The Lost Exploitation Journals

I have wanted to make a book using some of the images I have been producing during the last year. Here it is- finally finished- The Lost Exploitation Journals. I have created 600 newspapers, and 5 editions in hard back for sale-this is a culmination of ideas using abstracted imagery from film stills, transferring the images through the press and then scanning them to print them onto A3 Fabriano paper. There are small clues throughout that tell you something about its content, small geological phrases and cartographic coordinates- here are a few of the pages:

The Lost Exploitation JournalsThe Lost Exploitation Journals2The Lost Exploitation Journals3

Here is the newspaper version:

newspaperversion1and here is the bound hardback book:

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Alma

alma3003ALMA- this image is of ‘The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile, is the largest astronomical project in existence. ALMA will be a single telescope of revolutionary design, composed initially of 66 high precision antennas located on the Chajnantor plateau, 5000 meters altitude in northern Chile.’ (http://www.almaobservatory.org/)

Alma also when read as one word, means SOUL. I thought this was appropriate for my project about the Atacama, where these telescopes hide in the middle of the desert behind a mountain range. I used found images to create a photo etching on two plates. The etching will be part of a series on this technological landscape that is mapping the heavens in an unprecedented way- to find the origins of life and the universe.

These smaller prints are now being turned into a large 100 cm x 70 cm photoetching. Its the largest plate that can go through the presses at Camberwell, and the largest plate I have ever attempted. Just exposing it, and developing it in itself poses all kinds of challenges. I have now started to print them using a velvety black RSR ink- it takes about an hour to ink up the plate and polish it before pulling the print. Here is the process as it happened:

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This print has been the most enjoyable piece for me- hard work in the heat of the Summer in the print workshop, but very satisfying. Tried it on Hahnemule paper at first, but once I put this up against the wall i realized I needed a whiter paper- have now printed an edition of 5 on Fabriano white, which have come out really well.

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Geard (2013)_ii

Photographs through the screen- close ups taken of a projected image on Japanese paper, then turned into prints- second stage of the new project Geard (2013)_ii:

ProjectionONeTrying out different display methods, from projection to digital prints on Hanhemule rice paper- I like the casualness of this display:

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Geard (2013) _i

Working with old Sony portable monitors to present found footage- the juxtaposition of a garden with its sprinkler (artificial and manmade) and the waterfall (natural sublime)- mediating the mediated image- through the screen- I’m interested in how our viewing of the material changes when the work is presented through a screen:twoscreens1

 

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Casper’s Forest (2013) at WC-A contemporary open

VictoriaAhrens_Casper'sForest_6Casper’s Forest (2013) at WC-A Contemporary Photography Open at Worcester CIty Gallery and Museumwopen

Transfer collage on Japanese Shozo paper, found book, shelf

Here the found book completes the piece and places it on an imagined continuum with history. The edges of the pages play with the viewer’s sense of space and reinforce the juxtaposition of the book and the flat print, by bringing a sculptural element into the interplay between the tree trunk on both sides of the installation. Referencing Casper David Friedrich’s paintings of forests, here the sublime is inverted- the images are of a dying forest, a desolate landscape.

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Arkadas- new project

This new project is based on images I took in the Atacama desert, northern Chile and refers to a multitude of landscape imagery from early prints of Mount Fuji by 18th century Japanese printmakers to the photographs of hidden satellites in the nightsky by Trevor Paglin. The image is of a volcano that sits behind a lake at 4,500 m high on the Chilean Altiplano, on the other side of which is Argentina. It was a place of great significance to the Inca tribes who buried their chosen children in their depths in sacrificial rituals. Some of these bodies have been found, perfectly preserved. Close by you can find all the most important astronomical observatories, as it is here that the sky is cleanest, and where the desert is the most arid in the world. While observing the beginnings of the earth through astronomy, down below nothing grows, no life exists, except for the salt crystal lakes and algae. This place is one of the most desolate I have ever been to, hiding its violent beginnings behind a silent otherwordliness. I am making a series of prints with acetone transfer and photoetching on Japanese paper. The project continues my enquiry into landscapes of the disappeared: the impermanence of the transfer is coupled with a more permanent substrate in the etching, while the Japanese paper adds to its fragile quality. To accompany the series I am putting together a series of hand made photobooks.

Having taken a photograph of a video still, I then printed and photocopied the image, then transferred it onto Japanese paper and scanned it. The next step was to create a collage of several versions of this image and then rescanned and transfer that with acetone on the press. This final image was then printed out digitally in a large format, 100 x 200 cm:

VictoriaAhrens_Arkadia5_2013

 

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The Alkali Inspectorate

 

forestoriginal1This is how the piece is looking as an installation. I have become increasingly interested in the origins of environmental sciences and the writings of Robert Angus Smith, the 19th century Scottish chemist who pioneered research on air pollution and acid rain. I am particularly interested in the fact that he refused to take on ‘expert witness’ work as a consulting scientist as he felt those who worked in the courts were often corrupt and committed perjury for paid interests. Because of his integrity as an independent analytical chemist he was chosen to head the Alkali Inspectorate, established by the Alkali Act of 1863.

I started to research more about the etymology of the Alkali with some interesting results. The word derives from the Arabic al qaliy which means the calcined ashes or calcination, more commonly known as potash in early centuries. It was the way soap was produced since antiquity: by heating slaked lime with potash and combining the resultant potassium hydorixide with animal fats, soap was obtained.  This lead me to thinking about the basis of most scientific elemental experimentation: acid versus alkalide substances. I went back to my GCSE chemistry for this, to remember that when an acid reacts to an alkali the products are a salt and water.

For the project I am working on for our forthcoming exhibition at New Gallery in Peckham, I have been looking at how acidity and alkalidity are manifested in the natural world, and how these concepts collide with the making of work in printmaking. Traditional printmaking, relies on the reactions of different substances on a matrix. In etching, for example, it is the action of acid on metals such as zinc, copper and steel. We are constantly working on the surface of a plate by swinging between acid substances and alkaline neutralizers. I have been using digital transfer prints, the ink of which often contains ferrous sulfate and a small amount of an acid on acid free hand made Japanese shodo paper- the action of one on the other in layers creates a neutralizing effect and produces an invisible amount of salt and water. I like the idea that there is this small, invisible elemental reaction. The images are of forests, disappearing through logging and acid rain.

I have also been looking at projecting an image of Lake Turkana, a lake in the Kenyan Rift Valley, which has the dual accolade of being the world’s largest permanent desert lake and largest alkaline lake. It is regarded by anthropologists as the cradle of humankind, because of the vast number of fossils found of the earliest humans, not leastly Turkana boy, which is 2 million years old. Yet the lake is hostile to human habitation, with volcanic emissions, venomous reptiles, and unpalatable salty water. It is also the site of a huge Wind Power project with plans to build 360 wind turbines to tap into the particular wind conditions in the area and supply clean electricity to vast areas of Kenya. Science as the new sublime:  producing the tools to sustain life while on the other responsible for their demise.

I am interested in bringing these ideas to their most basic aesthetic form- images of these places transferred onto layers of paper or onto the wall itself, in an installation piece. It is an attempt to understand and rationalize the basic process of surviving, and to grapple with ‘the science of the sublime’.

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