Farthest North, a show by Waktins alumna Claudia O’Steen and her collaborator Aly Ogasian, synthesizes the profound psychological effect of traversing one of the most rarefied places on Earth in the footprints of a failed explorer. In 1897, explorer S.A. Andrée attempted to fly to the North Pole in a silk hydrogen balloon. Andrée intended to be first to the North Pole, and planned to map the region using aerial cameras engineered for cartographic use. Shortly after taking off from the archipelago of Svalbard, however, the expedition crashed. Their remains were found 33 years later, the cause of their deaths unknown. Amongst the remains were several canisters of exposed film, preserved in the snow.
Miles away in space and time, O’Steen and Ogasian spent the better part of 2016 deciphering the topography of the arctic landscape through the flat surface of a screen, closely inspecting each pixel. Later that summer, the artists travelled to the high arctic, retracing the route of Andrée. From the top of a mountain, they gazed across Virgohamna, the same arctic harbor that appears in Andrée’s photographs, and below them observed the remains of his balloon hangar, ravaged by the harsh climate.
Farthest North is the result of these experiences and the culmination of O’Steen’s prestigious Arctic Circle Residency in Svalbard, Norway. The two artists will be on hand to discuss the show on February 8 at 6 p.m.