failure or success follow the same logic Ahtila’s piece attempts to undo. When reflecting on Lars Von Trier’s film Dancer in the Dark, Wolfe concludes that it both mobilizes humanism and throws it into question. The same goes for Horizontal; it calls upon a vivid art historical tradition of depicting nature, landscapes, and portraiture, but in Ahtila’s hands these genres also seem to implode. Her film about a tree taps into an imagination of the north and the influence of nature on Nordic culture but at the same time it resists any simple or two-​way relationship. Horizontal converses with landscape traditions but questions conventions of depicting nature.

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Conversations between Body, Tree, Camera  107

Notes 1 Lena Essling, “What is the first image?: Eija-​Liisa Ahtila in conversation with Lena Essling,” in ed. Lena Essling, Eija-​Liisa Ahtila: Parallel Worlds (Stockholm: Moderna museet, 2012), 23. 2 Cary Wolfe, “Eija-​Liisa Ahtila” Bomb, 120 (2012):  2:  Cary Wolfe, “No Immunity:  The biopolitical worlds of Eija Liisa Ahtila,” in Essling, Eija-​Liisa Ahtila, 13–​21. 3 See e.g. Mieke Bal, Thinking in Film: The Politics of Video Installation According to Eija-​ Liisa Ahtila (London & New  York:  Bloomsbury, 2013); Nicholas Mirzoeff, The Right to Look:  A Counterhistory of Visuality (Durham, NC:  Duke University Press, 2011); Taru Elfving, Thinking Aloud:  On the Address of the Viewer (PhD diss. London:  Goldsmiths College, 2009). 4 Amongst a range of catalogues for solo and exhibitions and articles see e.g. Cecilia Nelson, 10 (Lund:  Lunds konsthall, 1997); David Elliot ed., Organising Freedom:  Nordic Art of the ‘90s (Stockholm:  Moderna Museet, 2000); Amateur/​Eldsjäl:  Variable research initiatives 1900  & 2000 (Göteborg:  Göteborgs konstmuseum, 2000); Eija-​Liisa Ahtila, K21 (Dusseldorf:  Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-​Westfalen and Hatje Cantz, 2008); Noel Daniel (ed.), 26 Conversations with Doug Aitken Expanding the Image Breaking down the narrative (New  York:  D.A.P/​Distributed Art Publishers, 2006), 18–​24; Whitney Chadwick, “The medium is not the message,” in ed. Robert A. Corrigan, Bent: Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Scandinavian Art (San Francisco:  International Center for Arts at San Francisco State University, 2006), 9. 5 Elfving, Thinking Aloud: On the Address of the Viewer. 6 Maeve Connolly, Place of Artists’ Cinema:  Space, Site and Screen (London:  Intellect, 2009), 73–​76. 7 Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (1961), trans. Richard Philcox (New York: Grove Press, 2004), 199–​201. 8 Bal, Thinking in Film, 286. 9 Mirzoeff, The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality, 260–​261. 10 Jane Philbrick, “Subcutaneous Melodrama:  The Work of Eija-​Liisa Ahtila,” A Journal of Performance and Art 25.2 (2003), 32–​47. 11 See the definition by e.g. Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013); Rosi Braidotti, “The Contested Posthumanities,” in Conflicting Humanities ed. Braidotti et al. (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 13–​20. 12 Cary Wolfe, What is Posthumanism? (Minneapolis, MN & London: University of Minnesota Press, 2010). This proposal is stated on pages xviii–​xix but is argued throughout the book. 13 The Oxford English Dictionary, vol. XIX, ed. J.  A. Simpson and E.  S. C Weiner (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 619–​622. 14 Jakob von Uexküll, “A Stroll Through the Worlds of Animals and Men: A Picture Book of Invisible Worlds” (1934), in Instinctive Behavior: The Development of A Modern Concept, ed. Claire H. Schiller (New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1957), 5. 15 Lena Essling, “What is the first image?:  Eija-​ Liisa Ahtila in conversation with Lena Essling, Helsinki, 5 October 2011,” in ed. Lena Essling, Eija-​Liisa Ahtila: Parallel Worlds (Stockholm: Moderna museet, 2012), 157. 16 Essling, “What is the first image?,” 23. 17 Rosalind Krauss, “The Originality of the Avant-​ Garde:  A Postmodernist Repetition,” October 18 (1981), 47–​66. 18 Braidotti, The Posthuman, 26–​30. 19 Krauss “The Originality of the Avant-​Garde,” 58. 20 Krauss “The Originality of the Avant-​Garde,” 59. 21 Carlos Idrobo, “He who is leaving …: The figure of the wanderer in Nietzsche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra and Caspar David Friedrich’s Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer,” Nietzsche-​ Studien, 41 (2012), 78–​103.

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108  Katarina Wadstein MacLeod 22 See e.g. Nils Ohlsen, “Steiner, klipper og fjell,” in eds. Frode Haverkamp et  al., Dahl og Friedrich: alene med nature (Oslo: Nasjionalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, 2014), 136, the painting’s Norwegian title is Nordisk landskap med Trolltindene. 23 In the Metropolitan Museum, New York, accession number 2012.447. 24 In the Austrian Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, the German title is Felsenlandschaft im Elbsandsteingebirge, accession number 2589. See also Werner Busch, “Friedrich og Dahl. Tematisk slektskap, kunstneriske forskjeller” in Haverkamp, Dahl og Friedrich: alene med nature, 17–​23, emphasizing Fridrich’s belief in the divinity of nature. 25 See e.g. Jens Christian Jensen, Caspar David Friedrich (1974) (Köln:  Dumont, 1999), 92–​102. 26 Jospeh Leo Koerner, Caspar David Friedrich and the Subject of Landscape (London: Reaktion Books, 1990), 7. 27 Koerner, 1990, 14. 28 W. J.  T. Mitchell, “Imperial Landscape,” in Landscape and Power, ed. W.  J. T.  Mitchell (Chicago and London:  University of Chicago Press, 1994), 5–​34. 29 Jakob von Uexküll, “A Stroll Through the Worlds of Animals and Men: A Picture Book of Invisible Worlds” (1934), in Instinctive Behavior: The Development of A Modern Concept, ed. Claire H. Schiller (New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1957), 5. 30 For an extended body of references to Uexküll see Publications about J. v. Uexküll www.zbi. ee/​uexkull/​pubuex.htm. 31 Taru Elfving, “Seeing in Red,” Parkett 68 (2003), 74–​77; Thinking Aloud: On the Address of the Viewer (PhD diss. Goldsmiths College, 2009). 32 See for example Gertrud Koch, “Home Movies or the Hardship of Living in Houses,” Parkett 68 (2003), 90–​93 33 Maria Hirvi-​Ijäs, Eija-​Liisa Ahtila Studies on the Ecology of Drama (Stockholm:  Galleri Charlotte Lund, 2014). 34 Bal, Thinking in Film, 286. 35 Bal, Thinking in Film, 286. 36 Mitchell, “Imperial Landscape,” 1. 37 Mitchell, “Imperial Landscape,” 5–​34. 38 Hillevi Ganetz, Naturlikt:  Människor, djur och växter i SVT:  naturmagasin (Möklinta: Gidlunds förlag, 2012). 39 Bal, Thinking in Film, 1, 40 See e.g. Liz Wells, Photography: A Critical Introduction (London and New York: Routledge, 1997). 41 Essling, “What is the first image?,” 25. 42 Cary Wolfe, “Eija-​Liisa Ahtila” Bomb, 120 (2012), 23. 43 Bal, Thinking in Film, 1. 44 Essling, “What is the first image?,” 25. 45 Riitta Konttinen, Fanny Churberg (Åbo & Helsingfors:  Åbo konstmuseum and Amos Anderssons konstmuseum, 2012). 46 Karin Johannisson, “Det sköna i det vilda:  En aspekt på naturen som mänsklig resurs,” in Paradiset och vildmarken ed. Tore Frängesmyr (Stockholm:  Liber förlag 1984), see also Mikael Ahlund, Landskapets röster:  Studier i Elias Martins bildvärld (Stockholm: Atlantis, 2011). 47 Augustin Berque, Thinking Through Landscape, trans. Anne-​Marie Feenberg-​Dibon Berque (London and New York: Routledge, 2013). 48 For a context of Nordic contemporary art and artists dealing explicity both with depictions of trees, like Henrik Håkansson and nature at large see e.g. Hanna Johansson, “Nature in Nordic Contemporary Art:  From the Environment to a Common, Shared World,” in Nordic Contemporary: Art from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, ed. Hossein Amirsadeghi (London: Thames and Hudson, 2014), 20–​25.

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Conversations between Body, Tree, Camera  109 49 Berque discuss how our increasing investment in theorizing landscape stands in relation to our inability to understand it when humans are set to destroy nature, see in particular 43–​52. 50 Andrea Chin, “Berlinde de Bruyckere Cripplewood at Venice Art Biennale,” June 7, 2013, accessed October 11, 2016, 51 Mine Haydaroglu, “Berlinde de Bruyckere: Istanbul,” Artforum, 10 (2012), 286. 52 Ovid Metamorphoses, transl. A. D Melville (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986). 53 Sarah Douglas, “Cripplewood gets at the darker side of Venice,” Observer, June 5, 2013, accessed September 5, 2016, 54 Carolyn Merchant, Naturens Död (Eng. title The Death of Nature) (1980), transl. Öjevind Lång (Stehag: Brutus Östlings förlag Symposion,1994) in particular c­ hapter 1, 23–​50 and ­chapter 4, 121–​139. 55 Braidotti, “The Contested Posthumanities,” 13–​20 and Braidotti, The Posthuman.

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6 Toril Johannessen’s In Search of Iceland Spar Truth and Illusion in the Anthropocene Synnøve Marie Vik

Scientists have alerted us that the Arctic is 20 degrees warmer than usual,1 and that we simply do not know the scope of the effects of a warmer climate for defrosting tundra and ice melting. But even if every year continues to break another record temperaturewise, both global warming due to emissions of climate gases and natural causes such as the El Niño are likely causes. It is a complicated matter with no simple solution, and we may overlook the direct link between our driving to work in our cars and the melting polar caps. Our individual and local identities seem to be much stronger than our comprehension of their global consequences. Thus, it has become more pressing than ever to look into how the results of human interventions in nature exceed our perceptions. Both the Arctic –​even as geographically framed as it is –​and the Anthropocene, are concepts that are hard to fathom, much less perceive. A media-​ecological analysis provides an angle that makes these terms relatable and comprehensible. Timothy Morton, Professor of English, has written extensively on nature and ecology within a broader contemporary culture. The art field has welcomed his thoughts to a great degree, especially his concept of hyperobjects: “things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans”2 and therefore exceed comprehension. Hyperobjects are further “genuine nonhuman objects that are not simply the products of a human gaze,”3 in other words, they are real. Climate change or global warming is one of Morton’s many examples of hyperobjects. We might not understand their full implications, but we nevertheless encounter their local manifestation on an ever more regular basis –​through floods, storms or drought. This points to the fact that the Anthropocene is constituted by nonhuman objects that may have come about through our actions but are nevertheless out of our hands. The notion of the hyperobject is Morton’s way of overruling environmentalism’s notion of nature –​which he claims is an inheritance from romanticism –​as he calls for an “ecology without nature,” diminishing environmentalism’s focus on the present.4 To be able to grasp the hyperobject one must let go of the immediate, or even phenomenological approach to our surroundings, in favor of a conceptual framework that allows our timeframe to resemble the timeframe of geology. In this article, I will latch on to these ideas about how the results of human interventions in nature exceed our perceptions, in an effort to explain how the display of hundreds of photos of the same mineral in an art installation might provide points of reflection on truth and illusions in the Arctic and the Anthropocene. Iceland Spar, also called doublespar crystals, is a specific variety of crystal originally mined in Iceland and distributed worldwide. Iceland Spar was crucial in discovering


Toril Johannessen’s In Search of Iceland Spar  111

Figure 6.1 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, dimensions vary. From Bergen kunsthall 2008. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. © Toril Johannessen photo.

key theories of light and optics, and was subsequently used in developing optical instruments in the nineteenth century. In an effort to research this particular crystal, Norwegian artist Toril Johannessen (b. 1978)  did not travel to Iceland to visit the original source; instead she researched the mineral from her computer. Over the course of a few months, she sent out 10,000 e-​mails to companies, institutions and archives across the world asking for photographs of the mineral. The result was the art installation In Search of Iceland Spar (2008), an installation that did not include an actual piece of spar, but instead was what we might call a media-​ecological archive of a small part of the Arctic in the Anthropocene. Up until the eighteenth-​century, the mineral was more or less one entity, buried in the Icelandic volcanic landscape. Over the course of the next century it was mined and transported across the world, before it ended up in various science collections. Instead of collecting the mineral, Johannessen collected photos of the mineral, and at the same time tracked down and documented a history of its expansion throughout the world today. In Search of Iceland Spar points to the fact that almost everything we see and do in a world based on science is connected to material, geological elements, to minerals and sediments. It is a reminder with major implications. Microscopes, used to cure diseases, were possible because of minerals. Sending e-​mails entails doing it on a device using minerals in its basic components. But as we enter the Anthropocene, we

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112  Synnøve Marie Vik have learned that today’s microscopes and computers will form tomorrow’s geological sediments. For most, the Arctic is not somewhere we will ever visit. And yet, like many places we never visit, we still form strong ideas of the place. Images, tales, and news reports inform our impression of the Arctic. Scientists, politicians, profit-​driven companies, environmentalists –​and artists such as Johannessen –​feed into these narratives. The media’s various technologies and different forms of communication all take part in a process of shaping our mental images of the Arctic. This chapter is an effort to understand a part of the media ecology of the Arctic, how some of our narratives and illusions of the Arctic are created, communicated, and mediated, and how they lead back to one fundamental part; its geological foundation.

Toril Johannessen’s Method Toril Johannessen is one of Norway’s most internationally renowned young artists. She trained as a photographer, but her practice spans a broad range of media, from installation and text, sculpture and drawing, to photography and storytelling.5 Johannessen consistently works at the interface between art, nature, and science, mixing science and scientific results with artistic research. Engaging with her topics through scientific methods or methods that give the illusion of being scientific, she navigates the fine line between scientific truth and our individual, subjective perception of the world. She has a keen eye for the ways in which modern science affects our world views, oftentimes with a humorous perspective. While her approach opens up new possibilities for what artistic research can entail, it also deepens our understanding of the creativity involved in scientific research. She consistently tries to learn as much as possible about the subject and how it has been dealt with in science, so as to communicate it through art. She frequently collaborates with scientists, as with the installation Teleportation Paradigm. The experiment was based on a laboratory experiment with rats designed by neuroscientist Karol Jezek, but in Johannessen’s installation all visitors were invited to undergo the same brain experiment as the rats.6 Johannessen is equally interested in the material conditions of geology and landscapes as in more ephemeral phenomena such as light, energy, or time. In later works, Johannessen has continued exploring the natural sciences, technology, mediation, truth, and illusions. For dOCUMENTA(13) she contributed with the work Extraordinary Popular Delusions, installed in the Ottoneum, where an oversized petroleum-​fueled magic lantern projected a solargram onto the nearby wall in an otherwise pitch-​dark room. Johannessen’s magic lantern entered a self-​referential loop, where the projector was fueled by fossil fuels, while it projected an image of our ultimate energy source –​ the Sun. The work addressed the validity of the mechanisms involved in representing and mediating the world both in the past and today, both in terms of energy, finance, and the environment. Magic lanterns were the first projection apparatuses, and were highly popular in the entertainment business up until the nineteenth century, and often used in propaganda and spiritistic séances. While we often find it easy enough to condemn the illusions of yesterday, Johannessen’s work questions the way our current illusion makers (in the form of contemporary media and entertainment business, the finance sector, or politicians) play games with us. What, might we ask, are the grand delusions in the Anthropocene?

