Presenter: Joanna Price

Title: Antarctica and the Traumatic Sublime

Abstract: Antarctica has long been associated with the Sublime, as evoked for example by the monumental icy landscapes of the Heroic Era photographers Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley.  It has also been imagined as a locus of catastrophe, whether as the site of deaths of early explorers, or as a current advance indicator of the effects of global warming. This paper will explore how the Sublime and the catastrophic are connected and contested by their inscription into narratives of trauma in the representation of Antarctica.  In The Worst Journey in the World (1922) Cherry-Garrard describes a way of knowing the landscape through painful sensation which challenges the visual mastery and containment of the landscape implicit in the concept of the Sublime and the narratives of heroic conquest it informs.  In recent works about Antarctica, such representation of the Antarctic landscape as a place of traumatic experience seems at first to be forgotten, as travellers seek in its sublimity ‘healing’ of trauma that has happened elsewhere.  Jenny Diski , for instance, seeks escape from traumatic childhood memories in the icy blankness of Antarctica, and Sebastian Salgardo’s photographs of Antarctica in ‘Genesis’ suggest amelioration of the scenes of human suffering he has documented elsewhere . Judit Hersko, however, places the effects of climate change in Antarctica amidst the wider disasters of modernity and interrogates the heroic connotations of Sublime imagery by examining in her installations and photographs the domestic world of humans and the lives of microscopic organisms.

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