The Kerguelen Islands near Antarctica are among the most isolated places on Earth. That may sound romantic, but the islands are part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands and the leaden hand of French bureaucracy has imposed its own world of rules and regulations there. Ever since the French Southern and Antarctic Lands were established in the 1950's, the Kerguelen Islands have been governed by the Chief District Officer with the assistance of the General Secretary. They also govern the Kerguelen Archipelago, which was discovered in the 18th century by the French admiral Yves Joseph de Kerguelen. He was preoccupied with finding the fabled southern continent, certain that he was going to find minerals of all kinds in these cold latitudes. Oddly enough, De Kerguelen never actually set foot on any of the islands named after him.
The islands have no permanent inhabitants. Scientists and military personnel – all of them in top physical and psychological condition – who take care of the base on the Kerguelen Island, stay between 12 to 18 months. The photographer Klavdij Sluban was the first artist who was invited by France’s Department of Cultural Affairs-Indian Ocean and the TAAF administration to spend four months between January and April 2012 as a creator-in-residence in this harsh and not particularly human-friendly natural environment.
In his series of photographs, which was first shown at the prestigious 2012 Recontres d’Arles Festival, he presents his impressions of living in such extreme natural conditions. Sluban remains faithful to the art of black and white photography, using carefully chosen techniques to present his trademark emphatic darkness. However, Sluban says that the darkness lies in the eye of the beholder, for there is always a highlight in each one of his photos, a bright point to be attained out of our darkness.
7 January 2015–1 March 2015
National Gallery of Slovenia