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Toril Johannessen’s In Search of Iceland Spar  113 Often wary of the bonds between economic structures and natural resources, as in Extraordinary Popular Delusions, she just as often plays with arbitrary hypotheses, say, the possible connection between astrophysics and the expansion of the financial market (Finance and Physics, 2010). This playfulness in dealing with science is equally often displayed in works preoccupied with the fundamental properties of human perception, how perception is mediated, and how it affects our perspective on our surroundings. Following from this theme, perception and optical illusions have been key elements in many of her works, from In Search of Iceland Spar back in 2008. Unlearning Optical Illusions (II and III, 2014–​2015) is an example of how she incorporates and questions scientific hypotheses, theories, and models of perception in her work. The installation consists of colorful, printed cotton mounted on steel racks, the textiles stretched out and up towards the ceiling.7 The project discusses two different visual cultures and their background: Western psychological research on geometrical, optical illusions, and global textile history. The colors and patterns of the textiles give the impression that they are traditional West African textiles, and they are in fact produced in Ghana. To this day, both the technique and aesthetic are thought to be an integral part of West African identity. On closer inspection, the textiles reveal patterns from famous optical illusions, first discovered by Western scientists such as Franz Carl Müller-​Lyer, Ewald Hering or Johann Karl Friedrich Zöllner. While some schools of research on modern perception have been known to argue that our experience of optical illusions is culturally conditioned, a hypothesis that is strongly contested, Johannessen used these optical illusions to question the history and methods of perception psychology, and let the audience make their own reflections on how both cultural and individual perception is created. When we add the fact that the particular wax technique being used in these West African textiles originates in Indonesia, from where it was exported to the Netherlands, and then on to West Africa in the nineteenth century, the questions of perception and appearance are expanded even more. How do we see our surroundings, and what is the history of their construction?

In Search of Iceland Spar Iceland Spar, also called doublespar crystal or calcite (calcium carbonate, CaCO3) is an especially fine colorless, transparent crystal that reflects light doubly, a phenomenon called ‘birefringence.’ Calcite is one of the materials with the highest birefringence –​so large that when a clear crystal is put over a piece of paper with a written text, the double refraction gives us the illusion that everything seen through the prism is double. The phenomenon occurs when polarization splits the ray of light, and the light takes two different paths. Seen through a polarization filter, one line appears stable while the other will move. Because of this, calcite was used in scientific instruments aimed at the optical industry, in making polarization prisms for various forms and purposes of light reflection.8 The properties of the crystal were discovered as early as the seventeenth century –​ although it has been argued that the Vikings used calcite for navigating at sea one thousand years before that. Iceland Spar was particularly important for the development of the natural sciences from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, especially in geology and optics. In the late seventeenth century, the Dutchman Christiaan

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114  Synnøve Marie Vik

Figure 6.2 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, detail. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. © Herman Goethals /​Toril Johannessen photo.

Huygens (1629–​1695) deduced the laws of refraction based on his research on the crystal and published a treatise on the theory of the movement of light.9 Subsequent research by many leading scientists of their time led to a far better understanding of crystal physics and perception of light, such as the Faraday effect, a magneto-​optical phenomenon discovered by Michael Faraday between 1845 and 1850,10 and the Kerr effect, or electro-​optical effect, discovered by John Kerr in 1875.11 Calcite occurs in great quantity across the world, but Iceland Spar with its distinct quality is rare, and was therefore mined intermittently and distributed widely to scientists throughout the world. The mineral became a central component in the development of key scientific instruments such as various microscopes, and subsequently led to great advances in a range of fields from geology to medicine. Helgustadir on Iceland was the main source of the mineral at the time, and the ore was mined until 1924. Today, birefringence is applied in many optical instruments, and applied in sciences ranging from medical diagnostics (among others, in detecting Alzheimer’s disease) to seismology, and birefringence can even be seen in some plastics and cellophane.12 In Search of Iceland Spar is an installation consisting of three distinct parts.13 The first is 181 black and white fiber prints of digitally received images of calcite, framed and hung in a cluster on the wall. The second is a light grey painted area on the wall, indicating the amount of calcite that was exported from the Helgustadir quarry. The third is a printout of the complete e-​mail correspondence from the project, compiled

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Toril Johannessen’s In Search of Iceland Spar  115

Figure 6.3 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, detail. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. © Udo Neumann /​Toril Johannessen photo.

in eleven plain, white books and neatly placed in a stack on the floor. The photographs are prints of images that were sent to Johannessen in response to her e-​mail request. The images came from people working in archives, museums, universities and other research facilities across Europe and North America. While the majority of the images were straightforward pictures of calcite of various shapes and sizes, a great number of the images also depicted microscopes and hands, most of them substantially larger in size than the calcite. The images had been arranged frame-​to-​frame in the corner of the wall, stretching out onto the two walls and arranged in an approximate 1:1 scale (real calcite: photograph). Several photographs were divided and framed separately but installed as one entity. All in all, it might be seen as a collage of calcite and microscopes, as if Johannessen was trying to reassemble the pieces of calcite, albeit in a technologically mediated and wholly representational form, and inseparable from the history of its extraction, here symbolized –​almost involuntarily –​by the microscopes. An installation map and a contributor list were provided, giving the audience the chance to identify the origin of each image. The stack of books with the complete e-​mail correspondence provided an opportunity to read more about the compilation process, where scientists and museum employees sent both images and in many cases some background information on the calcite in their property, to Johannessen. The information was predominantly details that could verify that it was in fact calcite from the Helgustadir quarry, but some also contained information on how the calcite

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116  Synnøve Marie Vik

Figure 6.4 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, detail. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. © Anthony R. Kampf /​Toril Johannessen photo.

had come into their ownership. In some cases Johannessen was told anecdotes on calcite and she received tips on relevant research articles. In the original e-​mail requesting images of Iceland Spar, Johannessen refers to a geologist who once explained to her that the heavy extraction led to scarcity of the mineral, and that the mining came to a natural halt. This turns out to be a myth, and the reality is that the popularity of the mineral faltered after the invention of synthetic materials that could replace it at a much lower cost. Nevertheless, not much calcite remains in the quarry today, and taking calcite from the area is forbidden. Thus

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Toril Johannessen’s In Search of Iceland Spar  117 Johannessen, fully aware of the truth of the narrative, plays with reality and illusions, which corresponds to her overall interest in how facts and world views are always constructed.14 While the Arctic has no firm borders, the term generally refers to the polar region north of the Arctic Circle (66° 33’N), while Iceland is still considered one of the three large islands of the Arctic. The Arctic happens to be where calcite is found in its purest form. Its properties had likely been known for centuries before mining started in Helgustadir in the eighteenth century. Controversial research has been carried out claiming that polarization by certain highly light-​absorbing crystals (dichroic crystals) could have been used for navigation purposes before the invention of the compass. While the results showed insensitivity in detecting the position of the Sun in cloudy weather, it turns out that calcite yields far better results. In the Arctic, the polarization of light in calcite can be detected and used to identify the direction of the Sun to within a few degrees, an effect even visible in cloudy weather or at twilight, and it is therefore hypothesized whether it was calcite from Iceland that led the Vikings safely across seas.15 While In Search of Iceland Spar refers to a very specific time and situation concerning the exploitation and altering of a part of the Arctic landscape, there is a parallel to be found in today’s global warming and transformation of the Arctic landscape.16 Industry and profit-​driven companies and governments alike treat the Arctic landscape as new grounds for covetable natural resources, apparently without thinking of the consequences for the local or global environment. Climate change is happening at high speed in the Arctic, where the majority of the landscape consists of water and ice. While the change to this melting surface landscape is visible, the geology underneath is also changing. The fjords, mountains, volcanoes, tundra, and minerals will be affected, either by the melting glaciers, rising seas, defrosting tundra, or extraction of fossil fuels or minerals.

Iceland Spar and Its Media Ecology Media ecology as a field has, since its beginning in the 1980s, been predominantly vested in the study of media environments, broadly speaking the interactions of media, technologies, and communication and their effects on people throughout history.17 But later strands of media-​ecological theory also incorporate their fundamental properties, the materials of which they are made, and their environmental effects and affects. Matthew Fuller has argued convincingly for a materialist take on media ecology in his Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture18 (2011). Jussi Parikka develops a theory for a topological media ecology in his text “Media Ecologies and Imaginary Media,” where he reframes nature as media.19 In Greening the Media Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller have argued forcefully for the need for a heightened awareness of the environmental impact of media technology.20 Applying some of this theoretical framework, Media and the Ecological Crisis, edited by Maxwell, Jon Raundalen and Nina Lager Vestberg was a direct contribution to raise such awareness with articles discussing the concrete environmental effects of media technology and the minimal –​almost non-​existent –​media response to these same effects.21 In his recent book A Geology of Media, Jussi Parikka argues that to understand media and media history we need to go as far into the materiality of media as possible,

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Figure 6.5 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, detail. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. © Toril Johannessen photo.

all the way to earth’s geology and to minerals.22 Contrary to our beliefs, the material world will long outlive the content we constantly create and store on our technological devices. Geology and media are tied together in two ways and navigate between two sets of times: ancient geological sedimentations: minerals and fossil fuels, and the new and future geological sedimentations: technological, human-​made waste. This is clearly relevant to In Search of Iceland Spar in that the installation documents geological sediments through digitally collected images. The technological apparatuses made possible by the optical illusions first discovered in calcite are also a considerable part of present and future waste issues. While consumerism and digital development result in escalating production of new apparatuses, the discarded products remain in the ecosystem as sediments of a new and lasting kind. The optical industry soon preferred cheaper, synthetic materials in its instruments, and the need for calcite diminished. But the calcite itself remained as solid a material as ever. It will not disintegrate or take on new properties. While the calcite is forgotten on the dusty shelves of all the worlds’ natural science museums, its presence in the world, made real by Johannessen’s art installation, is a reminder of the geological foundations of all things. Johannessen initially set out on an almost impossible quest: to assemble images of all the pieces of Iceland Spar that were mined from Helgustadir. She asked for both digital and analog photographs, old or new images, images of calcite when in use, or images of instruments where elements of calcite were incorporated. She set out to do this without knowing how many answers she would get, or even how many pieces of

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Toril Johannessen’s In Search of Iceland Spar  119 calcite existed out there. The assembling of an archive of images of calcite can be seen as a way of gathering documentation on a mineral that has lost much of its relevance. It can also be seen as a way of getting closer to some kind of truth about the mineral. Through her digital research and image compilation, Johannessen performs a media-​ecological study of the geological object, its geographical locations and how they are linked to other places globally, its scientific and thus also human implications, and its aesthetics. The sheer quantum, variety, and specific collage of images allude to displays in natural history museums. The installation gives the impression of telling us more about the nature of calcite than its individual parts. With its strict aesthetics and black-​and-​white color scheme, it gives the illusion of being scientific, while in reality it is composed by a layperson in science. Johannessen’s way of researching and mediating nature and science through technology involves a media ecology with various types of technology and media. There is the technology of a computer and an e-​mail system, and the media of digital and analog photography, the framed image and the book. But the calcite and the microscopes in the photographs can also be said to be technologies. In Search of Iceland Spar visualizes a part of Arctic nature through digitally mediated images of the real thing. The artistic vision thus created is based on real nature, but is only one of many possible options and forms. It draws us closer to the original source, but it is still just one conception of it. The amount of possible options and variations in media and representation highlight some of the existing narratives of the Anthropocene, especially the delusion of scale and proportion: the tiny Man versus the grandness and vastness of Nature, or the correlation between our individual acts and their global consequences. What distinguishes a scientist is a clear hypothesis, a deductive search for evidence, and transparency in method and result. A layperson is a person who ventures into a field other than one’s own, a non-​expert. Johannessen is a professionally trained artist, and not a trained physicist, geologist, or even optician. But she did try to conceptualize Iceland Spar, in its broadest (media ecological) sense, and went about it with the thoroughness of a scientist. When approaching institutions that may have calcite in their property, Johannessen acted as a researcher gathering as much information (in the form of images) of her research object as possible. She then arranged her findings into a new –​artistically, if not scientifically relevant –​order, where the image of the calcite corresponds to the size of the calcite. Her method is the method of an artist aiming to open up the discussion to bigger perspectives, question reality, and offer an alternative form of reflection, as well as giving form to ideas or patterns that haven’t been thought yet. By choosing digital technology as her primary research tool, Toril Johannessen included the specific technology involved in sending e-​mails with digital images into the media ecology of her work. The electronically transferred images were a mimicking of the movement previously made by the minerals. The knowledge originally made in direct contact with the material was now flowing digitally. The microscopes shown in some of the images in the art installation were representations of science. Johannessen has a background as a trained photographer. This is noteworthy all the while she is investigating a part of the fundamental materiality of her medium. While calcite was essential in the discovery of polarization and in the making of early polarization prisms, modern synthetic polarizing filters are essential elements of camera technology. These filters are used to adjust light and focus (widening the shutters and lengthening the aperture), rendering particularly outdoor scenes crisper and with

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Figure 6.6 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, detail. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. © Rune Selbekk /​Toril Johannessen photo.

deeper color. The interconnectedness of these aesthetic qualities and a material, geological reality is an essential aspect of the artwork, and perfectly in line with Parikka’s notion of a geology of media, with its emphasis on the strong connection between media and earth  –​through the minerals, energies and geological formations their materiality rely upon.

Iceland Spar and the Anthropocene The mining for Iceland Spar coincided with the beginnings of the Industrial Age, considered by many to be the start of the Anthropocene.23 This is of course not a mere coincidence: the industrial revolution was inextricably linked to the mining of natural resources such as minerals and coal, and the speed of the revolution itself was further fueled by these very resources, as well as the unquestionable belief in human mastery over nature. Fast-​forward 150 years, and upholding the dichotomy between nature and culture is proving to be ever more difficult, whichever narrative one subscribes to about the current status and future of our ecosystem.24 The prospect of entering the Anthropocene has encouraged several thought-​ provoking ideas of what this might mean. Timothy Morton forcefully claims that “Anthropocene is the first fully antianthropocentric concept.”25 To Morton, the very idea of living in a period where our actions have such a devastating effect on our world leads to a rejection of the romantic notion of Nature once and for all. Instead he develops a theory of dark ecology, where living and non-​living objects co-​exist in a mesh, an interwoven network.

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Toril Johannessen’s In Search of Iceland Spar  121 Jane Bennett argues that we need to look beyond the nature-​culture dichotomy and see things and objects as actants –​borrowing the term from Bruno Latour –​contributing to our environment to a much greater degree than we might have thought. Drawing on French philosopher Jacques Rancière and his notion of the “distribution of the sensible,” Bennett describes how our world view is fundamentally divided into two parts: one consisting of “dull matter” or things and objects, and one consisting of living things –​us.26 Her notions of “vibrant matter” and “vital materiality” challenge this way of thinking, by opposing the modernistic view of nature as mechanistic and lifeless, adding “a touch of anthropocentrism”27 and asking us to radically rethink the crucial challenges of our time. Bennett’s matter is “vital, energetic, lively, quivering, vibratory, evanescent, and effluescent,” where Morton’s ecology is equally dark. The notion of seeing objects and “non-​human forces” such as electricity –​as active participants in events, as Bennett’s argument calls for, opens for an attentive, less moralistic and more ecologically sound relationship with our surroundings. Joanna Zylinska continues on a similar track with her minimal ethics, where she poses the Anthropocene as an ethical injunction, as well as a concept about which we need to remain critical, in order to develop the discourse and a proper political response.28 Toril Johannessen’s excavation of geological archives, looking for pieces of a specific mineral, displaying “the biography” of each piece, sits comfortably within this greater theoretical trend of highlighting the ethical and material realities of the Anthropocene. The materialism of her approach and scientific motifs does not stand at odds with what is ultimately a poetic representation of the subject matter.

