ANCIENT VOICES

“For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go...Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.”

- Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide To Getting Lost


For two and a half weeks in 2018, I voyaged between 78 and 81 degrees north on the vessel Antigua with a group of artists, scientists, and educators, exploring the Arctic Circle and its blue landscapes. I traveled to the rooftop of the globe to collect samples of the Arctic Sea to see whether traces of Fukushima's nuclear meltdown, in the form of Cesium-134 and 137, had made its way up to the north polar ice cap through ocean currents. Yet, on the open sea, I was not concerned with politics —  instead, I busied myself with observing the landscape.

During the expedition, a marine biologist explained how diatoms in the Arctic rely on calving glaciers for nutrients. These microscopic algae play an integral role in the earth’s carbon cycle, as well as providing nourishment for ocean ecosystems in the form of marine snow.  Visible from space, diatom blooms can reach the size of islands, and resemble a blue oil-spill, slowly disseminating through ocean currents, only to contour and emphasize the biosphere. An obvious truth was vividly reinforced, which is that all of existence, micro or macro, deceased or living, are interconnected.

 

Perhaps I am seeking this connectedness within the framework of the human condition, a gateway to accepting moral suffering, an opportunity for transformation, a path to building resilience. At a critical time where climate change is not only rapidly shifting landscapes but affecting mental health at an epidemic level, this awareness should not cause nihilistic despair, but rather to call attention to vital activity in the present moment. My desire is for viewers to experience a sense of gestalt – to be reminded of the whole, embrace communities, enhance group-cohesiveness, and realize how the monumental tasks that humanity faces can be managed through the amalgamation of human potential, innovation, and creativity.

Material: Strontium Aluminate, Kopp Glass 40 filter, UV light, Arduino, motor, audio of deep-sea currents captured via goPro, specimens collected from the Spitsbergen, Norway. * Strontium Aluminate has a half-life of 20 years - roughly when glaciers in the Northern hemisphere are expected to melt at a rapid rate.

Year: 2019

Location: Miller ICA, 3rd floor.

Photography by: Tom Little

 © 2020 by SHOHEI KATAYAMA 

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