Article by Nathalie Agostini // Oct. 22, 2020
Anna Mikkola’s video work ‘Ghost in the Climate’ (2019), on view as part of ‘Ghosts (redux)’ at L’Inconnue Berlin, opens with a superposition of three paintings from Claude Monet’s 41-work series depicting the Waterloo Bridge in London between 1899–1904, as seen from the Savoy Hotel. With short, fast brushwork, Monet transcribed the effects of the changing light in the clouds of London smog, produced by the open, unfiltered combustion of wood, charcoal and coal that was being burned to heat homes and power an increasingly industrialized society. Where Monet’s paintings provide a visual and historical record of air pollution in London at the turn of the century, Mikkola, in her first solo exhibition in Berlin, offers a record of climate change in the 21st century that narrates an uncertain future.
The video work—projected in the main space of the Montreal-based gallery’s temporary Berlin location—combines the artist’s video footage, visualizations of computer-generated models on climate change and found footage and imagery. These historical and cultural layers are expressed in Mikkola’s filming around the Bidston Observatory in Liverpool, which, from its establishment in the mid-19th century, was dedicated to pursuing scientific knowledge in several fields. Originally focused on the study of astronomical measurements, its organizers later shifted its attention to areas like meteorology and seismology, as well as research into tidal behaviour and long-term climate change, in response to the national needs.
Political psychologists tell us that conspiracy theories drive people to reject scientific consensus, including consensus on anthropogenic climate change. Mikkola’s thesis, I believe, is that images support the construction of social narratives in the mediation and eventual acceptance or rejection of climate change. Mikkola demonstrates this through her inclusion of a clip appropriated by Flat Earth theorists that every so often goes viral. This (social) media event, in Mikkola’s video, is represented as a frame within the frame, and can be read in relation to the artist’s broader interest in image networks, scientific observation and uncertainty.
What is most graceful about Mikkola’s work is her attention to light and its explicit relation to the history of images. A door slightly ajar to the back of the exhibition space leads to a room with an altar-like quality, presenting three wall-mounted works and a small corner installation illuminated by candlelight. As we approach the steel structure frames, we note they support sheets of plexiglass printed with images of plants. Mikkola produced these algorithmically, training software with scans of plant illustrations sourced from a herbarium collection that once provided data for scientific study. Enveloped in the warmth of the candle-lit backroom, we can imagine these images of assembled plants to be records of taxa from a future geologic age; exercises of inquiry into the production of knowledge, featuring light as our most primal medium.
Anna Mikkola: ‘Ghosts (redux)’
Exhibition: Oct. 15–31, 2020; Wednesday–Friday 12–6pm (by appointment), Saturday 12–6pm (open to the public)
Pariser Straße 4, 10719 Berlin, click here for map