The Arctic Illusion The sound of melting glaciers is quite extraordinary –​if you know what you are listening to and take your time to listen properly. The quaint clucking sound of air being released after being trapped in ice for millions of years is both beautiful and unnerving.29 If it weren’t for artists recording, broadcasting or exhibiting the sounds and images of the Arctic to the public, like in the instance of the Dane Jakob Kirkegaard’s sound piece Isfald (2013), few of us would ever hear or see the changes occurring in the Arctic landscape. Artists covering the Arctic are not only a question of appeal or political urgency. There is a strong tradition for artists travelling to the Arctic as part of scientific research groups. Some of the earliest reports from the Arctic parts of Norway, in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, were made by artists primarily enrolled on the research ships together with scientists to describe the landscape and scientific findings in writing and in drawing. The artists were first and foremost enrolled as laypeople of science. Especially skilled in the detailed portrayal of nature, they were to contribute to the research by documenting it. The Norwegian Polar Institute is one of several institutions continuing this tradition, and Toril Johannessen herself had the opportunity to experience the extraordinary Arctic landscape (and seas) first hand in 2009, the year after she finished In Search of Iceland Spar, on board one of their research ships, to see up close how climate scientists work. On these voyages the artists are still there as laypeople of science, but undeniably also as true professionals in their field –​the arts. Their assignment is to transfer and transform their experiences of the voyage and the Arctic into art of high integrity and high relevance –​to their own field and to the current discussions on the Arctic.


122  Synnøve Marie Vik

Figure 6.7 Toril Johannessen, In Search of Iceland Spar, 2008. Installation, detail. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. © Robert Finch /​Toril Johannessen photo.

Traditionally, the sketches and writings chronicling these travels have contributed to the Arctic Illusion –​the idea of the Arctic as so vast and eventless that it does not really affect our daily lives, nor that our daily lives affect the Arctic.30 This is an illusion, and one that Johannessen’s In Search of Iceland Spar in particular problematizes. Her act of conceiving or grasping from a technological distance calcite’s materiality and ever-​present existence, as well as its unstable and subjective narrative, is a perceptive parallel to many people’s notion of the Arctic today. Our own tale-​making of the Arctic, our own actions or non-​actions concerning global warming are all part of a similar media ecology, where digital technology and random information are decisive elements [see Plate 18].

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Toril Johannessen’s In Search of Iceland Spar  123 In a conversation on perception and her artistic research methods, Toril Johannessen muses that she finds illusion to be a relevant and useful thinking method: “Illusion can be a model for becoming aware of the fact that what one sees is not what one sees.”31 We might try to train ourselves to look at and beyond illusions. Wittgenstein made the aesthetic experience of the illusion of the Duck-​Rabbit –​where in the same drawing you see either the head of a rabbit or that of a duck –​legendary when he included it in his Philosophical Investigations, as an illustration of his theory of seeing: seeing as and seeing that. Calcite is a material that misleads the eye to see two lines where there is only one. The Merriam-​Webster dictionary explains illusion as: “a (1): a misleading image presented to the vision (2): something that deceives or misleads intellectually b (1): perception of something objectively existing in such a way as to cause misinterpretation of its actual nature (2):  hallucination (3):  a pattern capable of reversible perspective.”32 While the third definition directly describes the effect of looking through a piece of calcite, all these definitions are relevant to an analysis of In Search of Iceland Spar in several ways, as there are plenty of variables involved in the work of art, and therefore no objective reality. The photographs of the calcite collected by Johannessen are only representations of calcite. They are exhibited in 1:1 size, and as one collection, while in fact the size of the image (meant to reflect the size of the calcite) is in many cases more or less a loose estimate. Neither is it verifiable in every case that the calcite in question is in fact from the Helgustadir quarry. Furthermore, the art installation and its strict black-​and-​white aesthetic seems to present facts in an objective, deductive, and verifiable manner, but is of course entirely the subject of the artist’s decisions, being one possible installation out of endlessly possible others. Johannessen’s anecdote; the narrative of calcite, its popular demand and subsequent scarcity, is not necessarily an illusion. On the contrary, it feeds into the narrative of a fragile Arctic with limited resources. In Search of Iceland Spar plays with different levels of illusion and truth. Calcite shows an illusion, but is an essential tool for getting closer to facts and certainty about the world and its mechanisms. Photography gives us access to seemingly truthful images of objects, but takes part in a media ecology that builds illusions. In his seminal book The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality, Nicholas Mirzoeff, has developed a notion of countervisuality through an analysis of visuality, authority and power.33 His theory of colonial history establishes a counterhistory of visuality that has implications for today’s visual culture. Mirzoeff points out how power, through various strategies for visual domination, such as particular patterns or maps, creates a standard operating procedure. One of his examples is a seventeenth-​ century Haitian sugar plantation, overseen from Europe through a strict mapping and standardization of each plantation and its landscape. The visual standardization of the plantations removed individual traits, thus making operations and domination –​ of both land and slaves –​easier. This standard operating procedure is a particularly appealing aesthetic, an aesthetics that seems right, and thus encourages us to move on, since there is nothing to see here. Mirzoeff argues effectively how this regime holds a controlling power over our visual culture, which can very well be transferred to how we see climate change – ​or for that matter the Arctic –​today. By refusing to look away, but rather claiming a right to look, to see properly, to slow down and dwell on what would otherwise be overlooked, we can not only conceptualize these hegemonic forms

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124  Synnøve Marie Vik of visuality, but also determine their countervisuality, and with it assess the political implications of their aesthetic.34 History’s hegemonic visuality has brushed aside calcite to the dark corners of our museums of natural history. The mineral has been crucial for the development of technologies that we continue to rely on to this day, but that we are not aware of. Johannessen’s collage of images of calcite has come about by claiming a right to look –​ albeit in a very polite manner –​and we might say that this installation is an attempt at establishing a countervisuality of our natural history. By dwelling on the historical and situated position of each piece of calcite, as well as on the geological grounds our science and culture rest upon, Johannessen rearranges our view on nature and our relation to it. In this countervisuality, each instance of the mineral is rendered as unique, thereby also contesting the generality that is embedded in the quest for the laws of physics. The finite nature of our geological world is not argued for as much as it is a natural consequence of Johannessen’s display of each specimen. This representation of a historically situated, finite mineral also runs counter to the most familiar visual trope of the Arctic, its eventless vastness.35 In developing his concept of countervisuality, like Bennett, Nicholas Mirzoeff relies heavily on Jacques Rancière and his ideas about “the distribution of the sensible.” Whereas Mirzoeff writes about visual culture and not about art per se in the context of countervisuality, art plays an integral role in many of Rancière’s discussions of how the sensible world is configured. A key point in his thinking about what art can do is his distinction between a “traditionally” politicized and critically inclined art, and what he terms a “dissensual” art. According to Rancière, “There is no criterion for establishing a correspondence between aesthetic virtue and political virtue,”36 and often –​maybe more often than not –​critical art will fail to achieve its intended goals in both respects on account of its dependence on a certain hierarchical relation between the artist, the work, and the audience. A dissensual art practice would rather attempt to reconfigure these relations without having decided beforehand on the relation’s final configuration. I believe In search of Iceland Spar can be read as a work that operates with such a dissensual logic, more invested in questioning assumptions and blind spots implicit in our relations with science and technology than in formulating a coherent critique.37 The countervisuality that appears in Johannessen’s work does not run in opposition to the stream of science, but opens up for a set of narratives not usually seen [see Plate 19].

Seeking Truth in the Anthropocene Toril Johannessen’s art installation In Search of Iceland Spar is an investigation into how a set of truths about the laws of light and vision are grounded in a very material history, consisting not only of the scientists’ interaction with the elements, but also of excavation and distribution of raw materials. And indeed, the very scientific interaction is in fact dependent on this material history, as illustrated by the many microscopes in the images, pointing towards the materiality of all media. By approaching this history as an artist, the truth produced about the mineral is necessarily different from that of the natural sciences, or history, yet it might still help us to look beyond the illusions of a modern society detached from its geological fundament.

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Toril Johannessen’s In Search of Iceland Spar  125 The fact that the mineral in question has its origin in the Arctic may be coincidental, but the reality is that the idea of an immense eventless Arctic nature, and the imminent threat this nature faces today, functions as an important backdrop for the larger issues put into play by Johannessen’s e-​mail enquiry. In Search of Iceland Spar illustrates knowingly the power inherent in the collecting and organizing of any information, a point especially crucial in relation to the Arctic, a sparsely populated area that most of us will only encounter second-​hand. Equally compelling is the demonstration of the interconnectedness of geology and vision, a pertinent reminder to always question what is presented before our eyes.

Notes 1 Arctic Council, “Arctic Resilience Report,” 2016,  accessed 20 January, 2018, https://​ oaarchive.arctic-​​handle/​11374/​1838. 2 Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects. Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2013), 1. 3 Ibid., 199. 4 Ibid., 92. 5 Toril Johannessen has an MA from Bergen Academy of Art and Design, and also studied at Mountain School of Art in LA. In recent years she has exhibited in several important institutions in Europe, among them dOCUMENTA(13), the thirteenth iteration of Documenta in Kassel, Germany and the Istanbul Biennial in 2013. In 2016 she had her first large, solo museum exhibition at Trondheim Art Museum, and together with Dane Tue Greenfort, whom she met at Documenta, exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Oslo (the National Museum for Art, Craft and Design), an exhibition called Norsk Natur (Norwegian Nature), where In Search of Iceland Spar was exhibited. Toril Johannessen has previously had solo exhibitions at Young Artists’ Society and Lautom Contemporary both in Oslo, Hordaland Art Center and Bergen kunsthall NO.5, both in Bergen, and participated in group shows at Wiels in Brussels (concurrently with a residency she held there), Witte de With in Rotterdam, Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and more. She lives and works in Tromsø (in Arctic Norway). For a full résumé see Toril Johannessen, “Toril Johannessen CV,” accessed November 27, 2016,​cv index.html. 6 Johannessen collaborated with Jezek, the Kavli Institute for Systems neuroscience, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology NTNU. The installation consisted of three connected rooms with light, sound, and mural, and was installed at the Young Artists’ Society in Oslo in 2013. 7 The installation has been installed in various versions in Vigelandsmuseet, Trondheim Kunstmuseum and Kunsthuset Kabuso. 8 Some of the most important prisms were the Nikol Prism, Wollaston Prism and Glan-​Foucault Polarizer, and calcite was also used in Quarter-​Wave Plates. The Nikol prism was the first polarizing prism, invented by William Nikol (1770–​1851). The different prisms consist of two pieces of calcite creating birefringence that separates the two beams at various angles. 9 D.R Wilkins, “Christian Huygens,” accessed November 28, 2016,​pub/​ HistMath/​People/​Huygens/​RouseBall/​RB_​Huygens.html. 10 Leo Kristjánsson, “Iceland Spar in the Early Development of Magneto-​Optics (1845–​1920) and Electro-​Optics (1875–​1920),” 1, accessed December 30, 2016, https://​​ leo/​pdf/​MagnetoOpt.pdf. 11 Ibid., 3. 12 Carl R.  Nave, “Birefringence,” HyperPhysics, 2012, http://​hyperphysics.phy-​​ hbase/​phyopt/​biref.html.

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126  Synnøve Marie Vik 13 Toril Johannessen In Search of Iceland Spar 2008 is owned by the Norwegian National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. In Search of Iceland Spar was most recently installed in fall 2016 at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Oslo /​The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, as part of the exhibition Norsk Natur /​Norwegian Nature, but was first installed at Bergen kunsthall in 2008. 14 The original e-​mail sent by Toril Johannessen is available at Toril Johannessen, “Toril Johannessen,” accessed November 27, 2016,​Iceland spar english. html. 15 Guy Ropars et  al., “A Depolarizer as a Possible Precise Sunstone for Viking Navigation by Polarized Skylight,” Proceedings of the Royal Society A  Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 468, no. 2139 (2012), http://​​content/​ early/​2011/​10/​28/​rspa.2011.0369.abstract. 16 Toril Johannessen’s work does not address climate change directly, and should not be understood as aesthetic activism. But her recurring interest in the current status of the natural sciences –​and nature –​sets climate change as an inevitable backdrop for her entire body of work. 17 See for instance Casey Man Kong Lum, ed., Perspectives on Culture, Technology and Communication: The Media Ecology Tradition (New York: Hampton Press, 2005). 18 Matthew Fuller, Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2005). 19 Jussi Parikka, “Media Ecologies and Imaginary Media:  Transversal Expansions, Contractions, and Foldings,” The Fibreculture Journal, no. 17 (2011), http://​​fcj-​116-​media-​ecologies-​and-​imaginary-​media-​transversal-​expansions-​ contractions-​and-​foldings/​. 20 Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller, Greening the Media (New  York:  Oxford University Press, 2012). 21 Jon Raundalen, “Tech Support:  How Technological Utopianism in the Media Is Driving Consumption,” in Media and the Ecological Crisis, ed. Richard Maxwell, Jon Raundalen, and Nina Lager Vestberg (New York: Routledge, 2015), 99–​120. 22 Jussi Parikka, A Geology of Media (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2015). 23 The originator of the term the Anthropocene, Paul Crutzen, took this view in 2002. P. J. Crutzen, “Geology of mankind,” Nature 415, 2002. 24 The French historian of science Christophe Bonneuil has outlined four different narratives of the Anthropocene that all deal differently with the increasingly stressed relation between human society and its natural foundations, from the naturalist attempt at mastery to the eco-​catastrophist view of us having passed one too many tipping points. Bonneuil stresses how, whichever narrative one sees fitting, the narrative is performative and powerful, and contributes to shape “the kind of geohistorical future we will inhabit.” “The Geological Turn. Narratives of the Anthropocene,” in The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis: Rethinking Modernity in a New Epoch, ed. C Hamilton, F. Gemenne, and C Bonneuil (London: Routledge, 2015), 17. 25 Timothy Morton, Dark Ecology. For a Logic of Future Excistence (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016). 26 Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter, a Political Ecology of Things (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), vii. 27 Ibid., 99. 28 Joanna Zylinska, “Minimal Ethics for the Anthropocene,” Open Humanities Press, 2014, http://​​books/​download/​Zylinska_​2014_​Minimal-​Ethics-​for-​the-​ Anthropocene.pdf. 29 A number of artists have recorded sounds of melting ice caps. The Dane Jakob Kirkegaard’s sound piece Isfald, a combination of glaciers calving and ice melting was recorded on Greenland in 2013, and is available to listen to online: Jakob Kirkegaard, Isfald, accessed

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Toril Johannessen’s In Search of Iceland Spar  127 November 28, 2016, http://​​works/​isfald.html. The work was commissioned and acquired by Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark. 30 See for instance Robert G.  David, The Arctic in the British Imagination 1818–​ 1914 (Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press, 2000). Some of the most famous drawings were, however, made by the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen (1861–​1930), Nobel Prize-​ winning scientist and Arctic explorer  –​and a layman in the arts. His drawings depicted vast snow-​filled landscapes with polar bears, ships, and heroic explorers skiing or hunting. His drawings and lithographs illustrated several of his seminal books, and through his immense popularity and international success as a scientist and explorer created strong and lasting visual impressions of the Arctic at the time. See for instance: Leif Østby, Fridtjof Nansen som kunstner (Oslo, 1980). Or Janeke Meyer Utne, Fridtjof Nansen: Kunstner og vitenskapsmann (Oslo: Labyrinth Press, 2011). And Nansen’s own books Fridtjof Nansen, Blant Sel og Bjørn. Min første Ishavs-​ferd (Kristiania, 1924). And Fridtjof Nansen, På Ski over Grønland (Oslo: Kagge Forlag, 2003 [1890]). 31 Espen Sommer Eide, “Science Illustrated,” in Toril Johannessen, ed. Anne Szefer Karlsen, Eva Rem Hansen, and Maria Lyngstad Willassen (Bergen: Hordaland Art Center, 2014), 78. Italics in the original. 32 “Definition Illusion,” Merriam-​Webster Dictionary, accessed November 28, 2016, www. merriam-​​dictionary/​illusion. 33 Nicholas Mirzoeff, The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (Durham, NC: Duke University Press Books, 2011). 34 Ibid., 1–​34. 35 See for instance Pär Eliasson, “Swedish Natural History Travel in the Northern Space: From Lapland to the Arctic, 1800–​1840,” in Narrating the Arctic:  A Cultural History of Nordic Scientific Practices, ed. Michael Bravo and Sverker Sörlin (New  York: Science History Publications, 2002), 127; David, The Arctic in the British Imagination 1818–​1914, 44–​45. 36 Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics (London and New  York:  Continuum, 2006), 61. 37 One should be wary of using Rancière’s labels of ‘critical’ and ‘dissensual’ art as substitutes for ‘bad’ and ‘good’ practices (see Kristoffer Jul-​Larsen, “Alle og enhver –​Et intervju med Jacques Rancière,” Agora, no. 4 (2012): 233–​235. but I find it to be a meaningful distinction in relation to Johannessen’s work. And it might also be a point to keep in mind when faced with Mirzoeff’s more traditional critical approach.

