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Lena GuddBio
Antonin Pons BraleyBio

An Archive of Disappearance

Relais Gabriel, 51st parallel, Canada, Pons Braley 2015

As the North’s impoverishment accelerates with an unknown speed, leading to the vanishing of knowledge, languages or species, An Archive of Disappearance is constituting an aesthetic and academic repertoire of the Subarctic and Arctic regions. Just as the North can be understood as both an imaginary construct and a physical reality, this emotional resource maps mental landscapes to the same time as it documents Northern habitats. At the core of this live-long dedication lies Pons Braley’s research on the milieu as matrix, exploring the conversion of man to what surrounds him. Revisiting the very ideas of disappearance and archiving, both perfect and impossible notions, the resulting body of work takes shape in totem-like photographic sculptures, multimedia installations and scientific essays. These relics of the North draw upon landscape fragments collected in the Boreal regions, to compose multiple entry points into disappearance.

Ice fishing, 52nd parallel, Canada, Pons Braley 2015

In the context of a further north retreating North, Pons Braley’s writings engage with a multilayered Boreal quotidian. To the same time, photography as a process and set of mind plays a central role in structuring his research on the Arctics’ disappearance. Exploring both the medium’s philosophy and materiality, Pons Braley draws upon his “mesological samples” to constitute this collection. The latter takes notably shape in singular photographic sculptures, addressing the North’s evanescence by revisiting the vanishing savoir-faire of Heliogravure. Resulting among others in a herbarium series, Pons Braley’s work on the very matrix culminates with his Heliovolume research on three-dimensional copper forms. The latest Cladonia Stellaris Reliquary archives the lichen’s motif on its helioengraved dome, covering a vacuum of memories inside.

Cladonia Stellaris Reliquary in L’Empreinte du Geste, Paris Museum of Decorative Arts, Pons Braley 2016

Guided by tales and sketches, Dürer engraved in 1515 his interpretation of a rhinoceros, providing the animal with scales, a naval tooth on the withers and an armour of intertwined shells. Taken for an accurate representation until the 20th century, the chimera left a doubt as to the animal’s actual existence, symbolising therefore as a lieu de mémoire the place of the Arctics in the collective memory. By drawing upon mental and geographical Norths, An Archive of Disappearance carries this confusion.