This work, a collection of photographs, drawings, and imprints of volcanic earth and ash entitled As if it should have been a quarry, was named for a phrase from the American poet Robert Frost’s 1954 poem “Directive.” It was made between 2011-2013 in Iceland—a country in the middle of the Atlantic ocean positioned directly above a continental divide, making it the site of frequent seismic and volcanic activity. In January of 1973 a volcano erupted without warning in the small town of Heimaey in the Westman Islands just off the south coast.This work is inspired by the story of the inhabitants of the town that dug themselves out of the ash and stopped the flow of lava from destroying their harbor. Despite the mayhem caused by the eruption, they were determined to stay. Now, forty years later, while many homes have been recuperated and reoccupied, abandoned excavations hold the remains of the houses that proved unsalvageable. The excavations exist as a unique scenario in which during one individual’s own lifetime his or her own archaeological history is being explored—a chance to literally witness one’s own stories coming out of the ground, the survivors living to confront them in person.
As a gesture towards reversing the process of unearthing the tales buried beneath the land’s surface, I sought to create a new narrative with the earth by using natural clay from regions around the country with particularly high volcanic or seismic activity and implementing it to bear witness to the visage of Icelanders young and old through imprints mirroring those of light. This work is about how a piece of land can be a reflection of one’s countenance and vice versa, like maps in conversational flux with one another. It is the story of the nuanced relationship between the individual and the landscape more powerful than her or himself and their co-survival.
Volcano Time, essay by Eduardo Cadava
Interview Magazine article
Time Magazine Lightbox article
Interview in Metal Magazine with Sabine Mirlesse