Ice, Soil, Light and Silence
posted by Jon Cazenave on 5 June 2023

I finished my `Ars Bioarctica ́ residency a couple of days ago and I write from San Sebastian, my hometown, located in the north of Spain. When Milla Millasnoore suggested me to write about my experience in Kilpisjärvi I thought the best option would be to arrive home, settle down, check the material produced in Lapland and let the distance do the rest. A friend of mine told me once that the body travels easy but the soul usually needs more time. So, yes, I must admit that time hasn´t done its job yet and my soul is still walking through the slopes of Saana mountain. 

It took me almost two days to get to Kilpisjärvi from Spain after passing through Bilbao, Riga, Helsinki and Rovaniemi. The 6-hour bus ride from Rovaniemi to Kilpisjärvi delighted me with a journey that culminated in an overwhelming landscape and a bright light that invaded everything. Right in the last kilometres of The Northern Lights Route I received the first lesson of this trip: in these times of hurries, constant haste and immediacy, there are still places where you must arrive slowly.

Ice, soil, light and silence.

These four key points have been a clear inspiration for me developing a work that explores the binomial relation between nature and culture through the idea of landscape.

The natural environment surrounding the station was the perfect ground to carry out my photographic work but it also gave me the chance to observe nature and collect mineral pigments and plant dyes that I have incorporated into my work. I worked for sixteen days in silence during the transitional period between winter and spring; just when the night disappears giving way to a never-ending light and the ice started melting letting the stone, moss, lichen and plants become visible after the long winter in the sub arctic area.

During the `Ars Bioarctica ́ residency, I also had access to the work of scientists like Julia Kamppinen, Lilith Weber, Tanja Lindholm or Hannu Autto. Their knowledge was very helpful for me to identify Empetrum nigrum or Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, which I incorporated into my anthotype work and achieved vibrant pink toned prints of digital screenshots of the area obtained from satellite images. Hiking Mount Saana, Pikku Malla and Lake Kilpisjärvi with under their guidance allowed me to understand the importance of ice, soil and moss in that environment, which in turn enabled me to represent their spirit using cyanotype and photography. I spent sixteen intense days developing new ways of representing the territory with the goal of allowing the natural elements to act as a device in order to achieve an expression that is less mediated by culture.

This unique experience in Lapland would have never taken place without the support of the Ibero-American Institute of Finland, based in Madrid, and the infinite care of Sandra Maunac. I would also like to thank Leena Valkeapää, aRzu and Maria Lepistö for sharing their time, knowledge and artistic processes with me.

My residency period ended a couple of days ago, but I am sure that the silence, the whiteness of the landscape and the strong connection with nature that I experienced in Kilpisjärvi will come along with me in the future.