THE CONCEPT OF SOLASTALGIA
When I research the effects of climate change on the Arctic ice, I stumble upon what will act as both the conceptual framework and the title of our work: the concept of solastalgia. The term was coined by Glenn Albrecht, Professor of Sustainability at Murdoch University in Western Australia in 2005 (Albrecht 2005). It can be linked both to a mourning of what is already lost and the fear of what the future may bring. Albrecht writes:
Solastalgia has its origins in the concepts of ‘solace’ and ‘desolation’. Solace is derived from solari and solacium, with meanings connected to the alleviation of distress or to the provision of comfort or consolation in the face of distressing events. Desolation has its origins in solus and desolare with meanings connected to abandonment and loneliness. As indicated above, algia means pain, suffering or sickness. In addition, the concept has been constructed such that it has a ghost reference or structural similarity to nostalgia so that a place reference is imbedded. Hence, literally, solastalgia is the pain or sickness caused by the loss or lack of solace and the sense of isolation connected to the present state of one’s home and territory. (Albrecht 2005, p.48)
By naming Earth-related emotions associated to trauma, grief and mourning, Albrecht creates a new vocabulary connected to the ecological challenges we are facing in the Anthropocene. Finding that there is a term for the feelings Carola and I experience and confirming that others feel the same as we do is somehow supporting. And as artists, we also feel a similar need to order, process and share our feelings, by using our artistic language to express our care for the ice.
Some months into the work, our collaborative duo expands to an interdisciplinary trio, as video artist Eric Lanz joins the work on Solastalgia. We ask Eric if he has an existing work that might fit our theme, and we are happy when he offers to create something new with us. He himself has been wishing to address solastalgia in his work. In his studio in Düsseldorf, Eric run experiments in salt and water that we now watch here in the studio. The motions of the video, of fading landscapes of salt, evoke feelings of loss. Through the technological experimentation with time that Eric’s advanced software offers, processes can be speeded up a thousand times, or run backwards. His pictures of fading islands of salt – or ice – lend Solastalgia another artistic layer.