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7 From within the Porous Body Modes of Engagement in Björk’s Biophilia Album Ann-​Sofie N. Gremaud

In 2011, the Icelandic composer and singer Björk released the media composite Biophilia –​a project consisting of a studio album, music videos, lyrics, a film, a website with a teaching portal, apps, and tutorial videos. I will analyze the visuals and lyrics of the four official videos released for the album (Moon, Mutual Core, Crystalline, and Hollow) as well as the bonus track “Náttúra” (the only track with Icelandic lyrics), which was released in 2008 but later added to the Biophilia album.1 The songs2 have to do with the position and make-​up of what is human at a time in which the Anthropocene thesis and the spread of post-​human theories have revitalized the discussion of the relationship between humans and the environment as well as the human/​non-​human divide. I wish to shed light on the way the visual-​lyrical renderings come to represent these themes and discuss this in relation to theories providing similar discussions of the make-​up of the relationality of human and non-​human bodies. The official videos all feature the singer’s body as seen either from the outside or from within (via computer animation). In the videos as well as the lyrics, geological processes and emotional processes are symbolically intertwined as the singer continuously touches, rearranges, and allows her body to merge with tectonic plates, crystals, or volcanos. The main theme that runs through the songs, I argue, is the question of the make-​up and consequences of human emotional engagement with other human and non-​human bodies. This question is key to political and scientific discussions of climate change as well as to the ongoing theoretical discussions about what to name the environmental conditions of our time:  the Anthropocene (Crutzen & Stoermer, 2000), the Capitalocene (Moore, 2015), or the Chthulucene (Haraway, 2015). It is clear from the title of the project and the album that it is a contribution to the large field of interpretations of the biophilia hypothesis as presented by biologist Edward O.  Wilson (1984, 1993)  about the human tendency to feel affiliation with other life forms. Upon closer inspection, Björk also uses well-​known metaphors and themes from popular music to delve into questions about relational structures in a manner similar to that of ecology philosopher Jane Bennett. The album treats questions concerning relations between human and non-​human bodies in a way that calls for a discussion of biophilia and anthropocentrism as well as post-​humanism. I would like to discuss how relationships between human and non-​human bodies are represented textually and visually in the lyrics and music videos. Furthermore, I would like to shed light on what these representations –​and the strong focus on relationality –​ say about the ecological context provided in the project. In my analyses of the visuals and the lyrics of the four official videos and the bonus track “Náttúra,” I ask: Which visions of the make-​up of human-​nature relations are brought forward in these songs?

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From within the Porous Body  129 What does the focus on relationality and emotionality –​which is the framework the songs propose  –​do to the representation of the relationship between human and nature? And how do the linguistic and visual means of representation contribute point to themselves as media? In a 2011commentary on an article by the American science writer Dorion Sagan, the American anthropologist Stefan Helmreich brought up Björk’s Biophilia as a symptom of the historical moment that also promoted the perspective of homo microbis. Helmreich asks:  “What are the politics  –​and not just the aesthetics  –​of this moment?”3. However, I will stick to the realm of aesthetics in order to analyze the political and ontological issues raised by this music album. By examining the explicit and implicit dialogues with theories of vital materialism and biology that I proposed are present in Björk’s artwork, I wish to shed light on the ecology formulated in the songs and how it relates to the Anthropocene thesis, which sees humans as agents who have fundamentally influenced geological processes. I approach the Biophilia project (album, videos, films, apps, educational platform, and workshops) as a platform that encompasses elements that can be investigated as separate units because they aim at different modes of engagement with the audience/​ users, rather than as a Gesamtkunstwerk in which all elements function as integrated parts.4 I specifically focus on the official music videos featured on YouTube and produced in collaborations between Björk and other artists. I include a discussion of the bonus track “Náttúra” because it changed the connection between the album and the eco-​political context when it was added as a bonus track to the deluxe version of the album (2011). The musicologist Carol Vernallis argues that the relationship between lyrics, music, and visuals can be studied in a number of combinations that constitute different vantage points for interpretation.5 The combination of lyrics and image, as one of the combinations that Vernallis highlights, is the vantage point of my analysis, whereas a thorough analysis of sounds, rhythms, and tonality are not within the scope of this article. The videos considered here are the four official versions (as opposed to any user-​generated versions or app versions), which are accessible at Understandably, Björk’s Biophilia project has previously been discussed as a collection of musical compositions and investigated for its innovative technology as a means of composing and structuring a platform for learning and investigation.6 I wish to offer a supplement to approaches such as media analysis (of the apps),7 analysis of the educational strategy, and musicology as part of an overall understanding of Biophilia as a media composite with an analysis that focuses on the lyrics and on the visual expression of the official music videos. This I do in order to explore the aesthetic and philosophical dimensions in these means of representation and the thematizations of the possible limits of representation. As mentioned previously, the title of the album, Biophilia, is a reference to the biophilia hypothesis that was presented by biologist Edward O.  Wilson (1984, 1993) and, later, Stephen Kellert (1993). The hypothesis proposes a fundamental relationship between humans and the larger ecological context based on an immanent human attraction to and affiliation with other beings. Wilson was also one of the contributors to the theory of sociobiology (Wilson 1975), placing relationality –​the social context  –​as a defining evolutionary factor in the process of human genetic selection.8 This perspective also includes an understanding that cultural structures as well as psychology are determined by human biology and an inherent need to form

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130  Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud relationships. With the biophilia hypothesis, these biologists expanded the relational context to non-​human life forms. Björk’s lyrics and videos approach and represent the physical and emotional entanglements of the human: they treat inter-​human relationships and –​I suggest –​a relationality of the universe through an optics in which the human is sometimes portrayed as a homo microbis9 but, even more often, as what I shall call a homo relationalis10 due to the unrelenting focus on the human need to relate and the feelings connected to this process. The songs from Björk’s Biophilia album center on themes that are very similar to those raised by the natural scientists continuing on Wilson’s path: physical laws of relationality, politics of ecology, agency, emotionality, and human perception. In my analyses of the songs, I look at the artistic representations of the human in an attempt to highlight the ways these songs participate in discussions of contemporary conditions for representing human relationality on a small and vast scale. I will discuss the way Björk’s work can be understood to be in dialogue with the biophilia hypothesis as well as with theories with post-​human perspectives. What quickly becomes clear is that the lyrics as well as the videos present us with a world that is both microscopic and vast: from DNA to nebulae.11 This seems to accord with certain discourses and narratives of the natural sciences in which the natural world –​particularly, as framed in the Anthropocene –​is primarily envisioned as very small or a very large, seen from a human perspective: for example, spheroidal carbonaceous particles, ice crystals, climate change, and geological sedimentation. Along with a number of other artists, however, Björk investigates the relationship between representational, emotional, and (other) natural processes on the scale of the human body by taking as a point of departure how relations are experienced as immediate interaction and emotional responses. The songs seem to investigate and represent relationality as the very ontological condition of the bodies (human and non-​human) that interact in the songs. Emotionality is a key notion in my understanding of the ‘ “visions” that the songs present of the way humans engage in larger ecologies. Thus, like the most influential environmental philosophy of today, the songs thematize the possibilities and limits of how to represent the human presence (with)in nature.

Theoretical Perspectives: The Biophilia Hypothesis and the Porosity of Vibrant Matter “Biophilia, if it exists, and I believe it exists, is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms.”12 Björk’s Biophilia album consistently deals with relationality and emotions. In the lyrics, the “I” engages or seeks to engage with other bodies; and, in the videos, the singer’s body is continuously shown stroking or merging with other bodies. Out of numerous potential dialogues with scientific and philosophical theories connected to relationality as a fundamental condition of human life, two stand out for me: Edward O.  Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis (1984) and Jane Bennett’s theory of vibrant and porous matter (2010). The dialogue with the biophilia hypothesis, which the title of the album introduces, is unfolded throughout the songs –​both visually and textually. In Wilson’s accounts of biophilia (1984, 1993), he presents contact with nature and the urge to cherish and protect life as a biologically based need within the human being. The emphasis on genetics in Wilson’s theory indirectly places the human as

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From within the Porous Body  131 part of what is desired (nature); but, at the same time, the desire seems to uphold a duality separating the human from “the rest” of nature. For example, he says: “The conclusion I draw is optimistic: to the degree that we come to understand other organisms, we will place a greater value on them, and on ourselves.”13 The ecology that is presented as a potential within biophilia is based on relationship as well as the need to relate: relationship is as a fundamental ontological condition and the accompanying need to reconfirm this relation through proximity to other life forms. Active desire as directedness towards the rest of nature and a prerequisite for human happiness and fulfillment is especially central and –​one might add –​an anthropocentric aspect of Wilson’s thesis. Stephen Kellert calls it “[t]‌he self-​interested basis for a human ethic of care.”14 According to Wilson, the strongest emotional responses are biologically encoded and closely interwoven with the natural environment of our deep history as result of a bio-​cultural evolution.15 This, Wilson states, still finds expression in our emotional reactions to nature  –​as well as in metaphors and myths.16 Directedness towards other bodies and the (biological) need to relate echoes throughout Björk’s Biophilia. When one considers the biophilia hypothesis in its entirety, the human as a creative being is presented with ambivalence. In the prologue to Biophilia, Wilson focuses on the positive potential of new scientific achievements. Desire directed towards other living things is fueled by the passion not for total control but for an advance in knowledge.17 But human existence in and relationship to earth’s eco-​system is also depicted as a tragic one, suspended in the antipodal orientation of our disposition: the love of nature, on one hand, and its destruction in favor of “the machine,” “the city” and “the artifactual,” on the other.18 The human is a tragic figure in this narrative: he/​she cannot help destroying what he/​she loves. Thus, in spite of the optimistic elements, another fundamental undercurrent runs through Wilson’s Biophilia –​a longing for a dissolution of the self as well as a misanthropic strain: “In a twist my mind came free and I was aware of the hard workings of the natural world beyond the periphery of ordinary attention, where passions lose their meaning and history is in another dimension, without people, and great events pass without record or judgment. I was a transient of no consequence in this familiar yet deeply alien world that I had come to love.”19 The natural state for the human being comes to be a balancing of opposites: Neither the life of prehistoric humans fighting nature nor the hyper-​industrialized human being neglecting his/​her connection with nature is idealized.20 Even though neither Bennett nor Wilson discusses the Anthropocene thesis in their texts, they focus on the potential of humans to affect the environment severely. The eco-​political aspect of Bennett’s thesis is based on the foundation of the Anthropocene condition. In particular, the darker and pessimistic elements in Wilson’s hypothesis, which was published before Crutzen and Stoermer popularized the term in 2000, are about the destructive aspects of human interaction with the rest of nature.21 One of Wilson’s fundamental suggestions is that many of the questions that present themselves in cultural/​social processes may very well be studied biologically, and he put forward the central question:  “Where are the genes that control behavior?”22 The duality of Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis, sameness via DNA and the difference inherent in desire of something, is also mirrored in Björk’s work. Wilson talks about interconnectedness and exchange in a discourse of biosystems, and differentiates between living organisms and “the inanimate.”23 Both he and Björk clearly focus on the connections humans have with other organisms. Yet, there is another level running

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132  Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud through Björk’s songs. It is reminiscent of a radical discourse of reciprocity between human beings and their surrounding world  –​what Jane Bennett (2010) has called vital materialism, which ascribes powers of attraction to non-​organic material and installs the human body in a flux of relations to bodies and vital forces such as electricity, stem cells, metal, etc. In Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (2010), she focuses on the power of things and places the human as one element in a porous assemblage in a flux of exchange between various types of bodies and material. Eco-​ politics, representation (language), and relationality are all central themes in Bennett’s thesis of vital materiality. I will argue this is also the case in Björk’s Biophilia. Emotionality and relationality are the basis for the theories of both Wilson and Bennett considered here. But, whereas the biophilia hypothesis is often interpreted as a basically anthropocentric theory,24 Bennett’s vital materialism approaches ecology from a post-​human vantage point,25 arguing for the limitations of “human-​centered theories”26 through a destabilization of the boundaries of bodies. In a post-​human or non-​anthropocentric optics such as Bennett’s, things are not simply a background to human agency, inscription, and the projection of meaning. Thus, in her optics, non-​human bodies cannot be reduced to what humans make of them.27 Bennett incorporates Bruno Latour’s notion of “actants” into her main argument in order to enable an inclusive focus on actions by human as well as non-​human bodies. Thus, she takes a step farther in comparison with Wilson in claiming that vital materialities and agency are the result of many forces and bodies acting together and affecting each other. A key point in Bennett’s theory of vital materialism is that all bodies are porous to some extent and participate in intercorporeal engagement, which influences and changes them (oxidizing, sanding, rusting, rotting, soaking, etc.). According to Bennett, the porosity of bodies (understood as different composites of matter) makes them intercorporeal per se; and, inspired by Spinoza, she defines them as being affective and encounter-​prone.28 There are always a number of actors involved when a human subject acts. Thus, in the optics of vital materialism, agency is a “confederation of human and nonhuman elements;” and, with Spinoza, she claims that: “all things are modes of a common substance.”29 To Bennett, language is anthropocentric (by virtue of grammatical structures) and it supports a division of active subjects and passive objects. Thus, in vital materialism, it is necessary but still difficult to escape the way language prescribes agency to humans and passivity to things.30 I  propose that the question of the non-​linguistic expressivity of things is also treated in Björk’s Biophilia –​as I will discuss below. Because Bennett’s project also has a political aspect, it becomes a holistic ecology in which categories such as subject/​object, animate/​inanimate, human/​thing may be superfluous, and the question of anthropocentrism is reimagined: “For what counts as self-​interest shifts in a world of vital materialities.”31 The framing of Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis is primarily anthropocentric in that it describes the way humans express our connection to other natural systems and how the relations we cultivate affect our well-​being. The focus is different in the thesis of vital materialism because it understands the reciprocity of the relationship between human and non-​human bodies as well as the porosity thesis’s explicit ambition to dissolve the life/​matter dichotomy as a key premise for engagement. Wilson (1984, 1993) and Bennett (2001, 2010) both argue for a deep ontological entanglement between the human body and emotions (in Wilson’s case, even the symbolic structures of our thought and culture) and the elements surrounding us –​from the microscopic to the cosmic. They speak


From within the Porous Body  133 about human modes of being in the world that resonate in Björk’s Biophilia. However, whereas Wilson highlights the influence of the natural environment on our DNA and the importance of bio-​cultural heritage and the biological body itself as the next scientific frontier (genetic research),32 the key statement about human existence in Bennett’s theory of relationality is that we share the condition of porosity with other organic and non-​organic bodies. In a vital, materialistic optics, the phenomenon of biophilia might be seen as a response to the calling or the properties of the surroundings. To Bennett, the emotional bond with other bodies is a reflection of the way we manifest our existence in the world as porous matter. Existence is exchange, and this can be expressed as well-​known human affective patterns such as desire or grief.

