Dominique Allard on «Land Claim»
Text for the publication «Geopolitics», esse arts + opinions No.86, Montreal, 2016
Artist Thomas Kneubühler’s latest project addresses the geopolitical tension between the local and the global through the notion of territorial property. Land Claim (2014), comprising a series of photographs and a video, is constructed around mining activities in northern Québec. Taken in three different locations, the images in this body of work draw our attention to the complex articulation among the various actors involved in the process of appropriation of a space: whereas some show the infrastructure of the Raglan mine in Kattiniq, in the Nunavik region — an isolated site only accessible via airplanes owned by the mining company — others offer views of the town of Zug in Switzerland, a tax haven, where the company’s head office is located.
In parallel, Kneubühler presents images of the Inuit village of Aupaluk, also in Nunavik, one of the places “besieged” by the development of a new iron mining project — whence the title of this series: Under Siege. Yet, beyond this intersection that emphasizes the displacement of populations, what is highlighted is the imperceptibility of the economic power relationship itself — woven between the local excavation of materials and their commercialization on the global scale.
In the artist’s view, this invisibility is also connected to the inaccessibility of the mining sites: not only are they isolated and underground, but they are highly monitored, controlled, protected, even hidden from the public eye. In this sense, Land Claim extends Kneubühler’s investigation begun during the polar night at the Canadian Forces Station Alert with Days in Night (2013 – 14), in which he seeks to understand “how to make visible what is immersed in darkness.”