ARCTIC SPLEEN - work in progress -
I often ponder life and death.
And Greenland is the ‘right’ place for such reflection; a place where one vicariously experiences the personal fears of an alarmingly large part of youth inclined to commit suicide, and where those fears start blending with my own, an isolated environment enabling me to confront my own anxieties. I don't have answers; not for them nor for myself. Or I may have too many, always different.
In Greenland one doesn't live, at best one survives; both physically and psychologically.
And so you hear Elvira saying "I try to have fun but sometimes I cannot smile". And gradually you sense the subtle and intimate war many young people fight against violence, boredom and emptiness, a struggle that has always been the “raison d’etre” of young generations, the difference being that in Greenland many of them lose that battle.
In east Greenland twenty percent of youths aged between 15 and 25 try to end their lives every year. Two percent of them succeed.
Suicide here is experienced differently from the rest of the world. It’s not perceived as the ultimate desperate act of a single person; suicide is considered an exit strategy that’s deeply ingrained in the local culture. Children grow up and assimilate it just like learning to speak, instinctively, like breathing. It's the ancient manner of solving problems, handed down over generations.
It’s hard to think about the future when they cannot see what a different future could be like. Around them only signs of the past and the frightening present. No jobs, a lot of boredom.
Last year, a total of 37 suicides were reported in Greenland, 33% of which occurred on the east coast, a region lacking in any effective form of social support services: Two psychologists pay a one-week visit every few months with police and local government for decades being in denial of a societal affliction that, according to experts, goes back to the dawn of local community life.
Since 2009 I have been keeping going back to east Greenland trying to paint the social, cultural and environmental landscape of this region and its community; a community I created a deep, personal attachment with and that by now I feel and consider my own.
With my project I'd like to bring awareness to this “hidden” problem through pictures and videos. I hope the final output will be both a strong photographic body of work and video documentary of which I have already completed a short web-documentary (watch here)