Nuuk Island_LOST IN FATHOMS _2014

15 shadowgrams, HD Video

Nuuk Island from Anais Tondeur on Vimeo.

Lost in Fathoms Book, read here

Selection from the 15 shadowgrammes

Shadowgram, 15x24cm, Giclee print on Hahnemuhle paper


Bringing together laboratory research and field trips, this project explores the causes involved in the sudden disappearance of Nuuk Island. The evidence drawn up over the course of this investigation is presented in the form of a series of installations and shadowgraphic images. Through a narrative structure at the junction of the real and the fiction, this pieces challenge our perception of oceanic and geologic time scales and of humanity’s impact on the earth’s systems.

Nuuk Island occupied a fictional territory. It had been found by chance, in a reflection, in the middle of time. Despite its modest size, the island was a headland. From there, one could look upon reality. One could observe the great natural phenomena and how they had unfolded over time. The island was at the intersection between several shifting movements: some sudden (an earthquake, a landslide or a wave), others that had arisen over centuries (ocean circulations), and others still, so slow their motion had remained imperceptible (wandering plates).

Yet, when the Nuuk Island disappeared, we slowed down time to observe the forces at play over the island, we gave voice to the elements that formed it, we questionned the impact of anthropogenic actions on those forces that seemed inalterable, but whose fragile equilibrium reveals its sensitive dynamic.

Indeed, the island disappeared at the very moment at which the 34th International Congress, in 2012, was attempting to define the end of the Holocene. This geological epoch, which commenced around 10,000 years ago – and now substituted with the Anthropocene (from the Greek anthropos, “human”): “age of mankind”. This new term suggests that human activities have a geologic impact that, like a volcanic eruption, alters the planet in an untold but definitive way. Humankind has become a telluric force, a determining agent in the geological evolution of the earth to the point that a new human-made stratum has emerged in geological records. The traces of our time on the planet, the imprints of our industrial, urban and consumerist societies will persist in the earth’s geological archives for thousands, if not millions of years to come.

Consequently, in this period of unprecedented acceleration, the human timescale can no longer be viewed as distinct from the timescale of the earth system. Was the disappearance of Nuuk Island also the result of a temporal singularity, a collision between the timescale of mankind and that of the oceans or continental drift?

This project has involved the geologic and oceanographic international community. It was developed during a one year artist-in-residence at the Hydrodynamics Laboratory, LadHyX (CNRS, Ecole Polytechnique, France) and continued during Summer School 2014 of Fluid Dynamics of Sustainability and the Environment in Cambridge, UK.

This project is the fruit of a collaboration between Anaïs Tondeur and Jean-Marc Chomaz. It was developed during an artist in residency at the LadHyX, Hydrodynamics Laboratory, Ecole Polytechnique (France) and during the Summer School 2014, Fluid Dynamics of Sustainability and the Environment in Cambridge, UK).

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