The Vulnerability of the Landscape

2019 | Meta/Books

Essay for Małgorzata Stankiewicz’s book Lassen, a body of work dealing with the landscape and our relation to the landscape in the era of global climate transformations.


“Małgorzata Stankiewicz’s approach is neither documentary nor illustrative. She does not capture a current state of the landscape in anticipation of potential future change. She does not attempt to preserve the landscape as a memory for the future, nor speculates about what could become of it in future years. Rather, her work translates our emotional relations to landscapes into images based on experimental photographic processes.

Lassen started in 2005 with her first images of national parks, predominantly made in the US but also internationally. Photography was a response to the experience of these extreme landscapes. Her images unequivocally diverge from the photographic tradition of capturing the landscape with impeccably composed pictures taken from a carefully chosen vantage point. Her visual representations are fragmented. They offer limited hints about the scale of what is depicted; they seldom feature a horizon line. They emphasise the artist’s ambivalence between sharing and obfuscating the landscape through her images. This fragmentation also reflects a certain experience of the landscape, its intensity and the impossibility to take it all at once, as well as the limits to its individual memorialisation. […]

Lassen is an elegy to the landscape, and to our blissful awe. It surrenders to, and sublimes, the ineluctability of the losses to come, our acute awareness of them, our paralysis and inability to act to counter them, and the guilt and anxiety we now experience in front of these territories.”