Julian Charrière is a French-Swiss artist who often travels to the Arctic and Antarctic to observe humankind’s connection to otherworldly environments.
On view at SFMOMA, Charrière transformed the museum’s seventh floor level into a frozen tundra filled with brooding sculptures and wall-to-wall film installations. Entitled Erratic, the artist flips the narrative of the often picturesque polar regions, whose towering white glaciers and crystal blue seas, are replaced by a haunted glacial landscape.
In a 104-minute immersive film called Towards No Earthly Pole (2019), Charrière used drone technology to film night footage along various locations in the French Alps, Greenland Arctic and Antarctic. Accompanied by an ambient soundtrack that oscillates between crackling noises and silence, the film distorts visitors perception of space and hints at humankind’s possible future amidst the changes in climate.
“Towards No Earthly Pole positions you in a strange, otherworldly nightscape with no clear orientation. You feel erratic, not quite knowing where to go and where you are,” said SFMOMA curator, Rudolf Frieling.
“Under your feet, in the ice sheet, you have all these tiny air bubbles that trap particles of former atmosphere. That means that under you, you have the full memory of the sky. And this memory, with the world getting hotter and hotter, is melting away as the memory of the sky will fade away,” said Charrière in a statement.
Erratics, which the title of the show alludes to, are rocks carried by glaciers over a great distance. Charrière collected several erratic objects and inserted precious metals in the areas where the rocks broke during the extraction method of core-drilling. His erratic sculptures probe into human intervention within the geological system throughout history and our dependence and exploitation of Earth’s natural resources — which is further demonstrated in the way time periods are framed — from the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Stone Age, and Silicon Age.
“The reality that we take for granted is falling apart, becoming erratic and unpredictable,” the artist noted, adding that “an increased belief in science cannot be achieved without a cultural parallel: There is need for an art which helps to give sense to facts.”
Erratic marks the artist’s first exhibition on the West Coast and will be on view at SFMOMA until May 14, 2023.
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