Ancient Voices

Shohei Katayama (2019)

Ancient Voices is an immersive installation that plays with vision and sound, transporting viewers into an otherworldly space that is familiar and unfamiliar, uncanny but alluring, expansive yet subtle, spiritual yet logical: a space that encourages deep contemplation and meditation. Ancient Voices was created by School of Art MFA student, Shohei Katayama, in 2018-2019.

Ancient Voices by Shohei Katayama :: Supported by FRFAF (#2019-032) from STUDIO for Creative Inquiry on Vimeo.

Three elements make up the installation: a painting of an abstract landscape through collaging ten separate glaciers layered with microscopic images of blue ice, a mandala depicting the bioluminescence of an arctic jellyfish, an array of test tubes with specimens collected during land excursions. The exhibition looks to nature as a means to express humanity’s interconnectedness with one another and the natural world. Katayama writes:

The project is inspired by an expedition I participated through the Arctic Circle Residency where I sailed up the western coastline of Spitsbergen, the largest island in the unincorporated archipelago of Svalbard. For two and a half weeks in 2018, I voyaged between 78 and 81 degrees north on the vessel Antigua with a group of artists, scientists, and educators, exploring the Arctic Circle and its blue landscapes. I traveled to the rooftop of the globe to collect samples of the Arctic Sea to see whether traces of Fukushima’s nuclear meltdown, in the form of Cesium-134 and 137, had made its way up to the north polar ice cap through ocean currents. Yet, on the open sea, I was not concerned with politics — instead, I busied myself with observing the landscape.

During the expedition, a marine biologist explained how diatoms in the Arctic rely on calving glaciers for nutrients. These microscopic algae play an integral role in the earth’s carbon cycle, as well as providing nourishment for ocean ecosystems in the form of marine snow. Visible from space, diatom blooms can reach the size of islands, and resemble a blue oil-spill, slowly disseminating through ocean currents, only to contour and emphasize the biosphere. An obvious truth was vividly reinforced, which is that all of existence, micro or macro, deceased or living, are interconnected.

Ancient Voices was presented at the CMU Miller ICA and supported in part by grants #2018-48 and #2019-032 from the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier. Photography by Tom Little. More images of this project can be found in this archive.