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Ice blink was a seafaring term used by polar adventurers to describe spectacular flashes of sunlight glancing off ice sheets along the distant horizon – one of the panoply of sublime refractions and distortions that astounded and disoriented early Antarctic travellers. As the title of this exhibition, Ice Blink evokes the similarly disconcerting impact of Forster's uncanny Alpine glacier photography, and the fleeting nature of the environment he explores. Forster’s project retraces the route of the late C18th Grand Tour, following the footsteps of English water-colourists William Pars, JR Cozens and Francis Towne, whose works sought to capture the sublime landscape. Forster has revisited the original territories that held so much fascination for earlier artists, to explore the ‘material sublime’ from a contemporary standpoint.
This landscape has altered radically over the centuries, and the retreat of glacial ice is accelerating in the face of global warming, to the point where it may not exist in 50 years’ time. Consequently many of Forster’s photographs have had to be taken at a higher altitude than the originals. The terrain at the greater altitude is eerily devoid of obvious focal points like people or trees that would enable the viewer to establish a sense of scale or context, and lends itself to new preoccupations with the sublime. Three enormous photographs (1metre by 3 metres) were presented at MOCA as duratrans transparencies, and back-lit using the latest developments in low-energy electro-luminescent (EL) technology: paper-thin EL sheeting which yields the same brightness as a conventional light box.
Ice Blink ran from December 2004 though January 2005, and was supported by The Arts Council of England, Southwark Council, Sustainable Energy Action, Isis London, Ellis Brigham and Elumin8. A publication is available.