Relationality in Björk’s Biophilia Album The album (Biophilia) is presented as an exploration of the “relationships between musical structures and natural phenomena, from the atomic to the cosmic”33, and, on the official website, Björk is quoted as saying that the album (and the project in general) presents a post-​human angle: “For me the project is a continuation of volta [Björk’s previous album] and whereas volta is more about anthropology, this is kind of without humans and both zooming out like the planets but also zooming in into the atoms and in that way aesthetically sympathizing with sound.”34 In my analyses, however, the lyrics as well as the visual material also quickly reveal a strong focus on human embeddedness in the mega-​and microstructures of the universe, which results in an ambivalent co-​presence of what may be called post-​human and anthropocentric renderings. Two songs that are placed at the beginning and towards the end of the album, respectively, “Moon” and “Mutual Core,” treat the issue of human nature and humans in nature and deal with similarities in the structures of relationality found at different levels in the cosmos. The two videos signal an explicit dialogue between the two songs in that they both show Björk as a centered figure in a dark space, holding and caressing different types of rocks. The lyrics of the song “Moon” and its video35 clearly focus on themes and attributes from Greco-​Roman mythology. The Moon video is 5 minutes and 46 seconds long. It consists primarily of shots of Björk singing against a black, starry sky. The camera very slowly zooms in from medium shots to a medium close-​up and close-​up. At different points, a large mineral and the waxing and waning Moon cover her face entirely, and she appears as a conglomerate of bodies –​a divine body, a “lunar face” with moon-​like features, metallic dress and hair. The singer becomes a palimpsestic human-​moon-​crystal that makes up the lyrical and visual center of the cosmos that is represented in this song. In the medium shots, the singer appears as a lyre-​playing figure, hovering between the constellations in the darkness of outer space. In this video, the bodily appearance of the singer merges with divine figures of Greco-​Roman mythology such as Artemis, Apollo and the Muses –​many of whom were associated with musical instruments and, particularly, the lyre, as was Apollo [see Plate 20]. Sometimes depicted as Apollo Helios, this male deity has been associated with the sun and described as the twin brother of the female deity Artemis, who has been associated with wilderness, childbirth, and the Moon. The title introduces a wide field of associations connected with the Moon: a motif that allows ancient religion, myth, and cult to meet the field of astronomy and space travel. In this way, the Moon is a physical place, object of scientific studies, a celestial body, and a cultural symbol.

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134  Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud

Figure 7.1 Still from the music video Moon, 2011. Written by Björk and Damian Taylor. Directed, produced, and art directed by Björk, Inez, and Vinoodh, M/​M Paris and James Merry. © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd.

Positioned in the sky, encircled by constellations, and playing the lyre, Björk becomes Apollo, and the British geographer Denis Cosgrove’s description from Apollo’s Eye (2001) comes to mind: “Apollonian music was created by the mathematical harmony of revolving cosmic spheres… It complements the lucent geometry of solar light.”36 This is echoed in the video when the moon is shown waxing and waning to the beat of the music at a size that it encapsulates most of the singer’s figure. Cosgrove continues: “The figure of Apollo thus prompts the conception of a unified world, a sphere of perfect beauty and immeasurably vitality, bathed in a beatific gaze.”37 This divine, panoptical position corresponds to the theoretical idea of the so-​called Archimedean point of absolute objectivism in science. Björk appears to be at a firm extraterrestrial point around which the celestial bodies move. This apparently Archimedean point is a point of observation that, according to the German philosopher Hannah Arendt ([1958] 1998), is always a position of distance from the earth and from that which is observed. In her discussion of this hypothetical position, Arendt notes that mapping and observation are often done at the price of “alienating man from his immediate earthly surroundings.”38 At a first glance, this ideal position seems undisturbed in the video, but it becomes clear that, in Björk’s rendering as in Cosgrove’s, there is a crack in the harmonious whole, and the distance associated with the Archimedean point does not stand undebated as a framework for observation and interpretation. One hint in this direction comes at the halfway point of the video, when the singer draws a large, orange crystal up in front of her face as if to put on a mask. Here, the mythical references might suggest a reference to the figures of Thaleia and Melpomene, the Muses of comedy and tragedy, respectively, who are generally depicted with masks.

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From within the Porous Body  135 The close perspective creates a strong focus on the expressivity of the singer’s face as she conveys a range of mental states:  mainly joy, pleasure, and thoughtfulness. Another indication that relationality and emotion are recurring themes in this song is the lyrical thematization of friction in a relationship:  “fail at loving, fail at giving.” This relational perspective is expanded in a manner that brings Bennett’s thesis of the connection between human and non-​human bodies to mind as the singer strokes the crystal affectionately. The song highlights similarities of properties and processes in the metaphysical and physical levels of –​primarily, human –​existence. Concurrently, emotion and relationality are represented as processes that include the material surroundings (other bodies), cultural symbols, and mythology. By combining the extraterrestrial and the mythical with the intimate account of private emotional experience, the song thematizes (scientific) distancing, sublimating abstraction (in myth and religion) and incarnation as modes of mediating the experience of emotion. The moon acts as the reference point that connects bodily experience with mythical and scientific discourse about emotions. At one point, an illustration of all the phases of the moon moves in a rhythm consistent with the movements of the fingers on the lyre; at another point, Björk is placed inside the outline of the Moon going through its cycles. A graphic drawing of the Moon’s phases becomes intertwined with a drawing of a human pelvic bone and takes the place of a neuronal pathway. This highlights the presence of the scale of the human body and bodily processes. Towards the end of the song, repetitions of lines, phrasings, and humming sounds take up more and more space. One could say that the lyrics are traversed with verbal sounds, and the physicality of the voice comes to take up some of the space of the instrument and the choral harmonies that were dominant at the beginning. Because the Moon has also been linked to mental disturbances (“lunatic” or “moonstruck)39 and a cyclical logic of death and rebirth –​be it mental or physical –​it is a celestial body that connects a number of symbolic associations with basic conditions and processes of the human –​in a Western context, particularly, the female –​body. The use of a mythological visual framing of the singer as a centered figure in the cosmos who can be interpreted as a divine being (a god or goddess) also emphasizes the focus on the position of the human in larger systems and discourses of beginnings or conclusions –​such as natural sciences and mythology. Here, mythology is drawn in as a sphere activated by human emotionality –​in this case, fear and anxiety. By letting her face replace the Moon and letting a mineral take the place of her face, Björk creates a palimpsestic portrait of the human; and, in this way, the song highlights the element of processuality and change that characterizes relations. Rather than an Archimedean point, Björk comes to incarnate the homo relationalis  –​ this time with emphasis on the processuality of being and on the cultural symbolism that has been used to grasp this position. Whereas Bennett’s focus on the importance of emotional relations between human and non-​human bodies (or things) resonates in the video, the focus in this song is not so much on what Bennett calls “thing power” (2010) as on the intertwined fields of interpretation, representation, and bodily experience. Through their merging of references to fertility, mythology, and science, the lyrics and video of “Moon” center on the idea of a timeless, placeless, and “bodiless” Archimedean point as a vantage point associated with a mythological, philosophical or scientific ideal. By letting the Moon be one with the human, it is clear that the two can be viewed in a similar manner: bodies that are interpreted by the same discourses and, thus, are often viewed through the lens of a disembodied ideal. But the lyrics

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136  Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud

Figure 7.2 Still from the music video Moon, 2011. Written by Björk and Damian Taylor. Directed, produced, and art directed by Björk, Inez, and Vinoodh, M/​M Paris and James Merry. © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd.

also point to the fact that the human body is used as a medium and framework for conceptualizing abstract levels of the extraterrestrial and divine. In this case, the “man in the moon” is recast as the woman in the moon, the Greco-​Roman god as a female singer, and the lyrics correlate the divine level with the sensuous and intimate level of the body: In the first lines, the hands of the gods touch the protagonist’s skin, pick pearls of adrenalin, and place them into their mouths. In this song, the questions of representation and the cultural sphere of (symbolic) meaning-​making is introduced, but so is the physicality of the bodily processes that in turn influence the way the celestial body of the Moon has been understood. The relationship between metalanguages and the immediacy of the experiencing body is a motif that runs through a number of the songs. There are apparent similarities between the videos Moon and Mutual Core.40 Yet, whereas it becomes clear that Moon focuses on cyclical patterns and a bodily perspective that combines a large scale (astronomical) and a small scale (bones and minerals), Mutual Core combines a focus on human emotional relations and geological processes. The video is 5 minutes and 27 seconds long and has scenographic similarities with the Moon video in that the singer is primarily shown in medium shots, featured in a sandy landscape against a dark background with her lower body buried under the sand. However, Mutual Core is shot in a more dynamic way, which corresponds to the tempo and lyrics of the track. The quick shifts in angles and the fact that the camera follows the singer’s hands shuffling rocks in the sand underline the focus on agency, the experience of breaking points, and transformation in the

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From within the Porous Body  137

Figure 7.3 Still from the music video Moon, 2011. Written by Björk and Damian Taylor. Directed, produced, and art directed by Björk, Inez, and Vinoodh, M/​M Paris and James Merry. © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd.

lyrics. The opening sequence of the Mutual Core video picks up where Moon left off visually:  a close-​up of animated geological strata gives way to a vision of the singer holding two large crystals that cover her face. As she adds a 3-​second pause in the first lines of the lyrics, “I shuffle around /​the tectonic plates [pause] in my chest,” the song comes to bear a resemblance to a human who influences geological processes –​an Anthropocene human. It quickly becomes clear that references to the human body are once again intertwined with references to a planetary body –​this time, earth. This is underlined by the fact that the undulating sand has the exact same hue as the singer’s skin. The merging of planetary and human body leads to a shifting positioning of agency:  “Can you hear the effort /​of the magnetic strife /​shuffling of columns /​to form a mutual core” and “The Atlantic ridge drifts /​to counteract distance.” Here, effort and intent are placed with the non-​human agents, and geological processes become very similar to the social processes of the human-​ human relationship represented. In this song, the focus is not directly on the relations between human bodies and non-​human bodies. Rather, the lyrics underline similarities between processes in human-​human relations on the one hand and other natural processes on the other: And the aims are outlined as being the same, namely, to form a mutual core  –​to conglomerate. This is a point very much in line with Bennett’s vital materiality. Through computer animation, the singer’s face fully merges with the tectonic plates –​an image that can be read as a metaphor or analogy, but the video also lets the relation between human and non-​human bodies move beyond analogies as the singer appears as a conglomerate with electric blue hair, merging with stones, crystals, and flesh submerged in the sand [see Plate 21].

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138  Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud Similarities in the processes of the human body and planetary bodies are also pointed out with very specific references: “As fast as your fingernail grows /​the Atlantic ridge drifts.”41 The drift of the Atlantic ridge is also what causes volcanic activity and earthquakes in countries such as Iceland as the ridge intersects the country. Here, the singer’s body is linked with the land and emotional activity with geological activity –​porosity with emotion. Here, there is an intertextual reference to one of Björk’s greatest hit songs: “Jóga” (1997) –​about love between two humans on one level and about the Icelandic landscape on another. In the opening phrase, “I shuffle around the tectonic plates /​in my chest,” the intertextuality is very clear. In the video to the song “Jóga,” the singer’s body and the landscape become one in an animated sequence in which she opens up her chest and reveals a lead-​colored ocean with an island in place of her heart –​an image supplemented by the lyrics of the chorus: “Emotional landscapes.” The imagery of the video shows the merging of the land and the human body into a land-​body of moving tectonic plates –​similar to the face-​like rocks hovering over the singer and her own mineral-​covered body in the Mutual Core video. In the middle of the song “Mutual Core,” the “you” withholds his/​her love, and this sets off a change in the relationship described as a “stagnation” in the process that results in an “eruption.” Before this point, the computer-​animated geological fragments hovering over the singer are licking each other, dancing, and holding hands. After the turning point, they collide and cause an eruption of burning magma. The focus on shifts from stagnation to interaction is matched in the way the mood and tempo of the music change from slow and melodious to upbeat with dominant electronic drums that come to function as sound effects matching the collisions of rocks and plates in the visuals. In this way, the lyrics move back and forth, creating analogies between the bodily and emotional experience of interconnectedness, on one hand, and the geological processes of connection and disconnection in tectonic plates, on the other. Aside from the resonance with vital materiality in the song, it addresses the destructive downside to interconnectedness, which also plays a key role in Wilson’s 1984 hypothesis. In Wilson’s theory, the human is a tragic figure42 who cannot help destroying the things he/​she loves. Wilson’s focus is ecological: on the human destruction of other life forms. In Björk’s “Mutual Core,” destruction is depicted as a consequence of the power struggle that is a part of the processes that uphold as well as destroy emotional relationships: “Offered me harmony /​if things were done your way /​my Eurasian plate subsumed /​forming a mutual core.” Love and breakup are phenomena represented as metamorphoses of bodies, and they are expanded and understood in a context of other natural processes. To form a mutual core is not only a metaphor taken from geology; it is used to emphasize a similarity with the relational processes found in human and non-​human contacts through a subtle reference to psychoanalysis.43 In the lyrics, the singer proposes her own body as a body in exchange. She centers on the experience of being a porous body and thematizes the emotional dynamics and cost of interconnectedness. This focus on the make-​up of the connective process and the way it is experienced runs through the songs. This echoes Wilson’s statement about human biological needs, our way of connecting to the rest of the world as well as our biological make-​up: “Biophilia, if it exists, and I believe it exists, is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms. Innate means hereditary and hence part of ultimate human nature.”44 Put briefly, Mutual Core elaborates on Wilson’s basic thesis about human nature and the role of emotionality –​in this

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From within the Porous Body  139 case, the experience of frustration and anger as being inherent in relational processes. According to Wilson’s hypothesis, our biology (genetic dispositions) makes us reach out to other biological bodies. This discourse of human nature turns into an almost tautological statement in the track: humans are biological creatures with natural dispositions, and thus it is (human) nature that finds an expression in human behavior. Inspired by philosopher and polymath Roger Caillos and Bennett’s vital materialism, I propose that the various stones in Moon and Mutual Core can be read as fixed points and agents as well as reference points for sense-​making. In a vital materialistic perspective, stones are a physical –​as opposed to a metaphorical –​reference point of stability in the flux of processes and a contrast to finite human existence. Media geologist Jussi Parikka’s reference to Caillos’ theory of the multiple roles of stones in most cultures45 also resonates in the songs: “The capacities, embodied modes of sensation, memory, and time, offer at least partial conditions for a number of aesthetic ideas, which are not restricted to art per se but resonate with issues in geology and astronomy.”46 In his discussion, Parikka refers to Bennett and aligns his points with a fundamental aspect of vital materialism: “Culture is not our own making, infused as it is by biological, geological and climatic forces.”47 Thus, the geological structures are not just used metaphorically (as a tool of the language) to say something about humans. Semiotically, the song lets the biological and geological bodies relate to each other in a way that may be interpreted as both metaphor and iconicity. This means that on one level geology may be understood symbolically as psychological processes, but on another level the bodies simply co-​exist rather than representing each other to convey how processes of relationality play out similarly in different arenas. The song “Crystalline” thematizes porosity or border crossings as emotional, geological, biological, and interpersonal processes. The processes of growth, exchange, and relationality that characterize all levels of the universe from crystals in the ground and mental processes in the human brain to the level of the nebulae are ultimately used as optics to make sense of human relations and emotionality. Both the lyrics and video of Crystalline48 center on a number of dichotomies and spatial levels (micro/​macro, inside/​outside, living/​non-​living material) that are put into play. The video differs from Moon and Mutual Core in that it consists of computer animation, stop motion, and graphics. The singer is featured less than in the two aforementioned videos and, this time, in a manner in which her face and body are incorporated into the computer animation. The high tempo beats and general heavy mixing in the song seem to correspond to the visual universe, whereas the lyrics suggest a slow tempo: “Rocks growing slow-​mo.” The camera moves from an extreme long shot, showing the whole of a moon or planet, to close-​ups and extreme close-​ups of processes on and in the terrain. It moves downward and upward, constantly shifting from the deep underground to shots of the dark outer space familiar from the other videos. But by using the metonymical reference to earth/​soil “underneath our feet” in the very first sentence, the lyrics introduce a linguistic field of meaning-​making in which elements slip in and out of positions –​as is usually the case with this type of linguistic trope. This suggests an emphasis on the kinship between certain elements, which is also highlighted by shifts in spatial scale: processes within the earth are linked to processes within the human mind. In this way, the categories quickly become porous as several levels are aligned: The inside of the earth (“I am blinded by the light at the core of the earth” and “internal nebula”) is aligned with the inside of the mind.

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140  Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud

Figure 7.4 Still from the music video Crystalline, 2011. Written by Björk, director:  Michel Gondry, producers: Raffi Adlan & Joel Kretschman. © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd.

