The coal miners are gone now from Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, deep in the Arctic. But early in the 20th century, the British, Russians, Swedish and Dutch all established outposts along its salmon-filled fiords. Pyramiden—named for the massive peak looming above it—was one such Soviet-era settlement. Though it is now a ghost town, with predatory gulls sweeping its ice-blue skies, evidence of its former purpose is everywhere in ‘Trespassing’ (Moderne Kunst Nürnberg, 117 pages, $40), a study of desolate landscapes that bear the marks of human industry. German photographer Nathalie Grenzhaeuser carefully frames the ground and sky and mechanical constructions, fragmenting space. Orderly rows of metal coils jut from an empty reservoir in front of serrated hills; a wooden armature of uncertain purpose is bleached as pale as the snow that nearly obscures it. Mining operations in the harsh terrain of the Arctic and in the arid west of Australia may once have looked like foreign presences but now have the patina of the indigenous—as well as an aspect of mystery. In one image, a seemingly endless shed of corrugated metal follows a steep slope like a ski jump. Another photo (above) shows the structure’s interior, revealing the rails that carried men in and coal out of the mine itself. We are looking down at almost a 45-degree angle, though it is hard to tell without a figure in the frame. All these scenes are similarly made unsettling by the absence of the humans whose efforts shaped them.
- The Books Editors