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Words Joe Magowan

Photography Serena Dzenis

 

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2021 ± II: Utopia Broadcasting

Serena Dzenis uses her local landscape of Iceland to imagine a future where humans have colonised other planets and encountered alien lifeforms. Her project 2021 ± II: Utopia Broadcasting uses a mixture of images and text to explore themes of futurism, space travel.

You have a very imaginative way of viewing your local landscape in Iceland. Have you always lived in this place, and have you always viewed the landscape in this way? When did you start imagining your surroundings as alien landscapes and visions of a future world?

I’ve been living in Iceland since 2018, though I had been visiting regularly since 2016. While I’ve always felt that the landscape here offers an intriguing glimpse backwards in time to the beginnings of life on Earth, it wasn’t until the onset of the pandemic that I began to imagine my surroundings as scenes that could possibly be drawn from other worlds at some point in the not too distant future.

Scientists have long used the harsh landscapes here to conduct fieldwork and to test equipment for space expeditions, as the conditions in Iceland are described as similar to those on Mars. The dry basalt sand, channels left by glacial meltwater and mountainous terrain really do sometimes give you the feeling of being on another planet.

What inspires your approach to image making? How do you put yourself into a frame of mind to create these otherworldly images?

I am most inspired by an innate desire to make a change. My photographic work is influenced largely by an interest that I’ve had in science-fiction since I was young. I enjoy writing as well as creating images, so I use both forms of art together as a means of storytelling. Storytelling gives me the opportunity to engage an audience and to deliver a message in such a way that it invokes conversation, new ideas, motivation, action and of course, change.

2021 ± II: Utopia Broadcasting ©Serena Dzenis
2021 ± II: Utopia Broadcasting ©Serena Dzenis

Concrete is a recurring motif throughout the work. What do you find so interesting about concrete and why do you think it’s so important to human civilisation?

There is a quote that I really like by an Icelandic author, Guðmundur Hannesson which states ‘Sagan um steinsteypuna er æfintýri líkust’, which translates to mean, ‘The history of concrete is like a fairytale’.

Concrete is one of the most important materials that exists in the world today. It is absolutely vital to modern civilisation. We use it for the construction of buildings and other structures that give us shelter from the elements, as well as to build roads that connect us. Concrete provides the necessary foundation for our built environment and it’s been used for thousands of years, with early forms dating all the way back to ancient times. It is one of the most extensively used, manufactured materials on the planet and it has a huge impact on the environment.

In your accompanying text, you mention humans as always consuming but never being satisfied. Do you think technological advancement and living in harmony with our environment are inherently at odds with each other or can technological progress be practised in a way that’s truly sustainable?

Sustainability is dependent on technological innovations. Throughout history, we have worked through a lot of trials and errors to get to where we are today. During the Industrial Age, hand tools were replaced by power-driven machines. During the Machine Age, steam engines were replaced by gas turbines and internal combustion engines. Petroleum rose during this time as a strategic resource, while other natural resources such as coal were exploited with little concern for the ecological consequences.

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2021 ± II: Utopia Broadcasting ©Serena Dzenis

In your accompanying text, you mention humans as always consuming but never being satisfied. Do you think technological advancement and living in harmony with our environment are inherently at odds with each other or can technological progress be practised in a way that’s truly sustainable?

Sustainability is dependent on technological innovations. Throughout history, we have worked through a lot of trials and errors to get to where we are today. During the Industrial Age, hand tools were replaced by power-driven machines. During the Machine Age, steam engines were replaced by gas turbines and internal combustion engines. Petroleum rose during this time as a strategic resource, while other natural resources such as coal were exploited with little concern for the ecological consequences.

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Joe Magowan

Joe is a Northern Irish photographer based in London. He’s fascinated with subcultures, individuals who live outside the status quo, and the different forms of escapism people turn to in unaccepting societies. His work has been published in Dazed, Vice, Notion, Rolling Stone, Hunger and The Guardian.

Serena Dzenis

Serena is a lens-based artist from Australia, residing in Iceland. She uses her work to tell stories about science, conservation, environmental issues and the future of mankind. The emphasis of her art is on storytelling within the landscape – connecting with the land and exploring the outcomes of human desires.

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ISSUE 13

Sustainability permeates every aspect of our lives and is now a necessity, not a choice. Human innovation, determination and persistence is more important than ever and will ultimately decide the fate of our planet. In this issue, through photography and writing we explore insect-based protein, space colonisation, childfree people, the importance of payphones, the world’s largest blanket bog, support for artists, sustainable photobooks and Universal Basic Income.

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