In the opening scene of the video, meteors and matter from outer space penetrate the celestial body (moonlike planet), activating processes of growth underground, which might be a reference to the early existence of earth. The viewer is granted a universal perspective that combines a position in outer space as well as access to (drawings of) microscopic processes within the young earth/​planet or moon depicted in the video. The singer herself is shown hovering as a sun or planet-​like globe that also emits green and red rays of matter or energy that reach the soil. This accentuation of a privileged human position and perspective resonates with the previously mentioned Archimedean point of observation. However, in this song, the human perspective is not just imagined as universal, it is embodied and explicitly mediated through the senses: The lyrical “I” can hear crystals grow; he/​she is sensing processes in the core of the earth, and she/​he is “blinded” by the light. These sensations highlight the human body as interface: receptor and mediator of impressions of physical processes. As the lyrics “We mimic the openness of the ones we love” are sung, the video shows a portal opening in the surface of the planet, and the viewer is lowered into the open space of its core, full of moving illustrations showing chemical processes. As Björk sings “with our hearts /​we chisel quartz /​to reach love,” the core of the planet is revealed and begins to move like a beating heart. Thus, the line “to reach love” marks a culmination in the song whereas the terms “openness” and “dovetailing” are used to describe human relations. Emotional/​ relational processes are thus aligned with chemical and geological processing; and, through the emphasis on sensations as mediation, they are also difficult to separate.

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From within the Porous Body  141

Figure 7.5 Still from the music video Crystalline, 2011. Written by Björk, director:  Michel Gondry, producers: Raffi Adlan & Joel Kretschman. © wellhart ltd /​one little indian ltd /​nonesuch records /​universal music operations ltd.

Crystallization is a prime example of processes in which various factors enable a process where substances change into a cluster of repeating patterns. The narrative of the video is structured as a set of chain reactions that begin with meteorites from outer space  –​similar to the early processes that created conditions for life on Earth. The phrase “Crystallizing galaxies /​Spread out like my fingers” could be read metaphorically (comparisons of two otherwise different objects based on an element of resemblance); but, in light of the reference to the aforementioned processes, it would be more precise to describe it as a highlighted link. Like the tropes in Mutual Core, the juxtaposition is not a means to let one object shed light on another but a way of emphasizing the kinship between elements. The phrase “crystalline internal nebula” is a mirroring of the cosmic in the small space of the human body that has at least two potential meanings: that processes and structures are similar on different levels of the cosmos as well as a reference to the fact that key elements of organic bodies (such as carbon) stem from outer space. This song points out how the same structures and elements are found at different levels of the universe (including the human body); and, with its strong focus on the senses, it highlights that everything is experienced from within a porous human mind –​in this case battling anxiety.

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142  Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud Visual means of representation known from the natural sciences (charts, animations, and models) are used in the videos Crystalline and Moon as well as in the fourth official video Hollow –​a song that appears to be in dialogue with Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis. A key aspect in the song is a focus on the biological basis for behavior –​ similar to Wilson’s general positioning of genes as a source for knowledge of our history as well as interaction with other bodies/​species. The video49 that accompanies “Hollow” is a colorful computer-​animated visualization of a journey through the layers of human tissue. Through increasing enlargement, the video delves into the organism, starting with blood (400 x enlargement) and skin tissue (1,000 x enlargement), then from a cellular level on to cytoplasm (250,000 x enlargement), and so on until the level of the DNA strings is reached (10,000,000 x enlargement). As the chromosomes become visible, the lyrics set in. They, too, convey a journey (“sailing,” “shipfolk”) inward (“falling,” “swallows,” “abyss”). An ethereal choir repeating central words in the lyrics, irregular beats, and staccato notes accompany the singer’s voice. As the point of view delves deeper, the tempo increases. Among the DNA chains and microsomes (molecular elements that copy DNA chains), an abstract version of the singer’s face appears, made up of DNA threads and molecules; at the end of the song, the face is dissolved and the odyssey is reversed, returning us all the way to the skin tissue [see Plate 22]. As the singer’s face appears, the song briefly becomes more melodious and rhythmically consistent before it is broken into a more irregular structure again. At first glance, this could be a portrait of the homo microbis that Helmreich describes50, but it is homo relationalis who is portrayed in this song, delving into her own body in order to be close to the metonymical proof of her collective nature: her DNA. It is at once a symbol and an incarnation of the bodies, the ancestors, for which she yearns in the lyrics. The driving force of the inward journey is longing –​what might be called a biophilic longing for the self and, consequently, for the web of connections that makes up the self (ancestors and DNA). The point is chiastic: The longing for the ancestors lets the self in the video journey towards her own DNA. At the deepest point of the journey, the self appears as a face singing about how DNA consists of the ancestors to whom the self can exclaim: “let me belong” –​an emotional statement that defines the self and its position in relation to other bodies. The longing for the collective dimension is the beginning and the conclusion of the song. The relationality between the “I,” the DNA, and the ancestors, then, also becomes a chiastic structure –​mirrored in the structural make-​up of DNA itself. This is again mirrored by the structure of the video, which begins at skin level, then travels to the smallest units of the human body, before returning to the upper layers of the skin. The self or poetic “I” appears as a face (made up of DNA) at the moment she sings “like a bead in necklace” and dispersed into a swarm of DNA with the phrase “Jewels after jewels after jewels after.” This is the turning point of the chiastic movement from inward (from the skin to the DNA) and outward again. The turning point of the movement and deepest point of the spatial structure is at once the self (the singing face) and a void (hollow). The hollow bead as a metaphor for the self and the necklace as metaphor for ancestry annul the possibility of imagining any solid human essence –​physical or philosophical –​besides relationality and exchange. The homo microbis is not a far-​fetched association, but here the portrait of the biological body becomes a means to reach an ultimate and incarnated mode of belonging (DNA). The self is portrayed as homo relationalis with an emphasis on the fundamental emotional make-​up of being a human body made up

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From within the Porous Body  143 of connections to other bodies.51 This song contains a perspective similar to Wilson’s basic hypothesis: that, in the genes, we find history as well as interaction with other bodies/​species (1984). For Wilson, the biophilic passion is determined not by a wish for control but by a longing to know oneself  –​an attitude clearly mirrored in Hollow. And Wilson’s account of his experience of biophilia, relating to the self and its larger context, is similar to the one expressed in Hollow –​in the title itself and the experience of being a hollow bead on a thread:  “The uncounted products of evolution were gathered there for purposes having nothing to do with me; their long Cenozoic history was enciphered into a genetic code I could not understand.”52 Björk and Wilson are asking similar questions. Björk turns to approaches known from biology and the visual language of science to journey inward to the genome. Wilson’s basic point that, in genes, we find history as well as interaction with other bodies/​species is mirrored in the (lyrical and visual) journey in which the temporality and historicity of relations are part of the narrated identity and the physical body. The “I” can travel back and forth in this spatiotemporal universe; and, as opposed to Wilson, she ultimately meets herself on the journey. The visuals (as well as the sounds) add an awareness of and reflection on the role that computer animation plays in the most thorough investigations of our fundamental make-​up. In this song, the language of today’s natural sciences  –​computer animation of bodily processes –​becomes a key tool that enables the self to experience intimacy with her own physical and relational body. Together with the imaginative potential of the lyrical language, the computer becomes the medium that gives access to the scale of the DNA.

“Náttúra”: Ecological Perspectives and the Icelandic Context The bonus track “Náttúra” (nature) was performed at a benefit concert for the Náttúra Foundation held in Reykjavík in 2008 to raise awareness of environmental and economic issues in Iceland, and it was later added to the deluxe version of the album Biophilia.53 Thus, when it was added to the album, the track served as a connection to the eco-​political context –​both the specific Icelandic context and a broader context of what may be understood as the Anthropocene condition. At the same time, as a lyrical work, it invites representational as well as non-​representational perspectives. The track has strong non-​representational aspects because of the way the language –​as a means of representation and meaning-​making par excellence –​breaks down. The track itself is characterized by what Björk has called organic drum units54 and a voice (Björk) that exclaims rather than sings melodiously. This track is also special because of its connection with the specific performance in June 2008. The context of a performance that consisted of a certain constellation of bodies in the audience, a choir, and the band as well as the intertextual and contextual framework of the other performing artists, the weather, and backdrop of the Icelandic landscape support the non-​representational aspect:  on one level, the experience that was “Náttúra” cannot be fixed, repeated, conveyed, or represented (there is no video of the track). On another level, “Náttúra” was and is a part of a larger initiative to support the Náttúra Foundation in its efforts to raise awareness of environmental policies in Iceland. A specific goal was to limit the opportunities for multinational companies to continue setting up aluminum smelters in Iceland –​a cause that Björk has been actively involved in for years. With the


144  Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud addition of “Náttúra” to the Biophilia album/​universe, the whole enterprise seems to enter into a dialogue with the eco-​political project that Bennett presents –​inspired, in particular, by Guattari –​as a recounting of what self-​interest is when it is “its own outside”55 and part of the flux of vibrant matter. As mentioned, the lyrics are another aspect in which “Náttúra” shares perspectives from Bennett’s theories as well as Latour’s: that grammar stands in the way of the ability to grasp thing power. In this track, the lyrical voice breaks down language as a medium of reference. The language (Icelandic lyrics) is fragmented and ambiguous, pointing back at its own specific mediality. In this way, the track inscribes itself into the artistic tradition of investigating the nominative power of language to classify and cocreate ourselves as humans as well as our surroundings. The listener is met with a language that dissolves into fragments and, thus, with a collapsed referentiality. At the points “Náttúra” and the other songs bring up these issues of representation and categorization, they stretch into and connect fundamental questions of ontology, communication, and categorization from the fields of the humanities and natural sciences. The album and the project as a whole focus on themes such as media, creativity, geology, innovation, natural sciences, and ecology. They promote an optimistic attitude towards teaching with new media reflected in the ambitious didactic strategy and goal of the Biophilia educational collaboration in Scandinavia (Biophilia Educational u.d.). Only in “Náttúra,” there appears to be a critical angle on the way a number of these motifs are interlinked. The contextual scope of this track still has its point of departure in the “I;” but, because of the linguistic and representational fragmentation of the lyrics, the focalization point is unclear. The “I” of the lyrics can be read as nature itself taking over what is thrown into it or as someone/​something who receives what nature throws at her/​it: “Everything she throws away /​nature /​I can take /​I take over /​nature.”56 This is one example of how the lyrics thematize a reciprocal relation of giving and taking, while there are no borders between the positions. So, whereas the track is linked with the immediate geographical context of Iceland and its environmental politics, there are aesthetic qualities that still open questions linked to a broader philosophical scope. In “Náttúra,” the human is similar to the one portrayed in the other songs: a part of the flux and processes of nature. With regard to representationality, the track stands out: the other songs retain levels of meaning-​making such as metaphors and traditional genre elements –​for example, a focus on the romantic relationship. In this regard, “Náttúra” takes the shared trait of insisting on the singularity of the sensuous experience of being part of nature –​as opposed to representing nature –​the farthest. The track introduces a political context of environmentalism in which the human is often conceptualized as perpetrator. However, in “Náttúra,” the relation between human and nature has more aspects to it. As mentioned, the lyrics present an “I” that can be interpreted as a human subject who relates to nature, as a speaking nature –​or as both. The human is not easily separated from nature. So, in this respect, too, meaning-​making is destabilized. Nature does not appear as something for the human (language) to represent. The inclusion of “Náttúra” on the album creates a link between the field of environmental policies, on one hand, and a strong focus on the singular, embodied sensing and experience of being nature, on the other. Both levels are present in the track to make it clear that, whereas humans cannot easily be separated from nature or step outside nature (to represent it), nature cannot

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From within the Porous Body  145 be reduced to the human (and, thus, we potentially disturb other bodies and systems when we exploit nature).

The Human as Scale and Medium As may be clear by now, the songs analyzed here  –​and the other elements in the Biophilia project  –​open a large field of potential analytical approaches, and only a small number of perspectives are explored here. My focus has been on the visual-​ textual renderings of relationality and emotion in a number of the songs on the album as well as a discussion of some of the ways in which these renderings participate in philosophical speculations about human engagement with (the rest of) nature. As mentioned in the introduction, an anthropocentric focus in Biophilia was refuted on the official website This refutation, however, I have allowed myself to challenge on the basis of my analyses that point to a strong preoccupation with the human body, mind, and symbolic systems (language, myths, other cultural narratives, visual symbols, etc.). Even though the songs are in dialogue with post-​humanist patterns of relation, sensing as well as (the limits of) representation persist as primary themes throughout the songs. The cosmic focus of the album seems to transgress the focus on the human agency and the long-​term consequences inherent in the Anthropocene thesis. However, rather than turning away from the human as an object of study, the songs present the human scale as a prism: a multisided reflection of natural laws and processes as well as a vantage point. The perspectives in these aesthetic renderings, thus, point to eco-​political, ethical, and ontological questions brought to the forefront in the context of climate change, but the songs primarily delve into entanglements beyond the spatiotemporal scope of the Anthropocene thesis –​in particular, the question of how to represent the relationship between the human and (the rest of) nature. Björk’s representation of the human-​in-​and-​of-​nature, thus, becomes a mise en abyme in which it is possible to zoom in and out so that, while the scale changes, the image stays the same. This mode of organizing representational space comes to point to representation itself and to the relations between the spatial levels. The question of how to mediate the planet and nature in the era of the Anthropocene brought up by German literary scholar Tobias Boes (2014), thus, echoes throughout the songs both in terms of dealing with different spatial dimensions of human coexistence with the rest of nature and in terms of the role of human (embodied) experience in mediation. Different discourses or optics of the human are reflected in the different –​‘cenes’: the human as a key figure, an economic and geological agent  –​or even a force in the Anthropocene and Capitalocene, and the human as being an element in as well as made up of the earthly processes of “biotic and abiotic powers”57 in the field of post-​ human discourses including Donna Haraway’s Chthulucene. It is in this field that the homo relationalis outlined in Björk’s Biophilia is most easily recognized: “Unlike the dominant dramas of Anthropocene and Capitalocene discourse, human beings are not the only important actors in the Chthulucene, with all other beings able simply to react. The order is reknitted: human beings are with and of the Earth, and the biotic and abiotic powers of this Earth are the main story.”58 In the Biophilia videos and lyrics analyzed here, the human is present as part of this main story. The human continuously conveys how it feels and, only through a subtle dimension in the song “Náttúra,”

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146  Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud is the human present as the disruptive agent known from the Anthropocene narrative. The ecology presented in the lyrics and visuals of the songs from the Biophilia album analyzed here is an ecology of emotional relations as is the scientific hypothesis of the same name presented by Edward O. Wilson and others. Björk’s ecology emerges from the basic statement that the human is made up and experiences itself (represented through the singer’s body) as part of a flux of natural and highly emotional processes. In the videos as well as the lyrics, the singer’s body is investigated as the central joint of this chiastic structure –​as is the case in Hollow, when human tissue is scrutinized ever more deeply until the artist’s face emerges among –​and is, at the same time, made up of –​DNA strings. The expression of emotion and conflict in Mutual Core focuses on a conflict caused by a lack of development and the urge to merge into a conglomerate. With its strong focus on the senses, Crystalline focuses on the experience of being in and of nature as it outlines connections between chemical and psychological processes within planetary and human bodies. The emotionality in these songs is expressed as a synergy and exchange of energy between mutually charging bodies with porous borders. And this emotional ecology that produces and is coproduced by the homo relationalis comes very close to Bennett’s vital materialism: “A vital materialism also recasts the self in the light of its intrinsically polluted nature and in so doing recasts what counts as self-​interest.”59 That, to me, seems to be the logic behind the way various bodies and spaces are represented as interconnected levels on the album: the universe, the human body, geological strata, the singer’s body, culture, the psyche, emotion, the environment, DNA, etc. In the visual dimension of Hollow, the emotionally charged experience of relating to other bodies becomes a closed loop of self-​search: this time, in the gene pool that is, at once, self and other. But inherent in this experience of longing and absorption is also the dissolution of the borders of the self and the other bodies involved: ancestors become mothers and, then, “all species,” and the self becomes “hollow like a bead.” The human(ist) perspective at work in the Biophilia songs seems to address some of the issues raised by the historian Dipesh Chakrabarty (2009) concerning the limitations of the grand scale of “humanity” as a means to grasp the human experience at the center of the Anthropocene thesis and its affiliated narratives. Chakrabarty objects to the universalist notion of “humanity” or “the human species” from a geopolitical perspective that highlights global economic inequalities, making it clear that such notions “cannot subsume particularities,”60 as he puts it. Björk’s songs represent species-​being as a relational presence in the system of the universe from within. Thus, the songs communicate the processual make-​up of the system through embodied experiences mediated by the human senses and mind. The songs analyzed here thus indirectly enter into a dialogue with Chakrabarty’s statement that, “[e]‌ven if we were to emotionally identify with a word like mankind, we would not know what being a species is, for in species history, humans are only an instance of the concept species as indeed would be any other life form. But one never experiences being a concept.”61 Scott McVay, the natural scientist, poet, and advocate for the biophilia hypothesis, has stated that it is difficult for traditional natural science to grasp the relational aspect of humans engaging with natural phenomena or bodies.62 Björk approaches these general questions through the individual experience within an aesthetic and (in “Náttúra”) a politico-​aesthetic space. Parikka’s statement about “the lack of certainty of what constitutes the human brought about by scientific, technological, and ecological forces” [my emphasis]63 is

