An Unsearchable Distance by Ethan Aaro Jones
Opening Reception: Saturday, November 18th, from 6-9 PM
Exhibition Runs: November 18 - December 23, 2023
Join us at SooVAC on Saturday, December 2nd, from 2-3 pm. Ethan Aaro Jones will be conversing with Brad Zellar. (Brad Zellar is an American author and journalist. Photographs often accompany Zellar's writing; he has collaborated with photographer Alec Soth several times. The Coen brothers' film A Serious Man took some inspiration for the visuals based on Zellar's book Suburban World: The Norling Photos.)
An Unsearchable Distance is a photographic series inspired by the numerous failed searches for the purported Northwest Passage. For several centuries, explorers assumed that the elusive passage was somewhere beyond the horizon and out of sight. It never was. Nonetheless, voyagers drew many speculative maps that invented the undiscovered water route—a practice that closed their eyes to true discovery and laced their journeys with a lurking foregone futility.
Ethan Aaro Jones’s practice is informed by history, exploration, cartography, walking, and observation. Inherent to making his work, the camera records a single-point perspective that is closely situated to where he is moved through the impact of the landscape. The exacting nature of photography deeply intrigues him as each photograph suggests a certainty that belies the reality of any scene. This certainty is alluring and incomprehensible; thus, Jones often seeks out places that invoke questions or curiosities.
An Unsearchable Distance depicts more than misguided navigation; this history of exploration demonstrates how an imagined landscape was willed into existence through the power of subjective vision and an attitude of uncompromising authority over the landscape. The aftermath of these failed expeditions is a dramatically altered environment continuously shaped to accommodate ever-changing and self-aggrandizing goals. The contemporary landscape is now riddled with structures that have fallen into disrepair, been reused, and haphazardly preserved—creating a real sense of ineffectiveness in such earth-shaping efforts. Various constructions and worn-down facades reveal multiple layers of past misjudgments and serve as a reminder that each newly imagined idea might eventually appear shortsighted. The built environment seems to offer one proof: that the world is malleable but not controllable, as it constantly changes in response to our desires, stories, and collective will. These photographs capture the landscape out of an interest in place and with particular attention paid to how humans have interacted with and ultimately shaped the environment to fit various needs, desires, and purposes, however misguided.
Ethan Aaro Jones is a photographer and artist living and working in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His work involves photographing the landscape to understand a place and human intention within our environment. He also brings his photographs together in books and zines with short texts. His work has been published and exhibited internationally, including at the University of Notre Dame (2014), Minnesota Museum of American Art (2021), and Galeria da Estação in Braga, Portugal (2023). He has received several awards, including an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Ethan recently completed an artist residency at Bær Art Center in Hofsós, Iceland.