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King of Cold

Dän Flävin, Inuit Snow Goggles

Opening: Thursday, February 22, 6:30 – 8:30 pm 

The power to rule over forces of nature has been ascribed to superhuman beings and mythological Gods throughout recorded and likely pre-recorded history.  From Zeus to Magneto, the ability to wield control over light, fire, water, etc has been revered.  As time moves forward, technology gives us more and more discretionary control over the elements, from the light switch to the Large Hadron Collider.

Dan Flavin’s artistic career focused primarily on light as both a condition and a source.  The works for which he is most famous are composed of industrial fluorescent lights that have been repurposed as ready-mades, dissecting, segmenting, and deconstructing interior spaces in both an anti-material and hyper particular way.  Dan Flavin is a myth like figure that came out of the world of minimal art—austere and enigmatic.  Flavin’s light works raise the senses of the body in space.  While Flavin asserted that his light works did not have a spiritual component, it is perhaps also unsurprising that he studied for the Priesthood in his youth and trained as an air weather meteorological technician during his military service in 1954-55.

The first Inuit snow goggles were used on the west coast of Alaska from around 2,000 years ago to as recently as the early 20th Century. They were carved out of bone, ivory, or wood, with one or two narrow slits for the eyes.  Snow goggles were used by Inuit hunters to protect from “snow blindness”, a condition in which ultraviolet light that bounces off of the ice and snow, burns the retina and causes temporary blindness for up to several days.  This condition can equal death when hunting or traveling in the arctic in below freezing temperatures.

Snow goggles as a tool, express the ingenuity of the Inuit people to control and channel light. These objects not only protected the eyes from strong light but also improved visual acuity, focusing the field of vision to allow the wearer to see clearly at further distances, in a sense giving superhuman vision. Western explorers of the arctic quickly realized that unlike sunglasses, snow goggles did not mist or ice over in the polar climate, making them the perfect headgear for the extreme conditions.

Relics from distant regions and cultures of the world have been displayed in the West for centuries.  They touch upon our fascination with the mysteries of nature and the unknowns of our potential futures.  This exhibition aims to present and complicate notions of authenticity, ownership, and value by considering the aesthetic qualities of art and non-art, real and fake objects, presented in the same place at the same time.