2017 - two-channel video installation - 19 min, in loop - 4K - colour - stereo / surround - projected onto a monumental freestanding screen and floor
Phantom Sun is built from an extensive personal archive on the Russian-Norwegian borderland in the European High North, collected and assembled over multiple trips and expeditions. Home to the indigenous Sami culture, this frontier area was developed for industrial reasons from the late 19th century. Marked by the main worldly conflicts of the 20th century, it is, at present, undergoing the effects of climate change while featuring prominently on the geopolitical chessboard of a recent Northward expansion.
By reconfiguring its history and re-imagining its geography through a poetic appropriation, the work portrays a Zone where past and future are confounded.
Vast and desolate Arctic landscapes, at the onset of winter, are projected onto a monumental freestanding screen, embarking the viewer on a journey. Coming across various industrial sites, military installations and remote settlements, these appear devoid of human presence. This ghostly stasis leaves everything in a state of expectation, while the references to unnamed conflicts suggest the possibility of a catastrophic past. Caught in limbo, the viewer is left to wonder where and when things take place.
The overbearing presence of the actual political border, with all ensuing protocols and restrictions, was overcome by juxtaposing different places on both sides of it in an entirely cinematic semblance of continuity: there is factually no unity of space in the piece. Rather than merely erasing the border, the piece displaces it in a temporal manner: the diptych structure of the work separates past from future. This separation is formally enacted by the use of moving video images for the first part (future) and animated still photographs in the second part (past), generating a subtle aesthetic shift within the work.
Small text projections appear fleetingly on the floor in front of the images: “diary” fragments, reveal anecdotes and stories, based on real encounters and experiences in the region, and suggest an investigative narrative whose object is never disclosed. As footnotes, their aim is to offer clues, to suggest, rather than to explain. Written from a first person perspective, these notes invite the reader to invest the otherwise empty landscapes.
Text and images are spatially dissociated, projected onto different planes, creating a form of discomfort in the experience of the piece, as image and text cannot be seized simultaneously. This form accentuates the fragmentary nature of the work, and in doing so activates the space of the viewer.
Direction, Photography, Animation & Editing: Alexis Destoop | Dramaturgy & Voice: Peter Eckersall | Music & Sounddesign: Laszlo Umbreit | Editing, Compositing & Grading: Paul Millot
Production by An Archer A Weaver with the support of: Argos Centre for Art & Media (Brussels,BE) | Pikene pa Broen (Kirkenes, NO) | School of Art & Media, UNSW (Sydney, AU) | The Filmlab Department of the Flemish Audiovisual Fund (Brussels, BE) | The Flemish Community Commission (Brussels, BE).
Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More - 1st Riga Biennial of Contemporary Art, Latvia, 2018 Screen dimensions 800 cm x 250 cm, text projection approx 180 cm x 140 cm. Photo: Ivan Erofeev & Vladimir Svetlov - courtesy: RiBoCA
Alexis Destoop, Four Directions of Heaven - Argos Centre for Art & Media, Brussels, Belgium, 2017 Screen dimensions: approx 800 cm x 240 cm, text projection approx 160 cm x 100 cm Photos: Dirk Pauwels - courtesy: Argos