Not a few early twentieth-century cultural histories conceive of the development of humanity in modern times as a northward shift of the civilizational centre. In this thinking, they transform into narrative and geography the static image of a cosmos constructed along one axis of the globe, based on the Christian story of salvation. In this notion...
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... at its foot lay the peaks of all (other) mountains. The Flood rose only to the foot of this mountain, although it covered the peaks of other mountains" (Beck 1951, 36-37). In Late Antiquity, the Alexandrian travel author Cosmas Indicopleustes had plausible explanations for the conception of the world as a disc with a holy mountain at its centre ( fig. 4). In his Topographia Christiana (550), which polemicized against the Ptolemaic worldview, he explained natural phenomena like, for example, the shortness of summer nights thus: the sun is higher in the sky in the summer and the world-mountain is tapered towards its top, allowing for more sun. Later, Dante's Divina Commedia (1307-1321) ...
This article shows how contemporary artistic practice seeks to re-evaluate, re-interpret and re-imagine (historical) Arctic exploration narratives that have generally been considered gendered and dominated by men. It particularly examines the work of contemporary Norwegian artist Tonje Bøe Birkeland, whose entire practice emerges from embodying and staging imagined turn of the century woman explorers. One of Birkeland’s explorers travels to the Arctic and the circumpolar North and explicitly references persisting narratives deriving from the so-called heroic era of polar exploration. In order to change these narratives, I argue, Birkeland employs two feminist strategies: firstly, by storytelling and speculative fabulation (Haraway); secondly, by simultaneously complying with and disrupting re-occurring Arctic motifs and representations. Photography, travel writing and found objects are hereby her primary artistic mediums and “accomplices” in fulfilling these strategies, carefully orchestrated in a photobook in order to establish her story and view on the Arctic world. As a result, Birkeland not only reveals which stories about the Arctic are missing and could have been told. She also asks us to imagine how our relationship to the Arctic could have been shaped differently and how, through this process, it is possible to influence a future narrative of a (still) gendered Arctic.
Industrialisation and social transformations changed the landscapes of the Soviet Arctic and stimulated discussions about the models of its domestication. Numerous industrial towns in the Soviet Far North in the 1930s were established next to Gulag labour camps. The attempt of technical, social and visual re-conceptualisation of urban space in the Soviet Arctic related to several reforms of the post-Stalin period. This chapter analyses how Leningrad architects since the 1950s used modernist urban projects for the realisation of their professional and personal ambitions trying to create a new conception of a “normal city” in extreme climate. While most were not implemented, their appearance shows the shift of the attitude toward the North in the USSR as well as the controversial changes of experts’ position.