David Clarkson

25 June 2007

Video, 12′ (colour, sound)

NASA has been keeping itself busy with Mars lately, sending out reconnaissance missions on its surface, mapping and naming the planet’s many geographical features and taking countless photographs.
The idea of “landscape as a technological vision” led David Clarkson (Ottawa, 1956) to take an interest in the ever-increasing archive of more than 100,000 digital images taken by exploratory crafts and made available to the public on the NASA website. Faced with this immensity, the artist chose just one only photography as for the background presenting mankind’s interest in Mars in a beautiful metaphor: a chronology of films made featuring Mars.
As humans cannot yet land on Mars, ants are now the first species to reach the planet, a kind of scouting party for mankind, with Clarkson in command. In 2002, Clarkson began a project in which he drew landscapes captured by webcams located in remote corners of the earth, until he realised that these landscapes could also go beyond the earth’s orbit. For years, we have grown used to seeing photographs of other planets thanks to aerospace research. Mankind now accepts them as our own, belonging to the repertoire of the known world.
Clarkson uses subjects like film archives, science fiction and an interest in landscapes influenced by the Romantic approach to the sublime in nature, and related to the idea of the picturesque, the bucolic, pastoral landscapes explored by 18th and 19th century painting. He also draws on the Far West and its conquest, given that the new hostile territory of the 20th and 21st centuries is projected beyond planet earth. New, uninhabited spaces are no longer colonised on horseback and dirt roads or cleared with machetes. Now we use cutting-edge spatial engineering, but the objective remains the same: dominate the forces of nature, possibly exploit the new territories.