AMN Reviews: Helen Mirra & Ernst Karel – Maps and Parallels 41°N and 49°N at a Scale of Ten Seconds to One Degree (Shhpuma)

R-6687171-1436113270-2327.jpegSeldom has constructed emptiness felt so chill, its chill penetrated the marrow with such real immediacy. Cambridge, Mass.-based Helen Mirra, artist, writer and walker, created the installation Declining Interval Lands for New York´s Whitney Museum in 2002, together with acoustic guitarist Ernst Karel. The “home stereo version” Maps and Parallels 41°N and 49°N at a Scale Of Ten Seconds to One Degree is an eco-ambient horror story. The latitudes mark the strip of North America where deforestation and poorly planned monoculture ravaged the land where the elm tree once grew.

For an earlier film on the subject, Mirra paced out this space, exposing one foot of film for each degree. Describing the consequences of the “need for land”, instead of producing a “conventional” field recording, Mirra represents the land with Karel´s slowly strummed guitar, the railway with rewind cranking of a 16mm camera (emptied of film), the unrelenting wind with analogue noise generators and filters and the rivers with – silence. Despite its weightless transparency, it is a ruthlessly unsentimental, sobering memorial.

Stephen Fruitman