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Spitsbergen: Kuba Bąkowski
October 4, 2019 - October 14, 2019
Kuba Bąkowski will be creating his latest project, Ursa Major 77°0′ N / 15°33′ E, at the Polish Polar Station. The station is located on the Hornsund fjord, which is situated on Spitsbergen Island, on the northern side of Isbjørnhamna Bay, and Bąkowski will be joining the final polar research team of 2019 there in October.
Ursa Major 77°0′ N / 15°33′ E is a site-specific project. The polar station and its surroundings will serve as both stage and material for the work, which will involve creating an installation of lights that will map the positions of the nineteen stars constituting the Great Bear constellation as faithfully as possible. The process of creating the illuminated object will be carried out in the presence of Bąkowski’s camera as a kind of performance art piece. It will be possible to follow the work-in-progess-cum-performance on Instagram, and on the project’s Facebook page, at @KubaBakowski.UrsaMajor. The final outcome will be a large- scale photographic object.
For centuries now, the Great Bear has fired human imaginings of the North and the envisioning of Voyaging and the Unknown which are associated with it. In Bąkowski’s work, the figure becomes a kind of homage to the generations of travellers-cum-explorers who have gone into the unknown of the Svalbard archipelago and the main island there, Spitsbergen. At the same time, it will relate to the global climate changes observed in recent years and to their impact on the delicate interspecies balance in the Arctic. For the polar bear, which stands at the head of that particular food chain, those changes are so dramatic that the survival of the population is under threat.
Polar bears wander near the Polish Polar Station throughout the year and, on numerous occasions, they cross its grounds. Bąkowski’s installation will be composed to fit in with the landscape in a way which will allow those observing his project to imagine a huge, real, white bear heading along the shoreline of Hornsund fjord in the direction of the mountain ridges surrounding the station.
Kuba Bąkowski has been travelling in the far-flung regions of the North for several years. He has made his voyages as a participant in an expedition on Svalbard organised by the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geophysics as a photographer carrying out a project on the shore of Great Bear Lake, in the only settlement there, which is home to the indigenous people of the Sahtu Dene First Nations, and as an artist-in-residence at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture in Dawson City, on the East Bank of the Yukon River. He will be creating Ursa Major 77°0′ N / 15°33′ E during his second visit to the Polish Polar Station on Spitsbergen.
Kuba Bąkowski’s artistic practice combines questions from various fields of science, anthropology, natural history, ecology and art. In his projects, contemporary reality is a place where the borders between nature and technology and between biological beings and mechanical creatures evanesce. It is a place where our perception is shaped in collision with phenomena permeating and coexisting in what are outwardly opposing orders. Bąkowski’s individual projects and works for group exhibitions have been shown at the Zachęta National Gallery of Art, the Foksal Gallery and the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, all in Warsaw, and in institutions all over the world, including the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig in Vienna, Musée d’Art Moderne in Saint-Étienne, Artspace Sydney, the National Centre for Contemporary Arts in Moscow, Palazzo delle Arti Napoli, the Chelsea Art Museum in New York and the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh.