Ulluq: encountering the north by Thea Augustina

My solo show at Cazenovia College in upstate New York opened today. The following are photos from the installation that includes a new sculpture piece and digital c-prints from the 'It Is Never Tomorrow' series.

There are 15 photographs and the sculpture piece is duck cloth, cotton rope, and dowel wood.

Nautical flags each stand for a letter of the alphabet as well as a phrases such as 'man over board' and 'fire onboard'. I used them here to spell out 'Oh death whare is thy sting', which was taken from a personal journal found by one of the John Franklin Expedition search parties out on the ice. The phrase was the final entry discovered next to numerous human bones. And yes, it is supposed to be 'whare' as this was an older form of English.

Jen Pepper, curator of the gallery and professor at Cazenovia college was wonderful to work with and has curated some very interesting, critical thinking shows for the past few years in the space. It has been a pleasure to work with her and her students in setting up this show.

Solo show and new moves by Thea Augustina

I have not written in a few months. This is partly due to moving back to the U.S. from Denmark in August and settling back in. I am now in Pittsburgh awaiting my next adventure.

Next week I install a solo show up at Cazenovia College's Art & Design School gallery in New York. Ulluq: Encountering the North opens September 30, with a gallery talk at 5pm, and runs until October 30. There are 16 photographs from my 'It Is Never Tomorrow' series and a new sculpture piece in the show, the latter I am finishing as I write. The sculpture piece involves sails, roping and nautical flags. I am really keen on the sails and have a lot of new ideas for incorporating them into my work a lot more. I will post some photographs next week.

by Thea Augustina

I am reading a book about norwegian and danish trappers and the huts they built in Northeast Greenland from the early 1900's through mid 1950's called North-East Greenland 1908-60: The Trapper Era The author, Peter Schmidt Mikkelsen, assisted in forming a group, Nanok, to deem the huts historically relevant and to do upkeep on them. Some huts are still used for overnight stays by the danish Sirius sledge patrol, who keep watch over Northeast Greenland. The stories are very fascinating and include historical accounts of each hut or station and quotes from the various trappers' diaries who overwintered there. Most trappers didn't spend more than 2 or 3 seasons in Greenland. But as the diary entries reveal, Northeast Greenland left quite an impression upon them.

The book is full of old photographs and newly documented photographs of the same places. Let's just say there were quite a lot of trapper huts up there. And this includes the territorial wars between the norwegians and danes. And then the german nazis who secretly created a few weather stations during the WW2. The author includes charts of how many foxes, polar bear, walrus and wolves were trapped over the decades, number of huts that were built each year, number of trappers who died at each hut, and how much money was made each year from the catch.

The book is very well written and I highly recommend it!


Angalavaa: The Collections by Thea Augustina

Collection: Objects of a particular form, things accumulated, group of objects meant to be kept together

One part of my Angalavaa series are the Collections: objects, letters, documents, commercials, etc found in the Arktisk Institut's archive. I photographed almost every item I looked at or translated.

The archive is organized by specific persons, both famous like Achton Friis or regular citizens who donated their family's personal archive, expeditions such as the Danmark Ekspeditionen, or organizations and government agencies such at the Royal Greenland Trade Company.

I tried to organize these photographed items into my own collections such as varde notes, or cairn notes, that were retrieved from cairns found mainly in Northwest to North to Northeast Greenland. And personal correspondences.

Maps and memorabilia and quirky things such as mosquitoes smashed inbetween two pages and water damaged papers.

More to follow in the coming days.

Artist Statement for Angalavaa: An Archive Tale by Thea Augustina

‘There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin. You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.’ -Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life

This quote defines how the arctic found me: in a state of curiosity that I had to follow. Starting with American arctic explorer Robert Peary’s photographs from the 1900’s, I became fascinated with the explorers and Arctic disasters and from there to all that was found, lost or returned from the Arctic: the ‘polar archive’. The Arktisk Institut became a pausing point for this archived realm. It carried weight: persons, locations, events, and their aftershocks. Each was not my own memory, but rather an archived memory left for others to learn about.

‘Modern memory is above all, archival. It relies entirely on the materiality of the trace, the immediacy of the record, the visibility of the record.’ -- Pierre Nora’s Les Lieux de Memoire.

The Arktisk Institut forms an intertextual framework for the friction and exchanges that occurred between Denmark, Greenland and the arctic: recorded through personal diaries, photographs, catalogues of Eskimo/Inuit dialects, and much more. They are textures from a common language, forming the archive's theoretical and visual environment: the nonlinear narrative about the Danish encountering the Arctic.

‘…Translation does not become inauthentic because it employs a different language from the original…. There is a significant difference between speaking about other cultures and presuming to speak for them.’ --John Mack’s essay Exhibiting Cultures Revised: Translation and Representation

The psychology behind basements and attics revolves around memory, the forgotten and the imagination: Strange that these spaces are where we normally keep our archives. And history is impatient; it is always ready to collect more and more. We can discuss how archived items retain their value and significance over time but we can only experience this observation by actually opening the archive doors. By lessening the distance between it and us. Every time we open the archive, we must strive to find how it has changed.

‘A memoryscape is constructed by people’s mental images of the environment, with particular emphasis on locations as remembered places. When one relates to the landscape as a memoryscape it becomes alive, meaningful, and personal and embeds person, places and activities in the rivers of history….Memoryscape is often felt rather than verbalized.’ --Mark Nuttal’s Arctic Homeland: Kinship community and development in Northwest Greenland

My approach at the Arctic Institute was not like that of an academic researcher out to gather facts about a specific person and then place them into historical or theoretical context. I did not want to concentrate on one subject or ‘document’ in the traditional manner. Rather I investigated as an artist all aspects of the archive’s contents: I saw browns, ochres, indigo blues and grays. Waterlogged paper, handmade bindings, frayed edges, crinkled flags and smooth paper. They were followed by names such as Rink, Freuchen, and Mikkelsen: Thule, fangersang, and Nansen’s map. I wanted to ‘bring history back to life, giving it a second level of existence’ (Pierre Nora). Sadly these were traces of an arctic that no longer exists.

‘The past becomes a way for people to navigate within and make sense of the present as well as a way to formulate visions.’ ----Frank Sejersen’s essay Horizons of Sustainability in Greenland: Inuit Landscapes of Memory and Vision

This is where the photographs and drawings stem from: my experience navigating someone else’s documented memory. I am an American born in this period, and so a level of inaccessibility will always exist. But within this distance we find emotion: melancholia and fantastic humor within History’s stories to counterbalance the coldness. An alternative memory manifests. My photographs are the archive, sitting in darkness. The photographic collections are gathered-history’s contents. The drawings are the contents seen from a different view: cairns and boats, flags and buildings, books and papers. My figures are sometimes dragging, waiting, carrying, and sometimes encountering. All is not history recorded. Rather they are memory retained from looking and touching, reading and translating, digesting and re-transfiguring. Angalavaa, wandering through the archive.

Angalavaa: An Archive Tale opening, through May 29 by Thea Augustina

Thursday was the opening of my Angalavaa: An Archive Tale Exhibition at the Arktisk Institut. We had a nice turnout given that the Arktisk Institut is not used to hosting this type of event. The show is comprised of 10 ink/watercolor drawings and 13 lightjet print photographs. The show continues through May 29.

Arktisk Institut entrance

Bent Nielsen, Director of Arktisk Institut, giving an introduction to the show

Me discussing and answering questions about the concepts and inspiration behind my seven month project at the Institute.

Angalavaa: An Archive Tale by Thea Augustina

Arktisk Institut præsenterer Angalavaa: An Archive Tale- fotografier og tegninger af den Amerikanske kunstner Thea Augustina Eck. Med inspiration fra syv måneders studier i instituttets arkiver udforsker Eck med sine værker arkivernes indhold, særlige placering og æstetik.

Udstillingens titel, Angalavaa, er et grønlandsk ord, der betyder ‘rejse gennem noget’. Eck kombinerer sine erfaringer fra arkivet med et synspunkt, der bedst kan beskrives med den franske historiker Pierre Noras ord: ‘Erindringen...lagrer kun de kendsgerninger, der passer den; og den giver næring til minder, der kan være perifere og teleskopiske, globale eller løsrevne, specifikke eller symbolske.’ Resultatet er muntre, eftertænksomme, fiktive og dokumentariske kunstneriske udtryk.

Angalavaa: An Archive Tale vises fra 14. April - 29. Maj, mandag-fredag, kl. 9.00 - 15.00 på Arktisk Institut, Strandgade 102, København.

Velkommen til reception 16. april, kl. 17.00 - 19.00, hvor Thea Augustina Eck vil være til stede og diskutere sine værker og den kunstneriske proces med publikum.

Udstillingen er sponsoreret af the American-Scandinavian Foundation, the Roth Endowment, the Public Affairs Section of the United States Embassy og Arktisk Instituts gæstfrihed.