A year without a summer, 2013
The installation comprises:
One slide projection (gathering two sets of 35 mm color slide films) with timer control, synchronized in half-second intervals from one to the other. The slides follow the artist’s visits to the construction site of the zoo in Chiang Mai, North of Thailand.
8 color prints of year signage along the route to Exit Glacier, in Alaska, which documents distance of its recession, from its maximum extent in 1815, to the present. They are mounted as a constellation on the wall.
Fishing ropes placed on the floor, used on-site for measuring the distance between the signs in Alaska and later used for installing the photographs of the signs at their exact actual distance.
Pratchaya Phinthong adopts a recurent method for developing his projects: starting from two distant points, in space or time, his work tries to fill the interval in between. From a tropical region where men produces artificial ice, to the far North Pole where a volcanic eruption had an impact on the now degrading climate. His very intimate connection, usually developed as a physical journey, will create an artistic form.Those measurments will be replayed inside the white cube then, and the memory of a place or a moment will become a piece.
On the internet, Pratchaya Phinthong was alerted about a controversial city project: the Chiang Mai Zoo in Thailand is trying to build a «Polar World».The artist went there pretending to be a tourist. He asked the contractor to get into the troubled building site and took some images from the construction’s detail.
The double slide show retales the itinerary of the artist, catching failure and ambiguity of such project, showing the gap between economic reasons for boosting tourism and the reality of the polar animals welfare.
In 2012, we learned that polar bears would not be on show inside the building after all. It was rumored that the building would simply allow visitors to experience similar temperatures to those of the Arctic and the Antarctic; the artist went again to see how it had been re-shaped.This time, he pretended to be an architect wanting to get good shots of the city for a project.
At the other side of the planet, Pratchaya Phinthong went to measure with a fishing line the signs of receeding ice in Alaska.
The signs date back to 1815, 1889, 1894, 1899, 1917, 1926, 1951 and 1961 respectively. The receding of ice allows trees to grow year after year. Scientists simply use Dendrochronology, known as «tree rings» dating back to ice-receding periods. But the only recorded instance of a missing ring in oak trees occurred in the year 1816, also known as the «Year Without a Summer».
The Scientists began with the year 1815 because it was the year of major volcanic eruptions of Mount Tambora, in Indonesia that later resulted in worldwide cooling temperature and harvest failure over Alaska and the Northern hemisphere.
Pratchaya Phinthong marked the measurements between signs with lead fishing weights and photograph. Then, he rolled the fishing line, creating a spherical shape.
Wherever the work will be installed, the artist will unroll the fishing line anticlockwise, the line will be looped within the room and each time the mark of each year appears, the photo will be placed up on the wall, until the sphere is finished. The artist will then roll the sphere back to shape again then leave it on the floor.