For They That Sow the Wind
There are three giant photographs in the upstairs gallery of Parasol unit that show Julian Charrière precariously atop an iceberg in the Greenland Sea with a lit blow torch melting the ice beneath his feet. It's a striking visual analogy to what we are doing to the planet. Cutting a lone figure in this most alien and hostile of environments, depleting the planet's resources, it is an extreme and typical example of the artists work.
For more than a decade the Swiss conceptual artist has travelled to some of the most far flung and desolate spaces on Earth to challenge, measure and evaluate humanity's impact and bare witness to our destructive nature. On the iceberg above, each melted pool of dense oxygen-poor blue ice, tens of thousands of years old, re-froze almost immediately re-oxygenated from the air around it. Charrière's flame, a tongue in cheek reference to the all-present global warming artic zones are suffering, changes nothing in that it leaves a simulacrum of the former iceberg replacing it with an immediate modern aerated version.
Also exploring ideas of time and age with ice there are vitrines (Tropisme, 2015) displayed alongside the photographs of frozen plants understood to have been growing since the Cretaceous Period - up to sixty-five million years ago. The forla was shock-frozen at -196°C in liquid nitrogen and remains at a constant minus twenty in the gallery, forming beautiful natural ice patterns on the glass and shrouding the plants in a permafrost coating.
The final work upstairs is, We Are All Astronauts, (2013). Collecting globes from a hundred and twenty year period, the artist has meticulously sanded the detail, knowledge, political and geographical elements from the spheres rendering them empty featureless orbs, merely left different by their innate material; card, plastic, etc. The coloured dust of the planet's mountains, seas and deserts left glued to the platform hung beneath the supported globes. Like much of the work there is a playfulness here as well as a successful attempt to address weighty themes.
Downstairs a second series of large scale photographs are presented. Taken last year in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan this is an area that for forty years saw the Soviet Union carry out more than four hundred and fifty nuclear tests. The area is uniquely desolate and upon venturing there Charrière sprinkled radioactive dust on to the photographic negatives, which when developed and blown up bring a pocked and tickled light distortion to the images of striking old totalitarian architecture.
The exhibition is extensive, taking in a short film and a further vitrine appearing wet with condensation. Tiny porous blocks have been soaked with water from many of the world's most significant rivers, all with their own microbiological make up and stacked in triangular fashion, as if a quarter of an ancient pyramid. Heat and time, these reoccurring concerns, changes the clarity of the view, the intensity of the condensation or the possible and probable future development of algae and bacterial matter.
When entering the gallery the totems you first see are shallow mined stacked hexagons of salt from Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni. A place of striking aridity and countless travellers' photos playing with scale and a strange lack of context. For the country and its financial situation, even procuring salt from this area is complex but for foreign investors the area has been found to be rich in lithium and prised for its importance in batteries for mobile devices and other technological modern mores. The country, these natural resources and their depletion are a dis-balance of the haves and have nots playing out in a global sense. These piled columns give an idea of geological strata and human order, both suggesting a process and time at a planetary scale and an intervention and land grab characteristic of our more greedy and short sighted industrialised world.
http://parasol-unit.org/julian-charriere until March 23rd