Everything is up in the air, thus our vertigo, the latest work of the Swiss photographer Yann Mingard, offers us a both subjective and documented reading of the world’s ecological drift.
Here we are, bearing the full brunt of the Anthropocene epoch. Scientists explain this switch of period by the cumulative capacity of human beings—our capacity, in other words—to go beyond the power of telluric forces. The challenge of this new era is based on objective physical measures, but it might just as well be characterized by the dizzy-making level of impunity and inertia of human beings in the face of the disaster in the offing—seeming to border on a denial of reality.
Up until the middle of the 20th century, artists were almost blissfully fascinated by a nature that was wild and flawless. Even if ethical and political issues underpin Yann Mingard’s work, the subjugation, beauty and majesty of physical forces are not absent from his images. The areas of paint and the colours whisper to us about the rumblings of this earth in motion. Roland Barthes reckoned the attraction of a landscape photograph by its ability to make the viewer want to project himself into it, and live in it—this was without taking damaged, irradiated and dystopian landscapes into account. What has become of the Alpine views so sought after by early photographers and Asian tourists?
Yann Mingard takes us to the other side of the postcard, towards the abysses, into the entrails of rock slides, uprooted trees and torrential lava flows. His landscapes, which are on the borderline of abstraction, are devoid of any horizon likely to soothe us; in a disquieting prophecy, they show us at times the sky, at others geological matter (earth, rock, mud), but rarely the two together—as if, disgusted by each other, they were henceforth refusing to touch one another.
The earth is shown disemboweled, gaping, crimped by the scars of a battle whose main protagonists are absent. Invisible like fine mid-air particles and radioactive radiation, the human figure only appears in the form of strange puppets looking for a nuclear warhead gone astray in the permafrost.
In 1678, well before the first industrial revolution, calling on God as a last resort, the inhabitants of the small village of Fiesch, in Switzerland, wrote to the pope asking him to bless their prayer intended to block the advancing Aletsch glacier, and save their village. Answered beyond all expectations, they are today beseeching him to reverse the prayer and halt the relentless thawing of Europe’s largest glacier. Off-screen, the human imprint completely covers the scene of the crime. Moved by his appetite for comfort and an untrammeled faith in technology as the ultimate saviour, man continues his march. In the ice cores he carefully examines, he is capable of making out climatic variations over many millennia. The air bubbles trapped in the ice are so many capsules of history, revealing one by one the secrets of time. The animal, for its part, is no longer ever directly represented by the artist. With its diversity battered, it appears like a rock-art reminiscence—a fantasy somewhere between an improbable future and a remote past, which prompts some scientists, in a moment of technological revelation, to want to court science-fiction by resurrecting the mammoth from DNA found in the pack ice. Gigantic pachyderms would once again roam over the tundra and their presence would make up for greenhouse gas emissions… Human history has an appointment with the history of the Earth.
Jérôme Sother, Directeur artistique et éditeur, GwinZegal
Texts Frédéric Moser
Format 23 x 30 cm
144 pages, soft cover with flap
Bilingual French / English edition
ISBN : 979-10-94060-24-7
Price : 39.-