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From within the Porous Body  147 a necessary aspect in regard to the Anthropocene as a context for Björk’s album. The Biophilia album can be understood as part of a heterogeneous line of land art, psychogeophysical projects,64 biotech art, and art dealing with the soundscapes of different levels of the cosmos, highlighting the geophysical aspects of art and aesthetics (the interwoven fields of geology, astronomy, engineering, and aesthetics). In the introduction to the anthology entitled The Biophilia Hypothesis (1993), Kellert expresses a view on culture and industrialization that bemoans the loss of cultural “integrity and wholeness”65 and the alleged estrangement from nature prevalent in the modern era. A different approach is proposed by Parikka (2015): “Our relations with the earth are mediated through technologies and techniques of visualization, sonification, calculation, mapping, prediction, simulation, and so forth: it is through and in the media that we grasp earth as an object for cognitive, practical and affective relations… And conversely, it is the earth that provides for media and enables it: the minerals, the material of(f) the ground, the affordance of its geophysical reality that make technical media happen.”66. In the songs analyzed here, nature is universalized, medialized, desired, experienced, symbolized, recognized (as part of the protagonist’s own identity/​DNA), etc. On the album, chemical, geological, and biological processes do not just work as metaphors for relational or emotional processes in the social realm but serve to point out that these fields are inseparable. Overall, the songs are concerned with the desire to represent the totality of the world that is also the topic of Tobias Boes’ discussion of mediation in the Anthropocene era: “Apparently, space-​based photography no longer suffices if we want to see ‘Earth as a whole,’ it merely ‘helps us step back’ and gain a new perspective that is a necessary, but no longer sufficient condition for such a totalizing vision.”67 The Biophilia songs propose a human scale that comprises the largest and the most miniscule elements of the universe. In this way, the songs are examples of what Boes and co-​author Kate Marshall have stated about art: that it has been one of the sensitive media that “registers (and has registered) what is properly at stake in the self-​naming by a species of an epoch of geologic time, often in a language unavailable to other forms of scientific discourse.”68 This use of what I call “a human scale” is clearly in a dialogue with the current way ideas about human situatedness in nature are often represented on the scale of the non-​local and vast hyperobjects described by the English philosopher Timothy Morton as exceeding human comprehension.69 At the same time, the approach in Björk’s work presents a perspective that concurs with one aspect of hyperobjects: that hyperobjects such as our solar system, the total stock of an element, or global warming force us to recognize the fundamental physicality of thinking.70 Morton extracts an insight from the basic narrative of the Anthropocene thesis, which may illustrate a basic idea in the songs. He states that the realization of the role that humans have come to play as a geological force is an “Oedipal loop, twisted around itself to form an object that threatens only to have one single side, presents us with the one saving insight of the philosophical Anthropocene—​the one that Jacques Lacan states succinctly as there is no metalanguage. There is no ‘other side,’ no distance possible between us and our being because, in the words of the great phenomenologist Buckaroo Banzai, ‘Wherever you go, there you are’ .”71 Such a one-​ sided loop is most clearly reflected in the song “Hollow” and in “Náttúra” (through the collapse of a certain point of view). Morton uses the narrative of the tragedy to describe the subject’s recognition of itself as both investigator and culprit.72 However, instead of a horrified recognition of herself as a culprit (like in the narrative of an

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148  Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud Anthropocene framework), the “I” in the Biophilia songs stays in the continued movement between an embodied experience of emotional investment and representations of this experience. This is reminiscent of nature as the potentiality, the aleatory creativity of natura naturans that Bennett describes as transgressing all types of bodies: the fundamental thesis of vital materiality73 –​an idea Morton criticizes for staying within modernity’s philosophical patterns of seeking to define –​or the Oedipal loop of the Anthropocene.74 Echoing both the biophilia hypothesis and Bennett’s vital materialism, Björk’s songs state that nature is experienced as relationality and engagement.75 One might say that, in Biophilia, Björk contributes an expression of the human experience of porosity as well as the sensuous appeal of the inorganic.76 Mediality is an explicit and implicit theme in the songs: they reflect on medialization as representation (communication through cultural signs) and use the metaphor of the romantic union for various kinds of relations. But the reflexive level must not be overemphasized here. At the same time, the songs should be understood as embodied works in a process within and through the body. The physicality is also a matter of “singability,”77 which Björk has pointed out as an important factor in her work in general –​and one that escapes the representationality of language. In my reading, the songs insist on the specific bodily presence that encompasses all the various levels of the body (as voice, as filter for experience, as part of a larger system, as metaphor, as cultural sign) as an answer to Boes’ question of how to represent totality today: by acknowledging and scrutinizing the human scale. In a commentary on her method in general, Björk refers to her songs as loopholes78 and suggests that lyrics are a “shortcut to the feeling.”79 In this way, biology is present in Biophilia as theme and as media because the singer’s body is present at all levels of the songs. Thus, the songs as artworks significantly blur the borders between art, body, media, and nature because the medium (the art-​nature-​body that is the singer) is suspended between communication and incarnation. There are aspects in the renderings of the songs that allow the human to appear as a body that experiences and expresses itself in a manner specific and confined to the body itself –​not meant to be transferable or elevated to a statement representing anything but a situated bodily sensation. And there are hints that suggest that experience cannot (fully) be abstracted from the body. According to Boes, “planetary mediation” is the way humans turn “our very planet into a signifier for our collective existence.”80 The songs from the Biophilia album touch on issues of species-​being not only through iconographic and indexical messages but also through the attempt to mediate what it feels like to exist in the relational make-​up of the body, the socio-​emotional and cultural spheres as well as in a cosmic macro-​context. In the songs, the borders between various bodies are porous, and the connotations of the “you” in the songs are ambiguous because they come to refer both to humans and to things. Processes of love and breakup are described as metamorphoses of bodies and are also understood in connection with other natural processes. Because the boundaries of what constitutes the human body are porous in these songs, relationality is not just a matter of action and interaction but also a matter of ontology. Even though Bennett states that her eco-​political project is post-​humanist, “The political project of this book is, to put it most ambitiously, to encourage more intelligent and sustainable engagements with vibrant matter and lively things.”81 She argues that it is worth risking anthropomorphism because it works against anthropocentrism.82 In the songs analyzed here, the human is explored as a body and as a cocreator

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From within the Porous Body  149 of herself and the world surrounding her. Language and tropes (metaphors) of romantic love are to be understood in the larger context of bodily engagement in general, and these ways of representing the experience of relationality are communicated in a manner that sometimes has to let language implode (“Náttúra”). Bennett’s distinction between a preoccupation with processes and impressions as part of human existence as opposed to anthropocentrism in a larger eco-​political context is also at play here: the rest of nature is recognized as being part of the self but as a self-​conscious starting point for exploration rather than a foundation for self-​centered exploration. In a passage from the opening of Wilson’s Biophilia, he seems to transgress the human(ist) perspective: “In a twist my mind came free and I was aware of the hard workings of the natural world beyond the periphery of ordinary attention, where passions lose their meaning and history is in another dimension, without people, and great events pass without record or judgment. I was a transient of no consequence in this familiar yet deeply alien world that I had come to love.”83 This is one point on which I believe the Biophilias of Björk and Wilson part ways: Wilson places himself as a transient or external observer of a world in which the loving human and his beloved environment are separated. Björk, on the other hand, conveys the complex feelings of being deeply entangled in the flux of human and non-​human bodies. Thus, to return to my initial question, the way in which relationality and emotionality are conveyed and used in Björk’s songs leads to a representation of the experience of the feelings of being a connected, porous human body yearning for other bodies while, at the same time, the “I” reflects upon the nature of this way of being in the world. In this way the songs pose some of the questions that are also posed by Bennet and Wilson: How do we engage with other bodies? Why do we engage? What consequences does this relationality have –​for us and for other bodies? And Björk adds: How does it all feel? Politics is inherent in the biological biophilia hypothesis and, for Wilson as well as for most other researchers working within the framework of the hypothesis, the goal is to “urge moderation in our behaviour.”84 “Náttúra” is the song that stands out the most in this regard by virtue of its politicality because it combines a dissolution of grammar, a point of view that can be interpreted as a human “I” as well as a planetary “I,” and the explicitly eco-​critical context of contemporary Iceland. From the point of view of contemporary theory, the songs are ambiguous. They do not position themselves stably as either post-​humanist or anthropocentric visions. With a point of departure in well-​known themes of popular music such as romantic love and heartbreak –​and through an extension (not relocation) of these motifs into the realm of a vital materialism  –​the songs situate ecological reflections in a porous human body with a focus on the experience of being in exchange with other bodies. At one and the same time, the songs express the individual-​embodied experience of human porosity, its sedimentations in culture, and the perspective of the mise en abyme that makes totality and individual difficult to distinguish from one another. By insisting on the universality of the embodied experience of relationality, the songs point to the potential inherent in the fact that the human does not have (or need) a metalanguage outside the experience of our being part of nature. The track “Náttúra” reflects on the medium of language in a way that seems similar to Bennett’s critique of the anthropocentric structures inherent in grammar, and the track is an example of the way Björk’s Biophilia insists on an ambiguous focalization that blurs boundaries between expressions of individual human experience and the singing (anthropomorphized) totality of nature.

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150  Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud

Notes 1 As in all of her projects, Björk has worked with a number of technicians, musicians, and other artists on the Biophilia album. M/​M (Paris) are credited as collaborators on artwork and design, while Björk is credited with the concept. Björk, Sjón, and Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir are credited with the lyrics whereas several people are credited as video directors:  M/​M (paris), Inez van Amsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Björk, Michel Gondry, Andrew Thomas Huang, and Drew Berry according to the official website (Accessed 3 May 2017). 2 I will use the term “song” when I do not differentiate between the video and lyrics of a track. 3 Stefan Helmreich, “Homo Microbis and the Figure of the Literal.” Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology website. April (2011), accessed May 30, 2017, https://​​fieldsights/​259-​homo-​microbis-​and-​the-​figure-​of-​the-​literal 4 Even though all the elements of the Biophilia project engage in questions or themes connected to natural processes, humans, and/​or musicology, they do so through different media and are constructed so that they can function separately. These elements can be divided into different genres (educational platform, interactive apps, songs, etc.) and, thus, have different purposes. 5 Carol Vernallis, Experiencing Music Video:  Aesthetics and Cultural Context  (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004) 141. 6 See:  Nicola Dibben, “Visualizing the App Album with Björk’s Biophilia.” Oxford Handbooks Online (2013), accessed April 26, 2017, http://​​98628/​ 1/​12Dibben%20Visualising%20App%20AUTHOR%20UPLOAD%20VERSION.pdf 7 Mathias Bonde Korsgaard has treated examples of the Biophilia apps as an extended form of music video, expanding the limits of the genre with respect to audience participation. Mathias Bonde Korsgaard, “Music Video Transformed,” in The Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics, ed. John Richardson, Claudia Gorbman, Carol Vernallis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013). 8 E.O. Wilson, Sociobiology:  The New Synthesis (Twenty-​fifth Anniversary Edition, 2000) (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, [1975] 2000). 9 Helmreich, “Homo Microbis and the Figure of the Literal.” 10 In this case, not limited to relations with other humans, but the fundamental importance of the human body’s relationality and, thus, relations with other human and non-​human bodies. 11 A nebula is an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, and ionized gases. 12 Edward O. Wilson, “Biophilia and the Conservation Ethics.” In The Biophilia Hypothesis, edited by Stephen Kellert and E. O. Wilson (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1993), 31. 13 Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, [1984] 2003), 2. 14 Stephen Kellert, Introduction to The Biophilia Hypothesis, edited by Stephen Kellert and E. O. Wilson (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1993), 21. 15 Wilson, “Biophilia and the Conservation Ethics,” 33 16 Ibid., 32 17 Wilson, Biophilia, 10 18 Ibid., 12 19 Ibid., 7 20 Ibid., 13 21 P.J. Crutzen, and E.F. Stoermer, “The ‘Anthropocene’.” Global Change News Letter #41 (2000), accessed May 3, 2017,​download/​18.316f1832132347017758000 1401/​1376383088452/​NL41.pdf 22 Wilson, Biophilia, 19. 23 Ibid., 1.

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From within the Porous Body  151 24 There are obvious reasons for an anthropocentric interpretation of the hypothesis because many of its arguments focus on benefits for humanity. However, the extent to which the hypothesis has a utilitarian and anthropocentric goal is still being debated. See Lisa Sideris, Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology and Natural Selection:  Suffering and Responsibility (Columbia University Press 2013)  and Sanford S.  Levy, The Biophilia Hypothesis and Anthropocentric Environmentalism Environmental Ethics 25 (3): 227–​246 (2003). 25 Bennett rarely identifies explicitly with the label “post-​human” but points to the “posthumanist gestures of vital materialism,” Bennett, Vibrant Matter, 120. 26 Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 24. 27 Ibid., 5. 28 Ibid., 21. 29 Ibid. 30 Ibid., 119. 31 Ibid., 113. 32 Wilson, Biophilia, 37. 33 “Biophilia,” Björk, accessed November 14, 2016,​#biophilia 34 “Biophilia Statement October 17, 2014,” accessed May 3, 2017, http://​​#/​past/​ discography/​biophilia 35 Information about the video uploaded to YouTube on September 24, 2011. Written by Björk and Damian Taylor. Directed and produced by Björk, Inez van Amsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, M/​M (Paris) and James Merry and published by Universal Music Publishing. 36 Denis Cosgrove, Apollo’s Eye. A  Cartographic Genealogy of the Earth in the Western Imagination (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 3. 37 Ibid. 38 Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, Second Edition (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, [1958] 1998), 251. 39 L. M. A. Riva, et al., “The Disease of the Moon: The Linguistic and Pathological Evolution of the English Term ‘Lunatic’.” Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, vol. 1, no. 19, (2011): 65–​73. 40 Information about the official video uploaded to YouTube on November 13, 2012. Directed by Andrew Thomas Huang, produced by Árni Björn Helgason and commissioned by the director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Jeffrey Deitch. 41 On a grand scale, in fact, the actual growth rates are similar because the human fingernail grows at an average approximate rate of 4 cm/​year (Yaemsiri S 2010), whereas the Atlantic ridge has drifted approximately 2.8 cm/​year during the last 9 million years (Talwani 1971). 42 Wilson, Biophilia, 12. 43 The caption “What you resist persists” is an idiom also associated with psychoanalysis. Thus, it opens up the related field of relational ethics with figures such as Zizek, Levinas, and Lacan (see Stephen Frosh in Psychoanalysis Outside the Clinic:  Interventions in Psychosocial Studies (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)). 44 Wilson, “Biophilia and the Conservation Ethics,” 31. 45 Roger Caillos, The Writing of Stones. Translated by Barbary Bray (Charlottesville,  VA: University Press of Virginia), 1985. 46 Jussi Parikka, A Geology of Media. (Minneapolis, MN:  University of Minnesota Press, 2015), 62 47 Bennett, Vibrant Matter, p. 115, as quoted in Parikka 2015. 48 The video was uploaded to YouTube on July 26 [alternative sources state August 5], 2011. Written by Björk, produced by Raffi Adlan and Joel Kretschmanand, and directed by Michel Gondry.

