L’Œil et la Glace
exhibition by Marie Sommer
From April 24 to August 29 2021 at DISPLAY 01
In the framework of the collective project "Archipel" organized in collaboration with the Centres d’Art de Dudelange
“L’Œil et la Glace”, continues an investigation into Cold War archive-sites that Marie Sommer initiated in 2018 at the Stasi in Berlin. This installation explores the remnants of the DEW Line (Distant Early Warning Line), a defence system set up across the North of Canada to detect any potential invasions of North America by the Soviets. This long-range radar and communications line traces a magnetic frontier across the Arctic territory from west to east. Of the many stations built between 1954 and 1956, most were subsequently abandoned, but never dismantled. Deteriorated by time and weather, these sites constitute a veritable archive whose historicity is circumscribed deep within a conflict played out far from the public eye.
The installation is made up of three parts: a film projected on two screens, printed photographs drawn from Canadian and US archives with the cartographic data of all the sites, and an object-table featuring the architectural elements of the radar systems. The title of the installation makes reference to two key geopolitical challenges of the Cold War: long-range detection (the eye) and the conquest of the North (the ice).
The film was shot in the vicinity of Tuktoyaktuk a few hundred kilometres from the station code named BAR-3, located at a latitude of 69° 26′ 35″ north and a longitude of 132° 59′ 55″ west. Unable to reach the site due to early ice melting, Marie Sommer points her camera instead towards this natural environment in transition and captures the effects of climate change upon it. Shot in 16mm, the film is neither documentary nor narrative. It is however abstract and displays its inherent analogic materiality: the editing alternates short sequences of landscapes with close-up shots that reveal the unique texture of the ice and random bursts of light that alter the very surface of the film, which seems at times to be on the point of disintegrating.
This dematerialization accentuates the melting of the ice and echoes the decay of the military sites shown in the archive photographs. By way of juxtaposition, these photographs bring into contrast two phases of the conflict: the sites at the time of their coming into operation, revealing the coldness of their technology, and the now disused sites whose vestiges divulge the especially precarious nature of their architecture. Designed in the emergency of potential threat and under extreme conditions, the radar stations radars of the DEW Line were doomed to obsolescence from the very start due to the very rapid development of surveillance technologies during this critical period of the Cold War.
In several photographs, the radar installations stand majestic, yet their monumentality has something ghostly about it, as if the future they were foreshadowing had somehow frozen in the past. Yet this retro-futurist atmosphere, that the comparison of the photographs allows us to glimpse, still contains an idea of progress, despite the desuetude that reigns there. Thus these archive-places bear witness to a new temporality that the Cold War introduces and which “L’Œil et la Glace” questions: a pre-digital epoch, where the transition between an analogic surveillance technology that requires human presence and an entirely computerized, remotely operated, digital technology is played out. The aim of showing the desuetude of these Cold War architectures, as “L’Œil et la Glace” does, is not to speak of the end of a conflict, but to lay bare the planned obsolescence of which they are the material relics.
- Marie Fraser
Marlène Kreins (Centres d'art Dudelange), Michèle Walerich (CNA)
- Technical team
Kurt Gelhausen, Alexandre Useldinger
Mylène Carrière, Yves Melchior
- Technical support
Sara Barbosa, Anne-Laure Letellier & Marielle Kaufmann
- Graphic Design
Adaptation of Enzo Mari by Marc Power
© Library of Congress, USA and Centre Canadien d’Architecture
Julie Dimanche, Cyril Contente and Joël Power
In the framework of the European Month of Photography, Luxembourg
Marie Sommer is a visual artist, photographer and videographer. Her work focuses on the relation and links between places and archives. After training at the School of Decorative Arts, and at the Arles School of Photography, she published her works Teufelsberg in 2010 (Filigranes / LE BAL), Surfaces in 2015 (BilbaoArte) and Une île in 2020 (Filigranes) in collaboration with the author JeanYves Jouannais. She was a resident at Casa Velázquez in Madrid, at the Centre Photographique d’Ile de France and at the Cité internationale des Arts. Her work has been presented in exhibitions by various institutions including: Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d’Arles, Centre Culturel de Rentilly, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, the Gulbenkian Foundation in Paris, and the Kyoto Art Center. She is currently a research artist at Figura, Centre de recherche sur le texte et l’imaginaire de l’Université du Québec at the University of Quebec in Montreal, in partnership with the Fresnoy Studio National des Arts contemporains.
For the 8th edition of the European Month of Photography to be held in Luxembourg, the Dudelange Art Centres and the Centre national de l’audiovisuel (CNA) have joined forces to present three monographic exhibitions - Marie Capesius, Rozafa Elshan and Marie Sommer -under the common title of “Archipel”.
An island where an intriguing cohabitation between a naturist community and a military base challenges the very idea of paradise, an apartment which serves as an observation post for an experimental study of a slice of the everyday captured by means of a telephoto lens, a territory in the Arctic region marked by a line of radar installations whose traces have shifted according to the cycles of glacial melting.
The three artists explore natural, strategic and intimate territories through their layers of memory and ideology, a bringing into perspective by way of highly varied languages such as photography, video, sound, sculpture, drawing, journals both private and in print (writing), performance and archive images.
“Archipel” speaks to us of a world weathered by currents and waves, its fragilities, its beauties, its paradoxes, in the light of the changing relationship between humans and their environment.
“Archipel” is also an observatory of the renewed repertoire of the image for its contemporary telling.