It Will Not Be The Same, But It Might Be Beautiful

  • Nina Elder
Medium3-channel video
CreditCourtesy of the artist

It Will Not Be The Same, But It Might Be Beautiful is a multimedia investigation of change by artist Nina Elder, whose work actively bridges experimental fields and ways of knowing. Integrating science, art, and emotional knowledge, the project explores objects that have been exhausted by use and transformed by time. By focusing on what remains, even after environmental demise, It Will Not Be The Same, But It Might Be Beautiful creates a contemplative space for grappling with the fractious sensation of social, political, and environmental upheaval.

Excerpts from the larger project, the video and drawing featured here revolve around puzzle stones, which are rocks that have been shattered by extreme shifts in temperature caused, in this instance, by rapidly retreating glaciers in Alaska. In the video, a collaboration with cinematographer Michael Conti, the artist asked people to pick up naturally shattered stones and attempt to piece them back together. For the participants, a broad group of Alaskans, the process of touching these otherwise ordinary stones with intention and care generated a mix of emotions: hope, creativity, anxiety, diligence, and absurdity.

Elder’s drawing depicts a single shattered stone that has been unsuccessfully reassembled. It is one of a series of drawings that function as portraits of puzzle stones, depicting the nuance and character of each stone’s breaking. To make the drawings, Elder rubs large paper with glacial silt to create a velvety, luminous background and uses wildfire charcoal and industrial pulp mill waste as her mark-making media. These nearly-photorealistic drawings are evidence of the artist’s contemplative and rigorous observation. By documenting human interactions with these stones, she explores a personal space within climate change and illuminates the poetry of things that are fractured and fundamentally changed.