During my sabbatical from teaching and administrative work as an Associate Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Regina I travelled to Svalbard, in the Arctic, for two very different artist residencies.
In June 2017 I spent three sleepless weeks during the time of the unsetting Midnight Sun aboard a tall-ship with 30 artist and scientists. We sailed around the western and northern coasts of the archipelago, visiting the fjords and glaciers and hiking so carefully across the rocky moraines and fragile tundra.
Still exhausted, in January and February 2018 I returned to Svalbard, but now during the time of the unrising sun; Polar Night. I was an Artist in Residence with Galleri Svalbard, the northernmost contemporary art gallery in the world, in the northernmost civil settlement on the planet. On my own, then, I felt that if the farthest I ventured was the roof of the gallery, it would be far enough.
I spent this time standing on that roof in the midst of day/night, all the dusk and twilight and night and aurora, day after day, for weeks, just standing. Looking. Being one who practices standing in the comfort of the dark.
All images are from the Practicing Standing series of documented performances in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, 2018.
Horowitz will hold a solo exhibition of works based on her arctic research from November 8, 2018 - December 31, 2018 at Galleri Svalbard in Longyearbyen. Text by Risa Horowitz.
Of course…we should all always be happier elsewhere than where we happen to be.
There are reasons people venture to the farthest reaches of this planet, leave their homes to locate themselves in places like Longyearbyen, with its feeling of otherworldliness and conflicted sense of isolation.
Here; pouring rain in January
Here; where ninety-one straight months of warmer-than-normal temperatures
Here; where human waste flows into the fjord
Here; where we are proud to know how to operate rifles in case we need to kill polar bears
Here; where we imagine we are greater than we are and are reminded constantly that we are not
Here; where we knowingly colonize a(n other) place unfit for human survival
Here; where we have no choice but to be uniquely resilient and self-reliant, and to rely on one another…strangers though we may be
Here; where the waxing twilight shakes us from the shelter of the dark polar night