25 April – 31 May 2003
British artist Darren Almond, known for his sculpture, films and photographs that reconfigure ideas of time and place and our subjective and emotional understanding of it, presented a body of new work for his White Cube exhibition 11 miles......from Safety.
Almond exhibited two powerful and arresting new films made on location at the world poles – Antarctica and the Arctic – as well as a new numerical and meridian sculpture that bisected the gallery. The Antarctic and the Arctic are locations already imprinted in a collective consciousness as the 'ends of the earth' and as the last pure wildernesses. They appear abstract, free from social and political formations, kind of a-cultural 'states of nature' and as such they might just preserve a utopic possibility.
Almond has often made work about his own particular journeys whereby the physical and geographic process remains indelible or inherent in the final objects themselves. In 2000, the artist undertook a transatlantic journey with a flip clock, the size and shape of a standard sea container, which continuously recorded Greenwich Mean Time despite its location at the time. The work was exhibited in New York, its final destination, and housed alone in a gallery, where the viewer was confronted by the momentous sound of every slowly ticking second, with each number crashing as the clock recorded the ineffable, and terrifying passage of time. Likewise, this exhibition elicited a kind of cognitive, geographical mapping, played out through the sculptural and aural possibilities of the gallery space. For Almond, the architectonic rendering of the two poles is a literal and precise metaphor – the south end of the gallery housed the Antarctica film, the north, the Arctic, and the sparse, electronic soundtracks of both works will create a perceptively physical experience, a journey both in and out of the various worlds.
Almond's haunting film of Antarctica has its own distinct ambience and formal rectitude. The film in itself is a kind of journey, echoing the different mental states that the artist experienced whilst on location, moving from a straightforward recording in the face of the immense and sheer physicality of the Antarctic (an arena condensed into pure elemental – solid, liquid and gas – where the latitude of human existence is removed) to a kind of blissed-out hallucinatory vision, a reversed and inverted recording of the liquid and limpid movement of ice floes, appearing like clouds, scudding across the screen and back again. At times, the picture dissolves into hazy and abstract clouds of shade and tone, appearing like a colour field painting with Antarctica becoming a huge, stained canvas.