My current project, called 1.7 cm a year. The Title refers to what is called the Continental Drift: the movement of the tectonic plates on our planet, which causes the continents to shift. This phenomenon is of poetic importance to me, because it shows that even the steady ground below our feet is not static, but subject to forces too vast for us to fathom. As I was working on this project, I felt how small humanity is in the face of these natural processes. It is part of the power of photography to make this largely invisible movement visible, and indeed the results can strike the viewer with unexpected force.
Using a poetic analogy that connects the shifts in the earth’s surface to shifts within contemporary societies, I ask myself: are not just continents, but groups of people moving further apart? There appears to be a global unwillingness to bridge the gap between right and left, young and old, as well as between ethnic groups and social classes – a development that has no doubt been accelerated by the internet. “Polarisation” is a social term with geographical overtones. I want to find out to what extent photography can tell a story about the shift in a person’s values and persuasions, making this movement visible in analogy to 1.7 cm per year.
I travelled to Iceland, to places where the Drift becomes visible, and made installations there that accentuate this movement. These installations include demarcations of the breaking lines with white ribbon, in some cases literally bridging the cracks in the planet: this “bridge”, if left there for long enough, will eventually snap as the gap widens over time. These installations were documented in a series of photographs, alongside images that portray human life in these places. The point of my project, however, is not to emphasise our insignificance or induce hopelessness. The Continental Drift is beautiful; it is a precondition of the existence of life as we know it. And finally, changes can have positive effects. As Ernst Bloch said: “the important thing is learning to hope.”