Voldemārs Johansons takes KMB 2016 visitors into the heart of a storm

Voldemars Johansons installation 'Thirst' at KMB 2016 in Aspinwall House,Fort Kochi
Voldemars Johansons installation 'Thirst' at KMB 2016 in Aspinwall House,Fort Kochi
As it has for nearly four months, a violent storm rages overhead at Aspinwall House in defiance of the forecast. The clear sky and blistering heat outside belie the gloom. That visitors are drawn to the deluge instead of fleeing its fury is another giveaway.

But then Thirst is a force of nature unto itself. The audiovisual installation by Voldemārs Johansons recreates the environment captured from within the tempest – frothing sea and whipping wind playing out in 5.1 surround sound and 4K resolution video towards the viewer.

“It’s a very visual and sonic work. With Thirst, I wanted to convey the experience of a person being faced with the harsh reality of nature and, on a bigger scale, the ecological reality of our planet. I had dreamt about this project for a very long time because I wanted to document a very strong and dangerous storm as truthfully as I could,” Johansons said.
To realise the dream, the Latvian artist conducted an expedition to the Faroe Islands – located in the North Atlantic Ocean halfway between Norway and Iceland. In what Johansons terms a “radical filming experience”, his team waited for days on the coast framing a single uncut shot.

“When we arrived at the Faroe Islands, the weather was very calm. In a few days, it changed completely to the point where it was difficult to stand on the coastline because of the wind and the rain. We had to build special arrangements to protect the camera from the wind, designing special shields and rain deflectors. It even became difficult to see with the wind and salt water getting into the eyes even with goggles on,” Johansons said.

In the process, the work referred back to a historical method of learning about the world through observation employed by such masters as Leonardo da Vinci and Edgar Allen Poe. In his studies of water flow-related phenomena, da Vinci pursued a profound enquiry into nature that was characterised by observation and contemplation of the complex movements in water vortices. In his paper sketches, he discovered patterns hidden from mundane view.

“The method of learning of the world by way of observation tells something essential about the human nature and the way we relate ourselves to the world. Perhaps, this is best indicated by the feeling that an image or a magnificent landscape has a potential to convey an experience that exceeds the mere visuality of a scene,” Johansons said.

Which is why the documentation of the visually and sonically expressive marine landscape in the North Atlantic immerses viewers into the landscape of troubled waters, wind, rain and noise – an impossible ask when admiration is replaced with fear in real life.
“The back-projection screen is at floor-level, which leaves the audience free to walk around, and offers an experience similar to that of waiting along a coastline. The screen is accompanied with a sufficient sound amplification to match the sonic effect during a storm. By registering this momentous event both in image and sound, I have created a one-frame, non-moving documentary that shows the masses of water moving towards the viewer,” Johansons said.

When a person is in such a situation, the basic instinct is to run and seek shelter. It is difficult to focus and appreciate its harsh beauty, he added, noting that this was one of art’s essential functions: to frame experience and provide perspective by amplifying it and adding context.
Voldemārs Johansons takes KMB 2016 visitors into the heart of a storm Voldemārs Johansons takes KMB 2016 visitors into the heart of a storm Reviewed by Welcome Kerala on 00:40:00 Rating: 5

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