With climate change standing as one of the most pressing, imminent issues facing our future, photography is being increasingly used as a catalyst to create the positive reaction required to instigate change. Project Pressure, a charity collaborating with leading international artists is stepping up to the challenge, using glaciers as they remain one of the key indicators of climate change.
This year Unseen Amsterdam will be collaborating with Project Pressure to present When Records Melt, an exhibition dedicated to raising environmental awareness through photography. French artist and Project Pressure member Noémie Goudal travelled to Glacier du Rhône in Switzerland in 2016. Her installation, produced on location, mirrors the uncertain glacial landscape around the world. With two weeks to go until this year’s event, we spoke to Noémie to find out more.
Can you talk us through your project. What was your initial idea and how did you bring it into being?
My initial idea was to use a material to create my installation that I would photograph, to use a material that was moving in time, a material that could decompose throughout the installation as well as the process. I used paper that is called hydro-soluble paper—paper that disintegrates with water. I went to the glacier, I photographed it and I came back and printed the photograph on this special paper. I then hung the work in the space and re-photographed it, pouring water onto the paper in the process, so it was disintegrating slowly throughout the performance.
And was the pressure quite high to get it right the first time?
Definitely. We also had to choose a day where the wind wasn’t too bad in order to keep the paper stable enough. Moreover, if it was disintegrating too much, then it wouldn’t have worked in the landscape and if there was too much of a difference between the lights of the actual landscape and the photograph that I printed that could be an issue. So, there were many different factors that made it really, really difficult. But at the end of the day, it’s a whole journey, a whole exploration, a whole adventure for only one image at the end.
You’re work in the past has always played with the viewer’s perspective, inviting the audience to constantly question what they are actually looking at. Is it important for you, for the audience to know how you created this installation or is it more the larger questions the work brings up that is really what you’re trying to aim at?
No, I think it’s important that the viewer knows or at least tries to understand how it’s been created. So they understand the journey, they understand the whole process. That’s also the reason why I usually print them quite large—I think it’s going to be about three metres in the show—so hopefully the viewer can see all the details and the fragility of the installation. That’s really important to me; that those details are really shown and that the viewer can really understand the whole process. or me, it’s also about the protagonist—which the viewer can become themselves—they can see every element.
Has working on the glacier changed your own personal perception of how we are looking after our planet and what we should be doing to preserve these phenomenally beautiful glaciers?
Yes, because it’s such a strong, solid landscape when you look at it, and with the knowledge that it is disintegrating, that sense of fragility comes back into play. It’s a giant, and knowing that it’s melting more year after year feels very wrong.
Unseen Amsterdam 2018 runs from the 21st to the 23rd of September. Check out our programme, get your tickets now and start planning your perfect Unseen experience.
Image: Rhône Glacier, Switzerland, Glacier du Rhône, 2016 © Noémie Goudal