The following five photographs depict arctic seasides (and Antarctic shorelines?), and were taken by Richard Misrach last year and this year.* They are reminiscent of Misrash’s earlier “desert” photographs although man’s imprint on arctic seasides (and Antarctic shorelines) has been becoming clearer only over the last few years, while humankind has been impacting the deserts for eons.
Misrach’s Homepage at artnet’s Artist Works Catalogues contains a quotation from him about his pre-1990’s desert photographs which also applies to his arctic/Antarctic photographs below.
“As interesting and provocative as…cultural geography might be, the desert may serve as the backdrop for the problematic relationship between man and the environment. The human struggle, the successes and failures, the use and abuse, both noble and foolish, are readily apparent in the desert. Symbols and relationships seem to arise that stand for the human condition itself. It is a simple, if almost incomprehensible equation: the world is as terrible as it is beautiful, but when you look more closely, it is as beautiful as it is terrible. We must maintain constant vigilance, to protect the world from ourselves, and to embrace the world as it exists.
--Richard Misrach, Desert Cantos (University of New Mexico Press, 1987)”**
When I first saw the series which contains these images, I thought Misrach had left out something very obvious. Namely, photographs of some of the scientific research stations which dot the ice around both our planet’s poles. Almost inevitably, I felt, these stations convey the inadequacy of mankind’s present efforts to deal with global warming.
But upon reflection, I concluded that the artist probably considers the missions of these research stations to be mankind’s best hope for dealing with the climate change problem. And he refrained from photographing the stations at all, in order to not convey the impression that he was critical of their missions.
*Footnote: Four previous OEN articles of mine featuring the photography of Richard Misrach can be found here. In its opening paragraph, this article from February, 2009, contains three click-ons to my three previous OEN articles featuring Misrach’s photography.
** All words in quotation marks are courtesy of Richard Misrach and Fraenkel Gallery, Pace/MacGill Gallery, and Marc Selwin Fine Art. All the images are courtesy of that individual and those institutions, as well as courtesy of artnet and its Artist Works Catalogues. At its AWC, there is this, “artnet offers these catalogues free to the public as an educational resource. Simply click on an individual artist's image to begin, and check back often to browse new catalogues.”