Exercise 2 Developing your research skills
Before looking at Vatnajökull, I took a glance at all of Katie’s work and noticed that is deeply connected with such themes as place, time, space, nature, science, history and technology. I can easily see from the images and the statements how much research and attention to detail are put behind each piece. Vatnajökull is no different. This is the largest glacier in Iceland, covering 8% of the country, and one of the largest in Europe. In addition, the Vatnajökull National Park is the largest protected area in Europe.
It is to this glacier that Katie connects us to via a phone number. A microphone is lead to the glacier’s lagoon, connected to an amplifier and then to a mobile-phone. More than 10,000 people, both visitors of the gallery and people elsewhere, called and had a live conversation with Vatnajökull.
This piece is site-specific, meaning that is was created for a specific location and that it depends on that location to give it its meaning. It is also a time-based piece because it was a live event that depended on technology. It is also sound art because it uses sound as its medium and its subject. The final artwork includes the neon sign of the number, three photographs of the glacier, a book with the 10,000 phone numbers that called during the exhibition, and a sound recording.
Like most of her work, Vatnajökull relates to place because it actually uses place as a medium. As viewers, but mostly listeners, people were able to have a conversation with the actual glacier. This connected people with the place both literally and on a deeper level, making them feel like they were personally interacting with the glacier and what it was “saying”; the piece would be completely different if the sounds were available without having to call, as it would lose some of that personal connection.
Even though I’ve never been to Iceland and much less to Vatnajökull, I did stand before some other glaciers, including Alaska’s Hubbard Glacier. I could see and hear the explosions of ice as the big chunks melted, crashed down, and floated away. This same image comes to mind as I listen to Vatnajökull. The neon sign with the number, almost like an advertisement, urges me to call. Not only can I connect to the physical place of Vatnajökull, but also to all those people from all over the world that called, to the act of listening, to the feeling of losing something that is far away from you, and to the other glaciers of the world that are also melting.
Paterson, K. (n.d) Katie Paterson, Vatnajokull (the sound of). At: http://katiepaterson.org/vatnajokull (Accessed on 27 December 2016)
East Wing Biennal. (n.d) Katie Paterson, Vatnajokull (the sound of), 2007. At: http://eastwingbiennial.org/post/74002449378/katie-paterson-vatnaj%C3%B6kull-the-sound-of-2007 (Accessed on 27 December 2016)
Tate.org.uk. (n.d). Site-specific, Sound art, Time-based media. At: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary (Accessed on 27 December 2016)
Guide to Iceland. (n.d). Vatnajökull | Guide to Iceland. At: https://guidetoiceland.is/travel-iceland/drive/vatnajokull (Accessed on 27 December 2016)