Thursday, April 30, 2009

Angalavaa: The Collections

Collection: Objects of a particular form, things accumulated, group of objects meant to be kept together

One part of my Angalavaa series are the Collections: objects, letters, documents, commercials, etc found in the Arktisk Institut's archive. I photographed almost every item I looked at or translated.

The archive is organized by specific persons, both famous like Achton Friis or regular citizens who donated their family's personal archive, expeditions such as the Danmark Ekspeditionen, or organizations and government agencies such at the Royal Greenland Trade Company.

I tried to organize these photographed items into my own collections such as varde notes, or cairn notes, that were retrieved from cairns found mainly in Northwest to North to Northeast Greenland. And personal correspondences.

Maps and memorabilia and quirky things such as mosquitoes smashed inbetween two pages and water damaged papers.

More to follow in the coming days.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Artist Statement for Angalavaa: An Archive Tale

‘There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin. You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.’ -Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life

This quote defines how the arctic found me: in a state of curiosity that I had to follow. Starting with American arctic explorer Robert Peary’s photographs from the 1900’s, I became fascinated with the explorers and Arctic disasters and from there to all that was found, lost or returned from the Arctic: the ‘polar archive’. The Arktisk Institut became a pausing point for this archived realm. It carried weight: persons, locations, events, and their aftershocks. Each was not my own memory, but rather an archived memory left for others to learn about.

‘Modern memory is above all, archival. It relies entirely on the materiality of the trace, the immediacy of the record, the visibility of the record.’ -- Pierre Nora’s Les Lieux de Memoire.

The Arktisk Institut forms an intertextual framework for the friction and exchanges that occurred between Denmark, Greenland and the arctic: recorded through personal diaries, photographs, catalogues of Eskimo/Inuit dialects, and much more. They are textures from a common language, forming the archive's theoretical and visual environment: the nonlinear narrative about the Danish encountering the Arctic.

‘…Translation does not become inauthentic because it employs a different language from the original…. There is a significant difference between speaking about other cultures and presuming to speak for them.’ --John Mack’s essay Exhibiting Cultures Revised: Translation and Representation

The psychology behind basements and attics revolves around memory, the forgotten and the imagination: Strange that these spaces are where we normally keep our archives. And history is impatient; it is always ready to collect more and more. We can discuss how archived items retain their value and significance over time but we can only experience this observation by actually opening the archive doors. By lessening the distance between it and us. Every time we open the archive, we must strive to find how it has changed.

‘A memoryscape is constructed by people’s mental images of the environment, with particular emphasis on locations as remembered places. When one relates to the landscape as a memoryscape it becomes alive, meaningful, and personal and embeds person, places and activities in the rivers of history….Memoryscape is often felt rather than verbalized.’ --Mark Nuttal’s Arctic Homeland: Kinship community and development in Northwest Greenland

My approach at the Arctic Institute was not like that of an academic researcher out to gather facts about a specific person and then place them into historical or theoretical context. I did not want to concentrate on one subject or ‘document’ in the traditional manner. Rather I investigated as an artist all aspects of the archive’s contents: I saw browns, ochres, indigo blues and grays. Waterlogged paper, handmade bindings, frayed edges, crinkled flags and smooth paper. They were followed by names such as Rink, Freuchen, and Mikkelsen: Thule, fangersang, and Nansen’s map. I wanted to ‘bring history back to life, giving it a second level of existence’ (Pierre Nora). Sadly these were traces of an arctic that no longer exists.

‘The past becomes a way for people to navigate within and make sense of the present as well as a way to formulate visions.’ ----Frank Sejersen’s essay Horizons of Sustainability in Greenland: Inuit Landscapes of Memory and Vision

This is where the photographs and drawings stem from: my experience navigating someone else’s documented memory. I am an American born in this period, and so a level of inaccessibility will always exist. But within this distance we find emotion: melancholia and fantastic humor within History’s stories to counterbalance the coldness. An alternative memory manifests. My photographs are the archive, sitting in darkness. The photographic collections are gathered-history’s contents. The drawings are the contents seen from a different view: cairns and boats, flags and buildings, books and papers. My figures are sometimes dragging, waiting, carrying, and sometimes encountering. All is not history recorded. Rather they are memory retained from looking and touching, reading and translating, digesting and re-transfiguring. Angalavaa, wandering through the archive.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Angalavaa: An Archive Tale opening, through May 29

Thursday was the opening of my Angalavaa: An Archive Tale Exhibition at the Arktisk Institut. We had a nice turnout given that the Arktisk Institut is not used to hosting this type of event. The show is comprised of 10 ink/watercolor drawings and 13 lightjet print photographs. The show continues through May 29.

Arktisk Institut entrance

Bent Nielsen, Director of Arktisk Institut, giving an introduction to the show

Me discussing and answering questions about the concepts and inspiration behind my seven month project at the Institute.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Angalavaa: An Archive Tale

Arktisk Institut præsenterer Angalavaa: An Archive Tale- fotografier og tegninger af den Amerikanske kunstner Thea Augustina Eck. Med inspiration fra syv måneders studier i instituttets arkiver udforsker Eck med sine værker arkivernes indhold, særlige placering og æstetik.

Udstillingens titel, Angalavaa, er et grønlandsk ord, der betyder ‘rejse gennem noget’. Eck kombinerer sine erfaringer fra arkivet med et synspunkt, der bedst kan beskrives med den franske historiker Pierre Noras ord: ‘Erindringen...lagrer kun de kendsgerninger, der passer den; og den giver næring til minder, der kan være perifere og teleskopiske, globale eller løsrevne, specifikke eller symbolske.’ Resultatet er muntre, eftertænksomme, fiktive og dokumentariske kunstneriske udtryk.

Angalavaa: An Archive Tale vises fra 14. April - 29. Maj, mandag-fredag, kl. 9.00 - 15.00 på Arktisk Institut, Strandgade 102, København.

Velkommen til reception 16. april, kl. 17.00 - 19.00, hvor Thea Augustina Eck vil være til stede og diskutere sine værker og den kunstneriske proces med publikum.

Udstillingen er sponsoreret af the American-Scandinavian Foundation, the Roth Endowment, the Public Affairs Section of the United States Embassy og Arktisk Instituts gæstfrihed.