There is an island located between Greenland and the North Pole called Spitsbergen or Svalbard (“the cold land”). The seclusion of the island results in its having the cleanest atmosphere in the world and being one of the best places to do astronomical, meteorological or climate research. Hence, the remote and pristine landscape is marked by installations of technological and scientific equipment. Since 2000, Christian Houge has been making large-scale panoramic images in this landscape, exploring the human presence in this bleak yet beautiful site. Making reference to art forms as diverse as traditional landscape painting, the photography of Bernd and Hilla Becher and the Land Art of Walter De Maria and James Turrell, these images provoke a meditation on one’s place in the universe.
On the island of Spitsbergen is a Soviet-era coalmining town, Barentsburg, with a population of 800. Houge visited the community repeatedly and in images that do more than just document the worksites, schools, and cafeterias where the people live, has captured something of the human instinct to survive under adverse conditions.
Taken as a whole the exhibition moves from the sublime to the mundane with sensitivity and unique insight.
Christian Houge was born in 1972 in Norway, where he lives and works. He has exhibited in Oslo and London. This is his first solo exhibition in New York.