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Department of Geography, University of Cambridge


Nanoq - photographs by Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson

Nanoq - photographs by Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson

13 May – 30 August 2008nanoq poster
See: Opening times for the exhibition and the Museum

Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson are Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson. They have been collaborating since 2001. Their work, characteristically rooted in the north, explores issues of history, culture and the environment in relation to the individual and his/her sense of belonging or detachment. Over the last seven years their projects have examined the interaction between humans and selected animals to engage the relationship between 'domesticity' and 'wilderness'.

The exhibition of photographs is part of the project Nanoq: Flat out and Bluesome, a survey of British taxidermic polar bears, begun in 2001. Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir is currently in her final year of PhD research in Fine Art at the Faculty of Art in Gothenburg. Mark Wilson is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Cumbria.

Artists' Statement

"Following a two-month research period in Greenland during the summer of 2001 we made the decision to continue working as a team on collaborative projects that reflected our shared fields of interest. The environment, in a wider sense, and our relationship to it is central to our ideas and prior to our collaboration we'd spent considerable time individually working in response to aspects of landscape and culture.

Through our projects we continue to be involved in a deconstructive process where notions of wilderness are called into question. The issues of psychological and physical displacement or realignment and the effect that these can have on cultural perceptions underpin much of our thinking. We are also working with the relationships that exist between individual people, societies, and cultures on the one hand – and animals on the other. We are looking at the uses we have and have had for animals, both domestic and wild and also at different levels of what we term 'domestication' – from self, through pet, 'working animal', livestock, game, to feral, to wild animal.

We have made use of specific creatures either alive or dead in order to examine their 'actual' and symbolic significance. Usually such significance can be seen as representative of either particular cultural lifestyles and impulses or an observed/part-appropriated/adopted mythology.

To the extent that our work involves animals, it has been in acknowledgement of their historical, human associations and symbolism - as the unwitting providers of food and clothing, as assistants in the securing of these provisions and as the subjects of human care and affection. They are alternately loved as friends, despised as vermin and everything in between.

More than all this, together, they are the hidden constituency, with which humans have had the most chequered relationship, offering some a more or less permanent place on the sofa beside us whilst driving some to extinction through fear or greed. As a consequence of this, the significance of some animals has for us become largely symbolic, of for instance, the northern wilderness, of extinction, of endangered status, and in association with humans, of cultural decline".