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Jorma Puranen

January, 2011

The idea of Icy Prospects arose from reading histories of polar expeditions, Arctic lore, and from watching tourists on the furthest promontory of Nordkapp (North Cape) in northern Norway In addition, I remember from my childhood my father's stories about the Arctic Ocean from when he worked on fishing boats near Petsamo until the outbreak of the Second World War.

Icy Prospects has its source in historical paintings that depict Arctic landscapes and seascapes. While working with the project Shadows, Reflections and All That Sort of Thing in different museums, I watched the shimmering reflections of museum exteriors on surfaces of highly varnished painted panels. Inspired by these lacquered paintings of past centuries, I painted a carefully sanded piece of wooden board with black, glossy paint to give it a reflecting, mirror-like texture. I then took the board outdoors into the icy northern landscape and photographed the fragmentary reflection of the landscape on the surface of the board. My first experiences of photographing Arctic landscapes through these black wooden boards reminded me of holding a daguerreotype in hand, how nothing but an exact angle of light on a copper plate makes the image visible.

In Icy Prospects I combine three different interests of mine: long-term work in the North and the Arctic, the archive, and the use of reflecting light as a metaphor for speaking of history and memory. Author Jean-Luc Godard has said that “a photograph is not a reflection of reality, it is the reality of that reflection.”

In this work I was interested in the possibility of a cultural space created by different fates and histories, places and encounters. Through experiences of travel,borderland, and identity, I create a matrix of fact and fiction, a field of fantasy and geographical imagination.

Even if Icy Prospects seems to focus on the sensory experience of northern space, I rather wish to generate narrative possibilities, to point to the twilight zone of what might have happened. By dislocating archival and museum material from its original purpose and intention, the new corpus of photographs of Icy Prospects seeks to reveal new readings, meanings, and questions, to suggest a fictive historical world.

I worked with Icy Prospects in furthermost Lapland and by the Arctic Ocean in Finnmark of northern Norway from 2005 until early 2009. Driving down the sparse roads of Finnmark in the chiaroscuro hours, chasing the sun to rise or set, I developed an intimate relation to the silent places of high latitudes.

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