Out of focus: cinematic readings of a shaken landscape (2021)

Louis Braddock Clarke and Zuzanna Zgierska, The Royal Academy of Art

Image: Inspired by the Inuit concept of ‘Silla’ (breath of life) which showcase landscape elements as a network of interconnected parts
© Louis Braddock Clarke and Zuzanna Zgierska

Project summary

‘Out of Focus’ is an experimental documentary film, which samples the shifts in iron magnetism in Greenland to navigate the intersections of climate change, mineral extraction, indigenous cosmology, and post-colonialism. The core narrative takes place at Cape York, Greenland, where 10,000 years ago meteorite fragments collided with the ice cap. This geological spectacle set in motion a technological leap in the lives of the Inuits, who sculpted fragments of ‘heaven stones’ into ulos, knives, and harpoon heads. Today, another geological anomaly occurs. An accelerated climate change melts the freeze, unhinging the metallic masses from their bedrocks. These iron ore deposits become an open invite for explorative extraction. Geologists drill out, cut off, and measure up mineral samples from the exposed surface. In this landscape of speculation, an uncertain climate may liquify into cash flow.

Too often the remote polar tundra is examined from the bird’s-eye view with satellite mapping, remote sensing, drone filming, and military structures dominating this Arctic landscape. From historical expeditions that set out to seize mineral trophies (meteorites) to contemporary explorative extractions by global mining companies, Greenland has been marked with the scars of colonial interests. Looking at nature from this top-down position creates distance towards the current, unfolding ecological disaster. In order to avoid this poisoned perspective, the camera’s point of view in ‘Out of Focus’ remains human and grounded to the Earth. Through this lens, a viewer can virtually see and touch the melting ice.

‘Out of Focus’ draws from the Inuit cosmology of silla, meaning ‘breath of life’. According to indigenous stories, the breath of every living being is borrowed from the sky and the air around them. To picture nature as a network of interconnected parts, is to challenge the extractive imaginaries of the High Arctic.

LRG’s funding is in partnership with The Royal Academy of Art, Delft University of Technology, Creative Industries Fund NL and VideoPower Maastricht. Our financial support will enable the project directors and artistic researchers to acquire theoretical and practical knowledge on geomagnetism, Inuit cosmology and mineral extraction in Greenland, as well as allowing dissemination of the findings and interviews.