Janet Biggs: Nobody Rides for Free
Mary Coble: Source
May 15–July 3,2010
Janet Biggs and Mary Coble at Conner Contemporary Art
In new video and photographs, Biggs delves into the desire to explore remote lands. To create this work, the artist embarked on an expedition in the high Arctic, traveling aboard an ice-class, 2-masted schooner, built in 1910. During the voyage, Biggs filmed Fade to White, focusing on a crew member as he navigated the ship through iceberg filled seas, and paddled a kayak past glacier walls and polar bears.
As she photographed the explorer, Biggs tested her own will and endurance. The visual tension of her uncompromising imagery bespeaks their mutual struggle to maintain balance and purpose. Yet, the video also reveals the use of extensive rigging, exposing the myth of the solitary white male explorer. Biggs explains, "The desire to hold onto the notion of the 'great white north' as a blank space awaiting interpretation only reinforces the idea of the colonial polar hero. The 'virgin' north has now been mapped, surveyed, and mined, but increased knowledge has not replaced endless fantasies of discovery."
Loss and change are implicit in the video's title, Fade to White, which refers to an editing technique used to evoke death or transcendence. Biggs integrated her Arctic imagery with sound and video footage of counter tenor John Kelly, whose age, androgyny, and mournful voice parallel the vanishing Arctic landscape and signal the waning of male dominance.
Vanishing Point, the artist's recent video, featuring biker Leslie Porterfield and the Harlem Addicts Rehabilitation Center Choir, will be on view in the media room.
Forthcoming exhibitions include The Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC (November 2010) and the Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, FL (survey, traveling, spring 2011).