Informed by changing climate, history and culture, I will use virtual reality imagery to capture the haunting isolated beauty of Greenland’s landscape, focusing both on the rapidly receding glaciers as well as the cultural changes in the extremely remote Inuit settlements of East Greenland. My interest is to expand on last year's photographic trip. The goals are to capture a feeling of loss and mystery revealed through the contracting ice, centered on the parallels between dramatic climate changes and culture.
Teaming with a Project61’s partner is crucial to this project. I lack the space, technical expertise, resources, and additional vision to conduct VR research and testing before executing the project on site in remote Greenland. More specifically, I need help strategizing on best options to capture still and moving images; a way to test various technologies and solutions locally; a review of technical options in low light situations; and ways to view and deploy the completed project. Also, I hope to offer creative insight into fine art’s approach to new image making applications as a company team member.
The project “Inertia,” continues to trace changes to land, ice and communities. With anticipated grant funding, I will photograph with a digital camera and VR one of the fastest retreating glaciers in the world, the Helheim glacier; the scarred landscape and newly exposed ground left in it’s wake; the dramatic and unique glacialquakes; newly formed rivers from the ancient ice melt; shrinking icebergs and ice floes; images of small Inuit settlements’ such as Tasiilaq, Kulusuk and the abandoned town of Tiilerilaaq in Eastern Greenland; Inuit ruins; and vast, empty landscapes with small traces of human intervention--all taken at dawn, twilight, or nighttime. To my knowledge, Greenland as well as these environmental changes have never been captured using VR.
East Greenland is one of the most isolated places in the world. But the recent impact to seal, whale and polar bear hunting due to melting ice lead to declining income, forcing many to move from small settlements. As a result of the unprecedented cultural upheaval, suicide rates and alcoholism spiked. Also set in this extreme isolation is one the largest and fastest retreating glaciers, moving at about three feet an hour.
Beyond documentation, however, these images crystallize a feeling of inertia taking place in the primordial landscape of Greenland.
As the raw land is exposed through the melting ice--as if a cultural truth is being unearthed--I feel there is a link between environment and culture. Just as Inuit life seems to be quiety abandoned in a churning retreat, so too is present day ice melting mostly forgotten. In both cases, there is a feeling of absence, impending human failure, tragedy, and the crushing force of nature being played out in a desolate place. I want to capture the immensity of the space in ethereal light, revealing both a lyrical beauty and inexorable horror in it’s destruction. I want to use VR this feeling of loss, discovery and change.
Although this is a fine art image-based project, it is informed by history, culture, science and the environment; VR’s immersive experience bridges all of these. To my knowledge, this technology has never been applied in this way before.
I started photographing remote landscapes more than fifteen years ago. Initially, while at a residency at Yaddo in upstate New York, I began to photographing rural scenes in complete darkness. Then in Canada and Newfoundland, at the place where Leif Erkisson departed Southern Greenland to North America, I became interested in global climate change and it’s impact. This lead me to Greenland’s melting ice sheet where I completed the first part of “Inertia.” I aim to trace the glacier retreats and environment in East Greenland, resulting in a series of large scale photographic prints to be exhibited, a published book of images and this VR component.
During the first trip to Greenland, I made significant local, governmental and cultural relationships. I was in direct contact with:
--Official Tourism and Business Council of Greenland.
--Minister of Education, Culture, Research and Church in Greenland.
--The Danish Consulate in New York.
--Local tour groups, guides, and organizations.
I also compiled a contact list of 177 journalists, scientists, artists, environmentalists and scholars, many of which are Scandinavian, whom I will continue to reach out to as well as develop additional connections, including the Prime Minister of Greenland, the US Embassy, and others.
Also part of the project will be to:
--Carefully edit the photographs and produce a portfolio of about fifteen 40x50” prints to take to new and existing New York galleries for possible exhibitions.
--Create VR experiences to be shared.
--Contact Greenland cultural institutions and Danish museums and galleries for show opportunities (I was invited to submit a proposal to the Danish Louisiana Museum of Modern Art).
--Connect with technology, scientific and educational communities.
--Share images, comments and blog posts as they happen in real time and afterwards on social media (using a satphone), and afterwards.
--Participate in Instagram “takeovers” on museum, gallery and cultural sites (which I did for Greenland.com, the official tourist site in late August).
--Reach out to new and existing contacts I made I with public relations firms, journalists, scientists, and bloggers that I began for my last trip (VICE wrote an article about the project).
--Give lectures, talks and panel discussions on the environment of Greenland and my photographic process (I just gave a presentation in Philadelphia on Greenland).
As a result, I anticipate everal print and online articles written about “Inertia.”