Nostalgia for the Light

29 May 2015

Forensics: the anatomy of crime is on until 21 June 2015. One of the short videos on show in the exhibition is taken from a longer film: Nostalgia for the Lightscreening on Saturday 6 June at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Katherine McAlpine from Royal Museums Greenwich looks at how the film relates to both Forensics and their own exhibition, Unseen.

The Forensics exhibition at Wellcome Collection explores the history, science and art of forensic medicine. It travels from crime scene to courtroom, across centuries and continents, drawing out the stories of victims, suspects and investigators of violent crimes. One of such story is that of the Chilean women who sift through the sand of the Atacama desert searching for evidence of the bodies of their loved ones: political prisoners held in concentration camps run during Pinochet’s dictatorship. Their enduring efforts have equipped them with skills more typically associated with forensic experts.

Their story is told in a short, six minute clip from Patricio Guzman’s Nostalgia for the Light (Nostalgia de la luz) film, a profound and searching cinematic essay set in Chile’s Atacama desert. In the film, Guzman explores different ways of looking, from the women who are now able to identify minute shard of bone amid the mass of rocks and dust in this vast, unforgiving landscape, to the astronomers who work alongside them in the Atacama desert, gazing into their astral telescopes, into the deep time of stellar origins.

 Unseen, at Royal Museums Greenwich.
[object Object]

Stills from Unseen, at Royal Museums Greenwich.

With the support of the Wellcome Trust, Royal Museums Greenwich have also been exploring the role of looking in our free Unseen: The Lives of Looking by Dryden Goodwin exhibition at the Queen’s House. Influenced and inspired by Guzman’s achievement in his remarkable film essay, Dryden Goodwin brings an equivalent level of visual and intellectual insight, as well as a similar warmly creative empathy.

Charting a series of close encounters by the artist, the film focuses on three individuals with a particular relationship to looking: a planetary explorer, an eye surgeon and a human rights lawyer. The artist’s own gaze reflects on their endeavours, through his intense drawing and filmmaking activity. Alongside the film and associated exhibition is an event series, including a day of exploration with Dryden Goodwin in conversation with all three of the film’s participants, and a special Planetarium screening of Nostalgia for the Light.

Katherine is the Public Programmes Producer at Royal Museums Greenwich.