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Michael Lundgren Geomancy

2021/APR/17 - 2021/JUN/26

: The Museum of Photography, Seoul
Curated by
: The Museum of Photography, Seoul
: Michael Lundgren
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The Museum of Photography, Seoul (MoPS) presents Geomancy, Michael Lundgren’s first exhibition in South Korea. Lundgren is internationally recognized for his original and fascinating approach to photographing mother nature. Based in Western America, Lundgren has worked in deserts around the world since the late 1990s. His work explores the poetic potentiality of photography, which extends far beyond traditional landscape photography. His distinct series, such as Transfigurations (2000~2006), Matter (2006~2014), and Geomancy (2016~2019) draw the eye to various aspects of landscape: the primitive pre-human earth, surrealistic spaces with symbolic motives, and marginal spaces where nature and traces of human remains intertwine. This exhibition presents the full-series of Geomancy comprised of 39 photographs. Geomancy, the book and exhibition of the same title, is the artist’s exploration of artificial and natural markings in the deserts of the American Southwest, Mexico, and Lebanon. His most recent and well-recognized work, the title of this series was inspired by an older art – ‘geomancy’ which is the interpretation of markings, patterns, and objects formed by tossing a handful of soil, sand, or rocks on a clean ground. The project takes a step further from his previous work by exploring humanities’ relationship to nature by seeing the Earth as a place of divination. Geomancy expresses the beauty and terror of nature in a single frame. Desert is defined as ‘the land abandoned’ (in human terms) due to its inhospitable nature, but this in turn signifies that the desert is the mother nature itself that humans have failed to conquer. Working within this borderline where mankind and nature intertwine, Lundgren’s work expands into the uncanny, sublime realm of art. Current (2019) is a notable example, which simultaneously delivers fear and awe, as the stream’s start and end are unknown. The artist expresses the power of nature while proposing a dreamy scenery–as if it were a powerful stroke of an ink wash painting drawn on a rock. Evidently, Lundgren boldly overthrows the conventional notion of landscape photography. Meanwhile, Lundgren captures inexplicable human marks left in the desert, suggesting a narrative free of our understanding, evoking a space of absence rather than representing what is present in front of our eyes. In other words, Lundgren’s landscapes are more about what is unexplainable. Ancient artifacts, ruins, and the remains of desert travelers discovered deep in the wilderness question our conception of time and space. Works like Tablet (2016), Impact (2017), Conception Rock (2018), Sleeping Circle (2018) repeatedly present objects of seemingly archaeological origin that are difficult to speculate their exact locations in the great chronicle of the Anthropocene. These grotesquely stark yet stunningly beautiful images capture traces of absence–petroglyphs carved on a stone tablet standing alone in the wasteland and debris of abandoned bones–the stereotypical notion of nature nurturing mankind. Geomancy invokes a variety of experiences in the desert–from dawn and dusk, evoking a brand-new visual experience. Using indirect light, hand held flash and long exposures, Lundgren transforms these phenomena into knowable and unknowable forms. Ironically enough, as the visual clue attached to identifying the actual object diminishes, the image adds more layers to the meaning allowing the viewer to come closer to a fundamental visual experience, one rooted in their own imagination.