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ARTIST STATEMENT ON POLAR REGIONS

photograph by Roberta HoldenAustral Wanderings
The albatross is a symbol of perpetual movement; it spends its entire life circling the Antarctic continent, setting foot on land only to breed. In spite of this relentless motion, the movement of its body is barely perceptible. It glides gracefully, effortlessly, carried on the currents of air. It is effectively still (even through the fiercest storm), while the world moves beneath it.

Motion and stillness are matters of perception. Whether the motion is visible to the human eye or occurs at a glacial or geological pace beyond the human lifespan, the signatures of relative speed are frequently the same. The thrust of a mountain range mirrors the breaking waves in an agitated sea; a calm ocean and a sprawling ice field belie their underlying movement.

The perceived stillness or motion of external spaces can have a profound effect on the tranquility or activity of internal landscapes. This can be experienced as the sense of peace and calm, solitude or loneliness that can be created by remote, expansive spaces or the energizing quality of challenging terrain or conditions. This work explores both the transience of landscape and the experience of stillness and motion in a moving world.

These images are also an expression of my own ‘geographical imagination’. Remote and rugged regions, such as the Antarctic, are often represented in terms of ‘conquest’ or the ‘heroism of man against nature’. This viewpoint requires that the self be constructed in opposition to the environment. I see place, not as something to gaze upon from a distance or to master, but rather, as space that is inseparable from the self. The ways in which a sailboat moves through water or the climber or skier move through the mountains can be as fluid as the motion of the albatross over the waves. Neither intrudes upon the other, they act as one.

To be able to interact in such a way with space requires extensive knowledge of the environment with which we engage. Knowledge and understanding of place allow us to react intuitively to predictable changes and adapt to those that are unexpected. The rigidity of contemporary forms of interaction with place is not only unsustainable; it causes us to lose sight of the incredible diversity and subtleties of our surroundings.

The Antarctic ecosystem, like every environment, is constantly changing. These images represent the natural state of change: a system in balance. Balance is not a static state, but a dynamic relationship where every change is mirrored by an equal and opposite transformation. A circle is the symbol of change in a number of eastern traditions. I would suggest that the circle is present throughout this work: from the path of the albatross’s circumnavigation of the globe to the path of a particle of water within a wave. It exists in the successful return journey to climb a mountain and in the unbroken line of the horizon. The circle can also be found in the cyclical experience of seasonality and diurnal patterns, produced by the revolution and rotation of the earth.

The Antarctic continent is uniquely important to the discussion of change. It is here that the earth’s oldest historical archives lie locked in the ice. The record of human history, seen as a layer in an ice core sample, like the rings of a tree, occupies only a relatively tiny sliver in the chronology of the life of the earth. Yet it is this layer that shows the most profound changes. This series allows us to view the rich austral landscape from the perspective of its solitary wanderers. We can also see, however, that unbalanced change enacted by man can quickly transform Baudelaire’s majestic “rois de l’azur” into something “maladroit et honteux”, “gauche et veule”.

POLAR EXPERIENCE
  • 2002 – two months sailing and climbing along the Antarctic Peninsula with an
    independent, international team of professional sailors and climbers
  • 2007 – one month climbing and sailing along the Antarctic Peninsula
  • 2007 – one month independent work on Baffin Island– Pangnirtung, Auyuittuq
    Mountains, Cape Dorset, Iqaluit
  • 2003 - glaciological fieldwork on the Juneau Icefield with the Foundation for
    Glaciological and Environmental Research
  • Undergrad degree in Geography, with a focus in glaciology, atmospheric science and
    Arctic studies
  • Numerous mountaineering expeditions in Alaska and the Yukon.
  • Sailing in the Aleutian Islands
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Roberta Holden
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Web: www.nobarriersphotography.com
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