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Marisa Wojcik - Gallery Visit

I went to visit the exhibition Journeys to Nowhere: Selections from the Collection at the Walker Art Center. The exhibition was a compilation of multiple pieces, all from different artists. The pieces were selected from the Walker Art Center Collection in their relation to a film by Perre Huyghe called A Journey That Wasn’t. Upon entering the exhibit there’s a small hallway that leads to an open room. A statement about the exhibit describes the film as inspiration and how it relates the various pieces to one another. In total there are eight works on display, six on the surrounding walls and two sculptures on the floor in the middle. While walking around the room exploring the pieces on display you can hear the loud rumblings of the film in the next room. This allows the viewer to get an extra sense and connection to the film before even viewing it. Through one wall is a corridor that leads to the large room to view the film.
As stated before, this particular exhibit was inspired by the film A Journey That Wasn’t. The broad theme of journeys and what they mean is apparent in the exhibit. In descriptions of the exhibit and specific works within it, certain key words/phrases expand upon this idea including: ambiguous destinations, discovery, grand visions, desire to experience and impulse to question the world. Overall the works “literally and symbolically explore far-off places.? A piece that takes up the whole left wall of the exhibit is comprised of ten photographs. Titled Horizon 1°-10° Land, by Jan Dibbets, every photograph in the piece is of the same horizon line, “diagonally oriented where sky meets land.? The first photograph is a thin, vertical blue wedge and undistinguishable as a horizon. With each photograph the angle increases by 1°, making the wedges bigger and bigger and the image more recognizable as a horizon line as the viewer progresses. The process of discovery from the abstract to identifiable is presented. Another piece titled Selection from Carta Faminta (Starving Letters) by Rivane Neuenshwander is composed of paperboard, glass, and Chinese rice paper eaten by snails. Some areas of the paper are completely eaten away at, while others are virtually untouched. From a little bit of a distance, the paper looks like a geographical map of a landscape. The process of mapping out a new and unchartered territory takes a sense of exploration and adventure. I thought there were many parallels between this idea of exploration and the work of Thomas Joshua Cooper. The inspiration for his photographs stems from the plights of great historical explorers. In addition, his process of obtaining the photograph, documenting and producing the same sensations and emotions the explorer might have felt, is a journey in itself.
The 20 minute film that the exhibit is based around has two parts. The first part is a journey to the Antarctic Circle by seven artists and ten crewmembers. Due to global warming, ice has been receding in this area, uncovering new islands and ecosystems. Traveling by ship, the month-long expedition’s goal was to locate one of these unknown islands, said to inhabit the only known albino penguin for the purpose of connecting and communicating with it. Once there, the artists and crew set up a single light (in the form of a large globe) that would blink in sync with sound. The sound used resembled that of Morse code designed to interpret the physical form of the island into an audible form, the idea being that when animals communicate with one another, it is in a form that reflects nature. They wanted to see how the penguin would interact with this light and sound system. The second part of the film is footage from the dramatic reenactment of the team’s journey. The performances, which took place in Central Park in New York City, recreate the feelings and emotions of the journey using elements such as light, sculpture, ice, fog, and most importantly sound. The musical score, based on the island’s topography and similar to that played to the penguin, was performed by a live orchestra. The film, while following the vents of a journey that actually occurred, also acts as an open-ended allegory. There’s a brief and vague narration by the artist in the beginning, but the rest of the film is shots of the imperial Antarctic landscape and the culminated Manhattan performances. Although it is never overtly explained how the penguin reacted to the light/sound system, the artist described the film as a narrative of a “tragic odyssey.?
I personally enjoyed the exhibit very much and would recommend it to friends. I think it translates well to most audiences. The subject matter and the main idea of an expedition is show in both tangible and intangible forms. The film has a mysterious quality to it, leaving the viewer to fill in the blanks for themselves or explore more information behind it. The additional pieces in the exhibit add more depth and exploration to the theme presented by the film. I liked how all the works, but most predominantly the film, don’t dwell on conclusions and outcomes but more on the wisdom gained in the sole act of undertaking such a challenging journey.

Images from film: