Looking for Hyperborea ‘There snows and frost are banished; and, sailing over a calm sea, we may be wafted to a land surpassing in wonders and in beauty every region hitherto discovered on the habitable globe.’ Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818) (Oxford University Press 1969), p.15.
'Looking for Hyperborea' is a research project through which I am exploring the mythical place of Hyperborea and it is the findings of this exploration that I propose to present at Sensuous Knowledge. As a visual artist I mainly use film as a means to develop this research and I would like to present the films I have made in relation to Hyperborea to open up questions around this idea.
Through these films I propose to question the following
an imagined place
a place that could be impossible
a place that is a metaphor
a place yet to be discovered
Hyperborea is a place in Greek mythology of infinite beauty, beyond the cold and dark, a paradise where the sun never sets, a place behind the north wind (Boreas), hence the name Hyperborea (beyond the wind). In his book The Idea of North Peter Davidson introduces Hyperborea as a place peopled by a race devoted to the god Apollo, the sun-god. He says:
'In the regions beyond the land of the Celts there is an island in the ocean, beyond the North Pole, inhabited by people who are called Hyperboreans because they live beyond the origin of the north wind.
My interest in this myth began when I visited the village of Kjøllefjord in 2008 in Finnmark, northern Norway. Here I made a film The Hyperborean(2009, duration 7:42 HD) that was filmed in a wind farm at around midnight at the height of the summer. The sun skims the horizon before rising again. The main character (an eleven year old girl) wears a rabbit suit throughout and walks through the wind farm; neither adult nor child, she is somewhere in between. This film concerns transformation and the edges of things, the boundaries between one state and another.
The Hyperboreanwas first shown at the 11thIstanbul Biennial in 2009 as part of the Sheffield Pavilion. Further screenings were at Sierra Metro Gallery, Edinburgh, 2009 and the Showroom Cinema, Sheffield, 2010..
In late February 2012 I travelled to Vadsø in north Norway and made a film To Hyperborea (2012, duration 7:33 HD). This film acts as a sequel to The Hyperborean and includes images of the long journey north by four different planes and ends with images of a tower in Vadsø used in the early 20th Century to tether Zeppelins before two attempted flights to the North Pole.1 This structure was a powerful reminder of an era that encapsulated the nature of adventure, of the strangeness of the early flying machines and of journeys by intrepid explorers. The film explores my thoughts around the romanticism of flight, of uncharted territories, of adventurers and the journeys into what was to many people at the beginning of the 20th Century, 'The Unknown'.
Using my two films as a starting point, it is my thoughts around 'place' in relation to 'The Unknown' and the position that art can take as a form of exploration that I would like to develop further and present for discussion at Sensuous Knowledge: Ta(l)king Place.
1 To Hyperboreawas screened at Kino Babylon, Berlin (June 2012) as part of Tegel: Flights of Fancy,a video programme of works that respond to the planned closure of Berlin's Tegel Airport. This was hosted by Verein zur Förderung von Kunst und Kultur am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz.
Chloë Brown is a visual artist using film, sculpture, taxidermy and drawing in her practice. She is Course Leader of Fine Art BA at Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK and is also a member of The Research Group for Artists Publications (RGAP). Recent exhibitions include: The Hum, LoBe Gallery, Berlin and Sheffield Institute of the Arts Gallery, Sheffield (2011), Isola di San Michele,Basement Gallery, Vienna, Austria(2011), Video Screening at The International Seminar on Art and Nature, Goethe Institute, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2011), AbbaraCadabra,Mardin, Turkey (2010),Aller à Ouessant: Vidéo sur L'Île # 2,Festival of video art on the island of Ouessant , France (2010), The Animal Gaze, Unit 2 Gallery, London and The Roland Levinsky Gallery, Plymouth (2009), Tier-Perspektiven at Georg-Kolbe-Museum, Berlin (2009) and she was commissioned to create a film for the Sheffield Pavilion at the Istanbul Biennial (2009).