0° a 5000 mt (Zero gradi a 5000 metri)


by Beba Stoppani

In July 2015 the heat wave’s impact on the Alps reached its climax, to the extent that hiking in the high mountains was forbidden due to the serious dangers involved. At these temperatures, the permanent ice cap on the peak of Mount Blanc shrank, while the Rhône Glacier melted like an ice lolly in a child’s hands.
This work is cry of contrition and pain for the harm that we are causing to ourselves and the ecosystem. It is a call to respect and love the natural world and the mountains, which, despite the damage to their integrity, still provide us with beauty and resources.
Since the end of the last glaciation, around 1850, the ice of the Rhône Glacier has retreated. Although, since that time and until the present day, the tradition of visiting the glacier cave has been maintained, we have not been able to safeguard the ecosystem. Every year a great effort made is to slow down the melting of the ice, which is rapidly increasing, by protecting it with reflective sheets. But very few of the continuous stream of visitors who, like ants, playfully enter and leave the cave, seem to be aware of the processes that are underway. Still today the mountains offer us their majestic beauty; but what will be left for future generations? This study is intended to serve as a wake-up call, especially for young people, regarding the need for greater responsibility towards our planet and for an integral ecology where both mankind and the earth itself are respected and experienced as a single living organism.

This work is dedicated to Antonio Stoppani, the author of Il Bel Paese, a great geologist and expert on glaciers; to my grandfather, Luigi Stoppani, who, in 1881, enrolled in the glorious Fifth Alpine Regiment of the Italian army; to my aunt, for her reminiscences about our family linked to the Furka Pass and the Rhône Glacier, which I started to visit in 1999.

by Gigliola Foschi

This exhibition is intended to stimulate reflection on climate change and our increasingly difficult relationship with the earth. We often hear that the average temperature of our planet has already risen by one degree centigrade and that, if it were to exceed the limit of two degrees, we would be faced with submerged cities, the desertification of fields and forests and other catastrophic scenarios.
But can we be sure that serious developments have not already occurred? Do we only have to worry about our uncertain future? The answer is no: unfortunately, a lot has already taken place and is still happening now — as the works of the three participants in this exhibition at the Galleria Amy-d Arte Spazio clearly demonstrate.
As we are aware, photography can sometimes lie, but what is certain is that it can only manage to tell us about the present or the past, whether recent or distant, while it is clearly in difficulty when it comes to conjuring up the future — unless massive use is made of Photoshop: but this certainly isn’t the case with these three photographers. It is, however, photography that has the noble task of giving visibility to the real calamities or problems hidden behind cold statistics: this is an assignment that has been accepted with open arms by Beba Stoppani, Edoardo Miola and Daesung Lee, united in the name of listening to the earth and its defence, even though they differ radically from each other as regards the issues they address and the way they deal with them.
Already in the title of her work, 0° a 5000 mt (0° at 5,000 m) Beba Stoppani informs us that this is a cry of pain concerning the tragedy of the melting of the glaciers, to be precise the Rhône Glacier in Switzerland. The photographer was there, at the terminus of the glacier, when the ‘anomalous’ heat wave of July 2015 reached the Alps and caused it to melt like ‘an ice lolly in a child’s hands’, as she recounts despondently. The geological data speak volumes and are incontrovertible: since 1850 the Rhône Glacier has receded over three kilometres. In the three weeks of scorching heat in July 2015 it lost no less than six metres. However, actually seeing this disaster for oneself is quite different from just knowing about it; we can thus participate emotionally in the decline and suffering of this icy giant, as Beba Stoppani has managed to do. She does not confine herself to recording the sadness and, at the same time, the grandeur of the glacier covered with reflective sheets in a vain struggle against the sun’s heat and global warming. But she sees it and allows us to feel it, the symbolic and highly significant result of our foolish behaviour with regard to the natural world that nurtures us and of which we form part. She observes it, almost as if it were a seriously ill patient, with a compassionate gaze, resembling that of someone who lovingly tends a suffering person to whom appropriate treatment must soon be administered.
Thus the glacier — protected by sheets, from which emerge parts of it, resembling worn-down limbs — reveals its decline and its depressing vulnerability. It seems to be a person to whom one would like, with a loving gesture, to restore its lost power, dignity and past. Beba Stoppani (a descendent of the great geologist, naturalist and writer Antonio Stoppani, the author of Il Bel Paese, a popular treatise on geology and natural history, and an early observer of the human impact on the environment) has nurtured her own memories and those of her family by visiting this glacier. The outcome of this is that she cannot now consider it from a merely documentary point of view.
Consequently — in addition to producing a series of images laden with empathy — she enters the cave of blue ice that, to the delight of visitors, is carved out every year at the base of the glacier: she immerses herself (and us) in the magic of ice that seems to be transformed into bright lunar landscapes or spaces extending into infinity. So what should be done to recall the past splendour of this glacier? She found the answer in a series of old photographs bearing witness to its former majesty: she printed these on fragile traditional Korean paper, suggesting that, although memory is tenacious, it is ready to vanish in an instant, erased by oblivion and the passing of time.

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