Cold Media

Norwegian photographer Christian Houge's large-scale photographs explore the terrain of an electronic utopia put "on ice." The artist's "Arctic Technology" series richly conveys the impacts of technology on one small town's landscape and people. It was at the age of 11 that Houge first visited Barentsburg on a snowmobile vacation. The Russian coal-mining outpost (Population: 800) sits on an island between Greenland and the North Pole called Svalbard ("Cold Land"). The communist-era Soviets found the region a perfect location on which to install antenna fields, satellite receivers, and a range of other equipment in order to study scientific phenomena under pristine conditions. Houge, in effect, repeats this effort in returning to document the equipment and the lives of those who dwell near these now-abandoned monuments to telecommunication. Working to excavate details about a place virtually trapped in the 1970s, the artist exploits the properties of his medium by creating haunting long-exposure panoramic night photos and, by day, ventures into the schools and workplaces of the residents. On a local level, Houge's photos create a portrait of one community's survival under harsh conditions. On a broader scale, the work speaks to a moment in history when technological imperatives trumped the impetus to preserve natural landscapes, while outlining the forms that the residue of this drive etch into the earth. Images from "Arctic Technology" will be on view at New York's Hosfelt Gallery through February 16. - Marisa Olson

Image: Christian Houge, Dawn, 2003