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Theoretical Papers

Vol. 7 No. 1 (2022): Landscapes of Care: the emergency of landscapes of care in extreme territories

Reframing the Far North: Landscapes of Care in Borealis and Hyperborea




Exploring the Far North historically meant an immense effort, meticulous planning and the endurance of many hardships. These are characteristics that partly still hold true today. The northern parts of our planet are therefore surrounded by a narrative of distance. In this simplified notion the Far North is pictured as an isolated and unspoiled wilderness, one of the last places on Earth free of human disruption. Meanwhile, the (sub-)Arctic areas are among the first to be profoundly affected by climate change. Melting snow and ice incites a chain reaction that is known as the albedo effect, causing an accelerated rise in temperature. The Far North comprises territories whose physical state is profoundly altered at the moment; the melting of ice and permafrost has lasting effects on the physical make-up of the area, and thus these places can be marked as vulnerable and unstable landscapes.

This article explores how a theoretical focus on relationality can unearth relations between photography and the geographical concepts ‘isolation’ and ‘connection’ in order to put forward a type of caring that is more geographically dispersed. In the photographic series Borealis (2015-2020) by Dutch photographer Jeroen Toirkens and Hyperborea (2013-2019) by Russian photographer Evgenia Arbugaeva, the oppositions between ‘isolation’ and ‘connection’ are inverted. This article analyses their photographs not as flat representations of a secluded place, but as nodes in a spatial constellation in a wider sense. Eventually, the images construct a ‘landscape of care’ that moves beyond physical boundaries and underlines an ethical duty for anyone living on this planet to care for and about places that we otherwise deem disparate.

Cover image: Evgenia Arbugaeva, Untitled 90 (From the series IV. Chukotka), 2019-2020


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