Yangtze River

Prix Pictet winner: Nadav Kander’s Yangtze river project

Chongqing XI, Series: Yangtze, The Long River, Chongqing, China 2007 by Nadav Kander

Just over a week ago Nadav Kander was named as winner of the excellent 2009 Prix Pictet, the prize given to photography on the theme of environmental sustainability. Last year’s shortlist, which included Benoit Aquin, Edward Burtynsky, David Maisel and others, produced a really astonishing collection of images on the theme of Water; it showed how powerful photography can still be when it inhabits the zone between art and documentary.

This year the theme,  Earth, produced equally sock-knocking results; Britain’s Nadav Kander was up against Darren Almond, Edward Burtynsky (again) and  Andreas Gursky and others. I’ve blogged about the brilliant shortlist previously.

Maybe because they’re part documentarists, there’s something very pithy about photographer’s artists’ statements that I really like. Here’s part of Kander’s artists’ statement about the whole Yangtze, The Long River project:

The Yangtze River, which forms the premise to this body of work, is the main artery that flows 4100miles (6500km) across China, travelling from its furthest westerly point in Qinghai Province to Shanghai in the east. The river is embedded in the consciousness of the Chinese, even for those who live thousands of miles from the river. It plays a significant role in both the spiritual and physical life of the people.

More people live along its banks than live in the USA, one in every eighteen people on the planet.

Using the river as a metaphor for constant change, I have photographed the landscape and people along its banks from mouth to source.

Importantly for me I worked intuitively, trying not to be influenced by what I already knew about the country. I wanted to respond to what I found and felt and to seek out the iconography that allowed me to frame views that make the images unique to me.

After several trips to different parts of the river, it became clear that what I was responding to and how I felt whilst being in China was permeating into my pictures; a formalness and unease, a country that feels both at the beginning of a new era and at odds with itself. China is a nation that appears to be severing its roots by destroying its past in the wake of the sheer force of its moving “forward” at such an astounding and unnatural pace. A people scarring their country and a country scarring its people…

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

On flying to Australia to see the last Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat…

The extraordinary poetic collaboration Dialogue between the body and the soul by John Kinsella and Melanie Challenger is reaching a kind of crescendo. It’s a work exploring our reluctance to face the consequences of our lifestyles – in particular the consequences of air travel.

The poets are using what turns out to be a very ancient poetic form to explore that modern theme; that of a dialogue between the body and the soul – two elements that are close-cousins but often in direct opposition to each other. So in this work the voice of “Body” can be that element which leads us to consume our planet,while “Soul” is our own spiritual response.

If I haven’t wrecked the depth of these poems through that cack-handed explanation, this is a verse titled “Body” which starts as an apparently well-meaning litany of endangered species – before it twists the knife.

Noisy Scrub Bird; Yangtze River Dolphin; Seychelles
Sheath-tailed Bat; Madagascar Pochard; Northern Hairy-
nosed Wombat; Javan Rhino, Iberian Lynx; Dwarf Blue Sheep;
Hispid Hare; Abington Island Giant Tortoise; Californian Condor;
stretch soul stretch — eco-tourist sales pitch — fly in fly out witness;
short-necked tortoises in ephemeral swamps around Perth.

WordPress seems to have killed the formatting of the poem; read the whole thing as it should be on the RSA Arts & Ecology site.

Illustration: Surrogate (for the Northern Hairynosed Wombat) 2005 by Patricia Piccinini. Piccinini, whose work often concerns bioethics She created this creature as an imagined surrogate for the threatened Northern Hairynosed Wombat as part of her series Nature’s Little Helpers. Piccinini writes:

The sculptures present a series of creatures that I have designed to ‘assist’ a series of the endangered Australian animals. In the photographs, we follow more closely one of these creatures, ‘The Bodyguard (for the Golden Helmeted Honeyeater)’. It is very seductive to think that we could find a simple technological solution to complex ecological problems such as extinction. It is far more exciting to talk about genetic engineering than to designate a large area of habitat/real estate as national park so that dozens or even hundreds of native species might be given a better chance of survival.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology