Janet Biggs, selected by Lynn Hershman Leeson (2016)

in Tenerife and New York

By Lynn Hershman Leeson

Janet Biggs, Point of No Return (still), 2013, single-channel HD video, 10 min 16 sec. Courtesy the artist; Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York; Analix Forever, Geneva; and Connersmith, Washingtonn, DC

Editor’s note: Like Walking on Mars, two video projects by Janet Biggs are currently on view at the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre y en el Museo de la Ciencia y el Cosmos, Tenerife, and her two channel 2013 video Somewhere Beyond Nowhere, looking back on failed expeditions to the Arctic in the nineteenth century, is part of Art for Arctic’s Sake, a group exhibition gathering artists documenting the effects of climate change in the Arctic at Fordham Lincoln Center’s Ildiko Butler Gallery, New York – both through 15 January.

Janet Biggs’s fascination with science may have been the motivation that incited her particular quest for travel to dangerous and (for the less brave) inaccessible regions of the globe, from the High Arctic to witness the sharp end of global warming for The Arctic Trilogy (2010–11), to navigating the Taklamaken Desert in western China on a camel to make her 2013 film Point of No Return. Like formerly hidden salt mines, for instance. Once there, she sources material that will be gleaned for memories when transformed into projected provocations that extend interpretations of their origin and raise direct and unexpected questions about the environment and the nature of humans. Experiencing Biggs’s work leads to a reconstructed narrative of time travel. The armature of these works has the strength to support unique and fragile arenas of impermanence.

Biggs’s subtle and nuanced videos inform, transform and ultimately confirm the solidity and grace that are embedded in tenuous landscapes. She has culled an aesthetic that balances focus with disappearance in her immersive four-channel video about Alzheimer’s, Can’t Find My Way Home (2015), while reminding us, in other works, such as the three films shown at Echo of the Unknown, a recent solo show at the Blaffer Art Museum, Houston, of the atmospheric moment and divine moments of perceptual shifts. 

This article was first published in the January & February 2016 issue of ArtReview.