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152  Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud 49 Information about the video uploaded to YouTube on March 9, 2012. Written by Björk, directed by Drew Berry, and produced by Max Whitby. 50 Stefan Helmreich, Sounding the Limits of Life: Essays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond (Princeton: Princeton University Press), 2016. 51 Wilson, Biophilia, 7. 52 Ibid. 53 Earlier released as a single on the Internet and on vinyl in 2009. 54 Chris Wickett, “Björk reveals how she created new single Nattura” October 27, 2008, accessed May 17, 2017,​news/​guitars/​bjork-​ reveals-​how-​she-​created-​new-​single-​nattura-​178753 55 Bennett, Vibrant Matter, 116. 56 My translation from Icelandic: “Allt sem hún fleygir /​náttúra /​ég get tekið /​ég tek við því /​ náttúra” 57 Donna Haraway, “Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene.” E-​flux Journal, September 1, 2016, accessed July 17, 2017, www.e-​​journal/​75/​67125/​ tentacular-​thinking-​anthropocene-​capitalocene-​chthulucene/​ 58 Haraway, “Tentacular Thinking.” 59 Bennett, Vibrant Matter, 116. 60 Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” Critical Inquiry (2009): 222 61 Chakrabarty “The Climate of History,” 220. 62 Scott McVay, “Prelude: A Siamese Connexion with a Plurality of Other Mortals.” In The Biophilia Hypothesis, edited by Stephen Kellert and E. O. Wilson (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1993): 3–​19. 63 Parikka, A Geology of Media, 63. 64 For additional reading on the psychogeophysical and aesthetics, see Jussi Parikka, A Geology of Media (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2015). 65 Kellert, “Introduction,” 23. 66 Parikka, A Geology of Media, 12. 67 Tobias Boes, “Beyond Whole Earth:  Planetary Mediation and the Anthropocene.” Environmental Humanities, vol. 5 (2014): 161, accessed July 27, 2017, http://​​arch/​vol5/​5.9.pdf 68 Kate Marshall and Tobias Boes, “Writing the Anthropocene. An Introduction.” The Minnesota Review (2014): 60. 69 Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects:  Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2013). 70 Morton later contributed to the multimedia publication: Björk: Archives (Five volumes presented in a slipcase as three 16pp booklets, one 24pp booklet, one 120pp paperback and a colour poster) (London: Thames and Hudson, 2015). 71 Timothy Morton, “The Oedipal Logic of Ecological Awareness.” Environmental Humanities, vol. 1 (2012): 9. 72 Ibid. 73 Bennett, Vibrant Matter, 116. 74 Morton, “The Oedipal Logic of Ecological Awareness.” 75 By keeping a phenomenological focus on a first-​person experience, the songs avoid fixating reality, which Morton criticizes modern philosophers such as Deleuze and Guattari of doing when they take away the strangeness, the “trickster nature” of not knowing what is real, by stating that reality is flow (Morton 2012). 76 Bennett, Vibrant Matter, 61. 77 Timothy Morton and Björk. “Björk’s Letters with Timothy Morton” (24 e-​mails published). Courtesy of Thames & Hudson, accessed May 7, 2017,​music/​gallery/​20196/​19/​bjork-​s-​letters-​with-​timothy-​morton, mail no.: 14/​24. 78 Ibid., mail no.: 20/​24.

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From within the Porous Body  153 79 Ibid., mail no.: 14/​24. 80 Tobias Boes, “Beyond Whole Earth,” 1. 81 Bennett, Vibrant Matter, viii. 82 Ibid., 120. 83 Wilson, Biophilia, 7. 84 McVay, “Prelude,” 17.

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Abildgaard, Nicolai 16, 18, 19, 21, 24–​27 Abildgaard, Søren 21 agency 5, 8, 17, 42, 43, 45, 50, 54, 78, 130, 132, 136, 137, 145 agriculture 1, 5, 9, 15–​17, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 34, 60 Alaska 78, 81 Alooloo, Jayko 79, 85 Andersen, H. C. 104, 106 Anthropocene 1–​10, 15–​19, 24, 28, 29, 34, 44, 53, 54, 60, 61, 63, 65, 67–​73 anthropocentrism 60, 121, 128, 132, 149 anthropology 5, 43, 45, 52, 86, 133 anthropomorphism, anthropomorphic 68, 103, 105, 148, 149 Aporta, Claudio 84 archaeology 4, 8, 9, 15–​18, 28, 30–​34 Archimedean point 134, 135, 140 archive 44, 72, 81, 111, 115, 119, 121 Arctic 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 41, 42–​47, 49–​54, 60, 61, 63–​72, 76–​82, 84–​87, 89, 90, 110–​112, 117, 119, 121–​125 artistic research 4, 5, 42, 43, 44, 45, 112, 123 Baden, Torkel 27 Bennett, Jane 121, 124, 128, 130–​133, 135, 137, 139, 144, 146, 148, 149 Berlo, Janet Catherine 87, 90 biology 6, 129, 139, 143, 148 biophilia 10, 128–​133, 138, 141, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149 birefringence 113, 114 Björk 10, 128, 129, 130–​135, 138, 140, 143, 145–​149 Blodgett, Jean 90 bodies, human, non-​human 4, 10, 26, 48, 128, 130–​135, 137–​139, 141–​143, 145, 146, 148, 149 Boes, Tobias 8, 34, 145, 147, 148 Bonneuil, Christophe 2, 6 de Bruyckere, Berlinde 105, 106 Burko, Diane 70, 71

calcite 113, 114, 115–​119, 122, 124 Canada 2, 3, 4, 59, 64, 66, 67, 68, 71, 77, 78, 80, 81, 86–​90 Cape Dorset 78, 87, 88 Capitalocene 2, 4, 60, 77, 78, 80, 91, 128, 145 Cappelen, August 104 Chthulucene 72, 128, 145 Churberg, Fanny 104 Church, Frederic Edwin 64, 65, 68, 70 climate 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 41–​43, 46, 47, 49, 59–​61, 68, 69, 71–​73, 77, 82, 85, 86, 90, 98, 103–​105, 111, 117, 121, 123, 128, 130, 145 colonization 4, 60 Coughlin, Maura 4, 60 countervisuality 123, 124 Crutzen Paul. J. 1, 6, 60, 61, 128, 131 Dahl, Johan Christian 16, 27–​34, 101, 104 Denmark 1, 15–​17, 19–​21, 24, 25, 29, 31, 43 dichotomy, human-​culture 120, 121 digital 9, 114, 118, 119, 122 dolmen 15, 16, 17–​22, 24–​34 Dorais, Louis-​Jacques 81 Earth 6, 77, 141, 145; earth 1, 5, 6, 8, 47, 51, 60, 65, 66, 69, 70, 71, 118, 131, 134, 137, 139, 147 ecological, ecology 2, 4, 5, 10, 15, 44, 45, 46, 51, 67, 68, 71–​73, 77, 78, 81, 110–​112, 117, 119–​123, 128–​132, 138, 144, 146, 149 eco art, eco-​critical art 3, 9, 59, 60, 63, 70, 71, 73 Eliasson, Olafur 68 emotions, emotional 4, 5, 26, 29, 51, 68, 103, 128–​133, 135, 136, 138–​140, 142, 145–​149 epistemological 44, 52 Ewald, Johannes 24, 26, 27 Faraday, Michael 114; the Faraday effect 114

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168 Index field notes 41–​53 film 72, 98, 103 Finland 103, 104 Fjaestad, Gustaf 66 Forchhammer, Georg 1 fossil fuels 73, 112, 117, 118 Franklin, John 61, 64, 66, 69 Frederic VI (king) 31 Friedrich, Caspar David 4, 32, 64, 65, 101, 103 Frobisher, Martin 60, 61, 63, 72 Fuller, Matthew 117 Gallen-​Kallela, Akseli 104 gaze 9, 63, 99, 101, 103, 110, 134 geographer, geographical, geography, 1–​3, 5, 8, 9, 25, 29, 42, 43, 47, 59, 65, 66, 73, 77, 78, 81, 82, 84, 86, 89, 103, 105, 106, 111, 119, 134, 144 geological, geologist, geology 1, 2, 4, 5–​9, 17, 41, 44, 45, 50, 60, 68, 110, 111–​114, 116–​121, 124, 125, 128–​130, 137–​140, 144–​147 global warming 47, 60, 68, 72, 73, 91, 110, 117, 122, 147 Golden Age 18, 30 Grace, Sherrill 60 Greenland 42, 64, 68, 70, 71, 77, 81 Group of Seven 25, 66, 67 Grundtvig, Niels Frederik Severin 24, 26, 29, 30 Haraway, Donna 60, 128, 145 Harris, Lawren S. 66–​68, 70 Helgustadir 114, 115, 117, 118, 123 Helmreich, Stefan 129, 141 Hering, Ewald 113 Huygens, Christiaan 114 hyperobjects 111, 147 Høyen, Niels Lauritz 32, 33 Høyer, Christian Fædder 25 ice 2, 3, 7, 42, 53, 64, 65, 68, 69–​71, 76, 77, 79, 81, 85, 86, 111, 117, 121, 130 Iceland, Icelandic 2, 10, 27, 68, 111, 114, 117, 129, 138, 143, 144, 149 Iceland Spar 10, 110, 111, 113, 114, 116, 117, 118, 119–​125 Igloolik Isuma Archive 72 Ikpiarjuk (Arctic Bay) 78 illusion 10, 111, 112, 113, 117–​119, 122–​124 industrialization 5, 9, 15–​17, 34, 60, 61, 65, 147 Inuit communities 78–​80, 82, 84, 87, 90, 91 Inuit culture 77, 79, 80, 82, 84, 86, 91

Inuit drawings 77–​80, 83, 85–​87, 89–​91 Ísleifsson, Sumarliði 3 Johannessen, Toril 9, 111–​113, 115–​119, 121–​125 Juel, Jens 20, 22, 25 Kanngiqtugaapik (Clyde River) 78 Kerr, John 114; the Kerr effect 114 Kirkegaard, Jakob 121 Kuttujuuk 79 landscape 1–​5, 7–​9, 15–​17, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28–​32, 34, 42, 44, 46, 47–​52, 54, 59, 61, 63, 64, 66–​68, 70, 73, 76, 78, 79, 84, 85, 97–​106, 111, 117, 121, 123, 136, 138, 143 landscape painting 2, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16–​20, 25–​32, 34, 63, 64, 66, 67, 70, 84, 99, 101 Latour, Bruno 5, 17, 121, 132, 144 live-​editing 50 looking 6, 15, 25, 43, 44, 46, 53, 77, 97–​100, 102–​104, 123 Lund, Johan Ludvig 16, 24, 33 McBrien, Justin 80 MacLaren, I. S. 64 Magnussen, Finn 27 Marshall, Kate 8, 34, 147 Martin, Elias 104 materiality 1, 47, 52, 117, 119, 120, 122, 124; see also vital materiality Maxwell, Richard 117 media 1, 8, 43, 45, 53, 72, 112, 117, 118, 119, 121, 122, 124, 128, 129, 139, 144, 147, 148; mediated 3, 8, 100, 112, 113, 115, 119, 140, 146, 147; mediation 8–​10, 41, 43, 45, 49, 50, 54, 112, 140, 145, 147, 148 media ecology, media-​ecological 10, 110–​112, 119, 122, 123 memoryscape 84, 90 microscopes 111, 112, 114, 115, 119, 124 Miller, Toby 117 minerals 61, 81, 111, 117–​120, 136, 147 Mirzoeff, Nicholas 98, 123, 124 Mitchell, Marybelle 80 Mitchell, W. J. T. 101, 102, 104 Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet) 78 Molbech, Christian 29 Morton, Timothy 17, 111, 120, 121, 147, 148 music video 46, 48, 49, 52, 53, 68, 70, 72, 97, 128–​130, 133–​143, 145, 146 Müller-​Lyer, Franz Carl 113 Møller, Jens 16, 27 Møller, Jens Peter 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31

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Index  169 narrative 1–​3, 6, 7, 9, 18, 22, 43, 44, 49, 51–​53, 63, 71, 76, 79, 80, 82, 86, 87, 89, 97–​100, 102–​105, 112, 117, 119, 120, 122–​124, 130, 131, 145–​147 Nashook, Rita 71 natural resources 3, 29, 42, 113, 117, 120 N. E. Thing Co. 67, 68 Neudecker, Mariele 68–​70 non-representation​ 3, 8, 9, 42, 43, 45, 49, 50, 52, 54, 66, 84, 90, 100, 101, 102, 105, 119, 121, 123, 128, 129, 132, 135, 136, 141, 143, 145, 148 Nordic/​Norse mythology 22, 24, 26, 27, 104 North 2–​4, 9, 59–​61, 63–​73, 80, 97, 104; northern 3, 41, 47, 59, 60–​63, 66, 73, 80, 103, 104; Northernness 3, 67 Norway 20, 41, 46, 47, 104, 112, 121 Norwegian Polar Institute 121 Nutarak, Cornelius 76, 77, 79, 85 Nuttall, Mark 84 Nyerup, Rasmus 24, 29, 30 O’Brian, John 66 Oehlenschläger, Adam 24, 26, 27, 29, 31 optical illusions, instruments 111, 113, 114, 118 Ørsted, Hans Christian 32, 33 Paneak, Peter 83 Parikka, Jussi 8, 60, 117, 120, 139, 146, 147 perception (vision) 44, 54, 77, 78, 81, 91, 103, 113, 114, 123, 130 photographer, photographs, photography 41, 42, 44, 47, 49, 51, 53, 61, 65–​67, 69, 99, 111, 112, 115, 118, 119, 123, 147 Piunngittuq, Davidee 90 place names 80, 82, 86, 87, 90 polarization filter/​prisms 113, 117, 119 politics, political 4, 7, 43–​46, 48, 53, 60, 65, 73, 78, 85–​87, 91, 112, 121, 124, 128–​132, 143, 144, 146, 148, 149 Ponting, Herbert 49, 50 Pontoppidan, Erik 19–​21, 25, 29, 34 porosity 132, 133, 138, 139, 148, 149 posthumanism 97, 98, 105 Pram, Christen Henriksen 19, 24, 27 Rancière, Jacques 121, 124 Rasmussen, Knud 89 Raundalen, Jon 117 refraction 113, 114 relationality 128–​130, 132, 133, 135, 139, 142, 145, 148, 149

remediation 49, 52 resources 3, 15, 29, 42, 61, 63, 64, 68, 73, 77, 80, 82, 88, 113, 117, 120, 123 Rix, Robert 30 Romantic, Romanticism 3, 4, 7, 26, 64, 67, 68, 86, 87, 104, 110, 120, 144, 148, 149 Ross, John 61, 89 Ryan, Terrence (Terry) 78, 86–​89 Sanders, Jeff 18 Schmidt, Kevin 69, 70 science 1–​6, 8–​10, 16, 28, 32, 34, 44, 47, 51, 53, 54, 70, 71, 86, 99, 102, 111, 112–​114, 118, 119, 121, 124, 129, 130, 134, 135, 141, 143, 144, 146 sea ice 53, 69, 71, 81, 86 settler 15, 59, 77, 80, 82 Shappa, Atoat 82 Sila 83, 84 Simon, Mary 73 skilled visions 43, 44, 52, 53, 54 Smiles, Sam 18 spruce 97, 98, 99, 100–​106 Stone Age 9, 16, 21, 22, 29 Stub, Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein 16, 24–​30 Suhm, Peter Frederik 24–​26 Svalbard 9, 41, 45–​51, 53 Sweden 20, 104 technological, technologies, technology 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 26, 46, 48, 51–​53, 67, 83, 84, 97, 98, 103, 105, 112, 115, 117–​119, 122, 124, 129, 146, 147 Thomsen, Christian Jürgensen 15, 16, 18, 21, 22, 28, 30–​34 traditional knowledge 9, 72, 77, 79, 84, 86, 87, 90, 91 “Umwelt” 101, 105, 106 visual anthropology 43 visual culture 46, 98, 123, 124 vital materiality 121, 132, 137, 138, 148 White, John 61, 63 Wilson, Edward O. 128–​133, 138, 139, 141, 143, 146, 149 Wittgenstein, Ludwig 123 Zöllner, Johann Karl Friedrich 113 Zylinska, Joanna 121

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