The time of the Arctic: exhibitions dedicated to the icy north

27 October, 2020

Global climate change has been drawing more and more attention to regions with perpetual winter, namely the Antarctic and the Arctic. The latest research yielded some rather scary figures – the temperature in the Arctic is rising about twice as fast as in the rest of the world. And while the southernmost continent is home to penguins and seals, the northernmost region houses many different peoples, who are now facing a major crisis. Moreover, the rapid rise of the temperature does not only threaten to severely damage the Arctic flora and fauna and to disrupt the lives of local residents, but also to have a catastrophic effect on the climate of the entire planet. London is currently hosting two exhibitions dedicated to the Arctic and its inhabitants, designed to draw attention to this amazing snowy paradise on the brink of destruction.

 

“Arctic: Climate and Culture” is the British Museum’s new exhibition, which opened last week. Among other things, it tells the story of outstanding endurance and resilience of the native peoples of the Arctic, who have inhabited the region for millennia. Using artefacts from different parts of the snowy land – from the northern regions of America to the Russian tundra – the exhibition demonstrates how the inhabitants of the Arctic learned to adapt to the tough conditions. Among the exhibits is a unique inflatable whale hunting suit made of sealskin, which is more reminiscent of something from a science fiction movie rather than 19th century Greenland. Also, there are special snow goggles made of deerskin, an impressive modern snowmobile decorated with fur and much more. “Arctic: Climate and Culture” is an exhibition about the relationship between humans and nature in a region with one of the harshest climates on the planet, which along the way sheds some light on the pressing issues of the land of always winter.

 

 

At the same time, The Photographers Gallery is hosting an exhibition of the award-winning Russian photographer from Yakutsk, Evgenia Arbugaeva. “Hyperborea – Stories from the Russian Arctic” is the result of a project that Arbugaeva took up back in 2013. The photographer travelled to the most remote corners of the Russian Arctic to capture the lives of local residents on camera and lift the veil of secrecy that envelops these cold lands, where the sky is lit with bright colours and polar bears peep into the windows. Arbugaeva’s photographs can be called truly fascinating: the colours, composition and, of course, the subjects themselves seem absolutely fantastical. The very name of the exhibition refers to the mythical continent of Hyperborea, which, according to ancient Greek mythology, was located in the far north. This only underlines the mysteriousness of the Arctic in the eyes of the photographer:

 

“I have always been fascinated by early maps of Hyperborea and the way the Arctic was alive in people’s imagination before they even set foot there. It continues to be associated with the magical and sublime.”

 

“Arctic: Climate and Culture” at the British Museum runs until February 21, 2021, tickets can be purchased here, while “Hyperborea – Stories from the Russian Arctic” at The Photographers Gallery runs until January 24, 2021, tickets can be purchased here.

 

Cover photo: Evgenia Arbugaeva/The Photographers Gallery

 


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