HC GILJE Barents

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Barents, (mare incognitum)

A view of the Barents Sea slowly rotates: up becomes down, east becomes west. The only thing you see is the dark ocean with its waves and the grey sky with its clouds, and the sharp dividing line of the horizon. No sign of land, no boats, no oil rigs, no planes, no seagulls – just the ocean and sky. Barents (mare incognitum) was filmed with the artist’s custom-built orbital camera close to the border between Norway and Russia, with the camera pointing towards the North Pole. The work is presented as a continuous loop of the rotating ocean, and was filmed a few months after the Norwegian government decided to move the official border of the Arctic ice edge further north because of the melting ice caused by climate change, thus potentially opening up for future petroleum activity in this fragile area. At this time, a sudden wave of refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere tried to cross the border from Russia into Norway in the that area while thousands of refugees were dying as they attempted to cross another sea – the Mediterranean. This was also just before the Paris climate meetings wherein talks of thresholds, trigger points and rising sea levels were at the center. The work speaks to the ocean surface as a border to a vast world mostly hidden from us; a world that occupies more than two-thirds of our planet. It evokes the beauty and power of the ocean and in everything that is still unexplored underneath its surface, but also the potential for disaster with rising sea levels, acidification, rising temperatures, plastic pollution, risky petroleum activity and a sharp decline in marine biodiversity.

It reminds us that the ocean was there long before humans and will be there long after we are gone.