Gallery Luisotti is pleased to present Shroud, an exhibition of Simon Norfolk’s recent photography. Made in collaboration with Klaus Thymann of Project Pressure, “a charity with a mission to visualize climate change,” Norfolk’s new photographs depict efforts to enshroud and save part of the Rhône Glacier in Switzerland. Known as a tourist attraction, and featuring a man-made ice grotto, the glacier has been covered in blankets to forestall further melting. Norfolk and Thymann collaborated on a unique helium balloon to light the glacier’s covering, resulting in images that evoke the iconography of lamentation as a means to represent climate change.
Addressing the photographs in Shroud, Norfolk has stated:
We [Norfolk and Klaus Thymann] made the on the Rhône Glacier in southern Switzerland, which is disappearing at a colossal rate. Because there is a small shop there that carves an ice grotto into the glacier and charges tourists to experience inside the blue ice, it has been worth their money attempting [to] stop the glacier’s retreat. [The Carlen family] have invested in a special thermal blanket that has kept about 25m (in depth) of ice from disappearing and has kept the ice grotto in business… There is something insane about trying to reverse the inevitable… The gesture is as forlorn and doomed as the glacier itself.
Central to the photographs in Shroud is the thermal blanket covering the ice. Rather than photographing the inside of the grotto, Norfolk focuses on the exterior: the thermal blanket itself. Lit from above, there is a strong effect of chiaroscuro and drama. The surface of the blanket overlays and at times blends with the surface of the glacier, evoking marble sculpture of the Baroque period. The shroud appears as an oversized veil, preserving a life that is quickly disappearing.
Despite the haunting quality of the images, Norfolk’s photographs humanize the glacier, provoking us to consider the role of community actions in the face of environmental catastrophe. As we witness the disappearing glacier we cannot help but also see the blanket’s impending degradation. It is a reminder, for Norfolk, that “it is not scalable: we cannot do this to all the world’s ice.” Furthermore, Norfolk’s photographs create a grand and sublime sense of scale, as we see the enshrouded parts of the glacier contrast the Alps beyond, and more glacier fields in varying states of dematerialization. As viewers, we are thus struck by the novelty and inadequacy of enshrouding the glacier, while prompted to consider both the personal and social interventions necessary to reverse climate catastrophe.
Simon Norfolk won the Commission of the Prix Pictet in 2012 and had an exhibition at Tate Modern in 2011. He received Le Prix Dialogue at Les Recontres d’Arles in 2005, The Infinity Prize from the International Center of Photography in 2004, and the Foreign Press Club of America Award in 2003. Norfolk has published several monographs, including Afghanistan: chronotopia(2002) and Bleed(2005), as well as publishing his photographs in magazines, journals, and newspapers throughout the world. This will be Simon Norfolk’s fifth solo exhibition at Gallery Luisotti.