The video work “terraforming” focusses on the transformation of a natural environment through energy input. The underpinning idea is that of three phase system change. This begins with the stage of equilibrium where a system is in a certain balance and not changing at all. In the next stage an evolving system enters a state of motion and change where it moves away from equilibrium. The third and final stage is the phase of transformation in which the original system becomes something else. The key element in this transformation process is the sun. This process is called terraforming, whereby a hostile environment, i.e. a planet that is too cold, too hot, or has an unbreathable atmosphere, can be altered to make it suitable for human life. Such a process is not merely a futuristic scenario but represents exactly what is happening on Earth at this moment as the process of atmospheric change brought about by increasing CO2 emissions heats up our planet and speeds up the process of climate change.
The video combines footage taken during a three week trek through Iceland in early 2017 with Martian landscapes shot by NASA´s Curiosity Mars rover. Calving glaciers, shiny ice caves and powerful waterfalls enter into a visual dialogue with the vast desert landscapes of Mars. Implicit in the visual dialogue is the paradox that we might need to transform Mars into an inhabitable environment precisely because we are transforming our home planet into an uninhabitable one. The work creates a bridge between the work of the German photographer and filmmaker Alfred Ehrhardt who in 1938 undertook a two-month photo and film expedition across Iceland. This adventurous journey led him into untouched "primal landscape" shaped by glaciers and volcanoes, where he hoped to gain insights into the origins of the Earth. His work is driven by a typological approach to landscape using an abstract, avant-garde visual vocabulary.
Accompanied by Dieter Jaufmann, Michael Najjar filmed many of the same locations that Alfred Ehrhardt visited almost a century ago. Ehrhardt’s goal of discovering the Earth´s origins is paired to the most existential question of the 21st century: saving the Earth’s future.