‘For They That Sow The Wind’
The works in this show all deal with aspects of our impact on the environment but what links them is the concern with time and the transformations it produces, whether occurring naturally or through human intervention. I was interested in seeing how Julian Charrière uses a range of media and forms to explore this.
The first work was Future Fossil Spaces 2014, constructed from salt bricks extracted from a deposit in Bolivia. This area is known for its lithium – an element essential now for the batteries that power electronic devices. The material is recognisably natural, with stripes of colour created by nature, but here cut out, displaced and ordered into a geometric, man-made structure. The colour and texture of the salt is so dominant that I thought the other elements – the enamelled basins filled with water and the plaster section of the base – looked rather insubstantial by comparison, although presumably the water in the shallow basins could dissolve the salt. The salt of the pillars and paving is fragile in the face of both nature (the water) and man (the demand for lithium). One way or another this environment cannot stay the same.
In the next room, a set of photographs, Polygon 2015, and a film, Somewhere 2014, were made in a region in Kazakhstan, Semipalatinsk, where the Soviet Union conducted over 450 nuclear tests in the 1950s to 90s.
The film is a long slow pan around the site, showing the devastation wreaked on a landscape where nothing can survive. Everything has been reduced to a stony scrub.
The photographs were ‘double exposed through thermonuclear strata’: the negatives of photographs of structures were re-exposed to irradiated dust or soil that Charrière collected from the site. So the random blotches of light were created as an additional layer of information on the negative. The negatives are kept now in lead tubes, which sat beneath each photograph.
Taken together the film and the photographs illustrate the effect of nuclear explosions in compressing and then expanding time. The explosions speed time up: everything changes, literally at a sub-atomic level, at the moment of explosion, leaving a level of destruction that would otherwise have taken aeons. But then time slows right down as the environment needs long years, decades to recover, during which the natural cycles of growth and renewal are absent.
We Are All Astronauts 2013 is a collection of globes floating over a table; the surface of the table is covered in the dust created within the surface of each globe was sanded. The planet is strangely recognisable, even with the surface blurred or completely destroyed. We’ve all now seen it from outer space, as the title says.
Finally, Tropisme 2015 comprises 4 glass cases, each containing what looks like a wax plant, with what looks like engraving on the glass. In fact, these were plants ‘shock-frozen’ and then kept refrigerated. The ‘engravings’ were ice crystals forming on the inside of the sealed cases. The plants were varieties known to have existed 65 million years ago, in the Cretaceous period. They will continue to exist forming a connection with the deep past, but only as long as humans keep them frozen and look after them.
The future of these specimens and by extension the whole planet is in our hands.