Jessica Auer & Zuhaitz Akizu – Kujira (A White Whale)

New work by Jessica Auer and Zuhaitz Akizu in Skaftfell’s West Wall gallery in the bistro. Join us for the opening reception on June 17, 17:00 – 19:00. Everyone is welcome!

The exhibition continues until October 25, 2019. 

Some 400 years ago, Icelandic scholar and poet Jón lærði Guðmundsson (1574–1651) created a series of over 20 drawings of whales that could be found in Icelandic waters. Exactly how he could distinguish each whale from another remains a mystery, but one can imagine that his knowledge was linked to the whaling activities of his time. 

Inspired by Jón lærði’s sketches and the motivation behind his drawings, artists Jessica Auer and Zuhaitz Akizu travelled to Japan, a culture deeply engrained by whaling traditions, to learn more about the representation of whales in art. Whales and whale hunting have been depicted prolifically throughout Japanese drawings, woodblock prints and watercolour scrolls. These works were made with tremendous skill and have been preserved with care, and in them, one can sense a reverence for these great creatures. 

These drawings were from a time when the world was more divided by the familiar and the unfamiliar. Nowadays, popular images of whales are created on touristic whale watching tours or with high tech underwater cameras and drones. Moreover, a great number of brutalistic images convey the protest against the continued slaughtering of whales. No matter our attitudes or concerns for whales, our relationship to them has dramatically shifted. 

Composed of photographs, cyanotype prints and video, this project was created during an art residency in Southern Japan in December 2018, at the time that Japan withdrew from the International Whaling Commission in order to pursue whaling within its international waters. These works explore the fragmented connection between human and whales, particularly as a source of food.