We recommend putting on this track first before diving into Ester Vonplon’s latest series, a unique, collaborative mix of sight and sound—
Ester Vonplon’s expedition to the Arctic is the last part in her trilogy about ice, snow, and the qualities of an elementary nature without people, society or culture. The photographs, drawings and sound recordings in the project create an abstract thinking space of tranquility, which offers the audience neither a concrete context nor a clear premise. Freedom and opportunity confront insecurity and instability, and everything is accompanied by the individual’s fear of an unmapped terrain, where sudden occurrences can lead to either death or liberation.
Vonplon’s work is infused with a deep, subdued melancholy—she is sensitive to the mysterious, primal essence of nature, and this understanding is evident in her work. Yet she is not in search of a paradise lost: in her work, nature is austere and at times threatening, imposing itself on a humanity evoked by ghostly silhouettes and fragile traces. It reveals her acute awareness of the impermanence of our world and an obsession with disappearance.
The photographs in Vonplon’s project reveal a vanishing world. They divulge a desperate attempt to counteract the effects of climate change. The tripartite project is composed of Gletscherfahrt (“Glacial Movement”), from 2013; Wohin geht all das Weiss, Wenn der Schnee schmilzt (“Where All The White Goes When The Snow Melts”), created between 2013 and 2014; and Wie viel Zeit bleibt der Endlichkeit (“How Much Time Remains of Finitude”), her most recent work from 2016.
Vonplon developed this trilogy as part of a collaboration with the musician Stephan Eicher; this latest work is accompanied by music from the duo Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer. She considers her trilogy a requiem for the natural world that is slowly slipping away.
Editors’ note: The opening week of Les Rencontres d’Arles will run from July 3 to July 9. Exhibitions will continue until September 24, 2017. Vonplon was shortlisted for this year’s New Discovery Award, and her work will be exhibited by Stephan Witschi Gallery at the Atelier de la Mécanique.
Also, if you are coming to Arles, don’t miss the Voies Off Festival, which for over 20 years has offered an inspiring alternative program focused on a new generation of artists and photographers.