Eva la Cour is a Danish visual artist and researcher initially trained as both an artist and in anthropology.She works with audio-visual and spatial forms of montage and display, performance and text, always negotiating with her environment. As such her work reflects a general interest in how artistic practices can enable a shift in focus from that of representation to that of mediation - as well as an interest in speculating on the political and aesthetical implications of such a shift.
Currently she is a educator and doctoral candidate at Valand Academy of Art.
THE FIGURE OF THE GUIDE
(MEDIATING THE ARCTIC TERRAIN)
The figure of the guide: Mediating the Arctic Terrain is a research attentive to the guide, approached as a pathfinder and mentor that collapses distinct practices and temporalities of producing, presenting and living the geopolitical Arctic.
While touching upon a range of urgent matters and effects of ecology, climate changes and Anthropocentric imaginaries, the research is developed from experiences and records of fieldwork on the archipelago of Svalbard which, while often functioning as visually representative of the High Arctic, in many ways can be regarded as a regional anomaly as it never has had any indigenous population. Rather it is characterized by a transient cosmopolitan population. In this sense, the research more precisely uses Svalbard as a prism and the guide as a (contested) figure to investigate and politicize material-discursive practices in their skilled and situated dimensions, within the domains of both arts and science. More particularly it seeks to challenge Arctic identities and skills - of the e.g. researcher, tourist and artist - as separate and bounded, and thereby to disrupt the political ecology of their knowledge production and potentially to create new Arctic imaginaries.
Using experimental film-strategies in which I assemble and voice my fieldwork material, often in front of a live audience, the research explores how different value frameworks and knowledge spaces relate and interact to reproduce Arctic discourses and geo-aesthetics. By exploring these as composite and unbounded the research aims to contribute to an understanding of mediation as something significantly different from representation - and with a speculation on the political and aesthetical implications of such an understanding.
Addressing the intersection of science, geopolitics and visual anthropology, the artistic research thus revolves around Arctic Cinema as a field of concern, rather than as a label for films portraying or documenting distant Arctic people and geographies. A field concerned with the contemporary condition for visual production in turbulent environments, encompassing both social, engineered and natural ecologies, and thus an entangled field of material narratives which itself is productive (and thus part) of the Arctic.
The artistic research focus on Svalbard allows me to talk about this extraordinary unpeopled place that became peopled in the context of colonialization of the Arctic. Moreover, it allows me to focus on (thus) complex contestations but also on personal experiences: For more than seven years have been returning to Svalbard for both fieldwork and pleasure, which has resulted in a collection of both written notes, photographs, video and sound recordings.
Methodologically, this points to the ways in which the research draws on anthropological theory and methods in its usage of the anecdotal as a form of mediation. The anecdote as a methodology both provides material and produces a certain affective register of communication; it is something that I use both in my written work and in my filmic practice, drawing on visual annotations during fieldwork. Anecdotal research thus allows me to bridge different ways of knowing in the field (across identities and skills), but also to link my background within the field of visual anthropology (and its methodologies) to what I am doing as an artistic researcher. However, this is also where a major methodological question emerge: How does film as material-discursive practice infect the field of interdiciplinary Arctic Studies?