CARVED BY LIGHT: VISCOUS FLOW
Agnieszka Kozlowska's exhibition at Fotogalleriet's Nordic Anthology brings selected glaciers of the Jostedalsbreen and Jotunheimen regions into the architectural area of the project space, positioning them exactly according to their location in the landscape and the angle from which they were photographed. Traversing the mountains with a self-constructed large format camera on her back, the artist uses a never-before explored photographic technique: light sensitive polymer plates are exposed directly in the camera, in close proximity to each glacier for several hours in order to obtain a relief.
This series of works continues the artist’s investigation of the possibilities of an unique three-dimensional photographic artifact communicating embodied experience of remote landscapes in ways that go beyond purely visual apprehension of an image. Carved by Light finds its starting point in early scientific theories of glacier movements. Kozlowska explores the parallels between the imperceptible but forceful flows of ice down mountain valleys and the slowness of moving across mountain terrain on foot.
Following in the footsteps of British glaciologist James David Forbes – who travelled through Norway in 1851 to conduct measurements of the motion of glaciers – Kozlowska photographed the ice masses which were crucial to his observations. Forbes' viscous flow theory suggests that glacier ice is flexible like softened wax, and is urged down slopes by the mutual pressure of its parts. Although elaborated in the course of the twentieth century, this understanding still holds true today. Another source 'intimate' knowledge on the state of glaciers in the 19th century comes in the form of writings from the pioneer explorer of Norwegian mountains: William Cecil Slingsby. Since 1872, Slingsby visited Norway repeatedly and was the first one to climb many of its peaks. His lively accounts give a unique sense of the experience of traveling across the vast landscape by foot. In Carved by Light, Kozlowska combines the old and the new through a technique employing the latest technologically advanced materials from the printmaking industry – while at the same time touching upon the working methods of the photographers from the 19th century: materials and equipment are large and cumbersome, while exposure times are extremely slow.
In Carved by Light, each photographic object constitutes a physical trace of a journey that – despite detailed planning and careful selection of an optimal location for making a photographic exposure – depends on the vagaries of the weather and the conditions on the mountain. The focus of the work is thus on the process, both conceptually and technically. Each journey and exposure is an experiment in itself, and washing the exposed polymer plate to reveal a relief always carries a surprise. At times, if the exposure was too short or the sky was too cloudy, there might be nothing to see. Even in those cases, the plate is a tangible mark of the experience of the journey, and an accurate record of the time and place of its exposure.
The technique reflects not only the direct physical action of glaciers on the landscape, but also hints to the extended time-scale in which they exist, their susceptibility to environmental factors such as light and heat, and the arguable irreversibility of their melting process. During the exposure, UV light literally carves a relief in the transparent layer of the polymer plate, rendering the structure of the glacier ice with minute detail in the golden-coloured fragile object. The retreat of the photographed glaciers and the space they leave behind is explored physically by Kozlowska walking through a mountain valley to reach the snout of each glacier to take a photograph, and is reflected in the technique in which the empty areas on each plate represents the space where the ice once was, but is no more.
LIST OF WORKS (clockwise from the left, see floorplan)
1. Flatbreen 22.6.2017 11:10-13:10, 2017
2. Bøyabreen 20.5.2017 17:35-20:05, 2017
3. Haugabreen 21.6.2017 13:20-15:35, 2017
4. Kjenndalsbreen 22.5.2017 12:25-14:40, 2017
5. Bødalsbreen 23.5.2017 8:10-10:40, 2017
6. Fåbergstølsbreen 24.6.2017 10:05-12:05, 2017
7. Nigardsbreen 20.5.2017 10:40-12:10, 2017
8. Research material, 2017
Topographical maps of Jostedalsbreen and Jotunheimen, archival photographs from the collection of the Norwegian National Library, texts and drawings from J.D. Forbes Occasional Papers on the Theory of Glaciers (1859), texts
from W.C. Slingsby Norway – The Northern Playground (1904)
9. Svellnosbreen 14.7.2017 9:50-10:40, 2017
10. Visbreen 6.7.2017 16:05-17:20, 2017
11. Høgvaglbreen 6.7.2017 11:45-12:35, 2017
12. Storbreen 5.7.2017 15:00-16:30, 2017
13. Bjørnbreen 7.7.2017 8:35-10:05, 2017
14. Hurrbreen 7.7.2017 13:00-14:30, 2017
15. Leirbreen 5.7.2017 9:20-10:20, 2017
16. Bøverbreen 3.7.2017 16:30-17:45, 2017
17. Fannaråkbreen 4.7.2017 10:00-11:00, 2017
18. Austerdalsbreen 26.6.2017 11:00-12:50, 2017
Works 1-7 and 9-18: Photopolymer plate exposed directly in a large format camera, cardboard box. 20,5 x 25,5 cm / 26 x 31 cm