Art does not reproduce the visible but makes visible.
– Paul Klee
2012 brought many surprises but none as spectacular as a trip to Sweden to hunt down less than 100 photographs born during an 1897 ill-fated expedition to the north pole and wrapped in the earth’s cold arms for 33 years before they were offered back up to the world. That they would sit idle for decades before they were studied is not the oddity of their existence. We can be thankful for those years of gentle neglect since the information they held was bound not to our own but to a polar calendar, the same one that oversees the gestation of a single moth in fourteen of our own years.
It is a neglect of another type that characterizes this remarkable treasure trove. Although they initially seduce us with their archetypical poses, the secrets of these photos do not lie in their center but in their scarred surfaces and eerie borders and edges (like the “rim” landscape above); the images are mystic writing pads that chart a heretofore unknowable course. Yes, the muddled, mimetic traces of three fellow travelers shout out for our attention. Yet, the borders of these photographs while seemingly silent are not completely quiet. They converse in the language of dreams, of a memory withheld or a story not yet written. And they demand my attention. They point me toward my true-north to keep a promise I made with someone I haven’t yet met, a promise I made to a future self.
And so, to 2013 I say hello and welcome. I’m ready to go to the borderlands.