Navigating Polarities

Film Installation


“Navigating Polarities, an immersive film installation, investigates the history of navigation and the natural forces of polarity and magnetism present in the physical world. The work takes the Earth’s geomagnetic field as a starting point, considering how micro- and macrocosmic elements are contingent on these properties to operate.

Interested in the correlations between systems at different scales – from the quantum to the cosmic – Dijkman explores how humans and animals alike synchronize and coordinate their behavior and activities within the Earth’s inherent laws.

Film installation at the 21st Sydney Biennial (2018)

The film is projected upon a dome-shaped screen that mimics the circular form of the globe.  On the concave screen, a combination of scientific and historical materials – images of magnetic fields in space, animal navigation, cardinal directions and compasses from different cultures and periods in history, maps, and scientific diagrams and experiments – bleed and merge into one another.

The range of reference material is overwhelming in scope, presenting the universe and its systems as intrinsically unified. The accompanying soundtrack and narrative explore these phenomena from a human-centered perspective, identifying the philosophical, psychological, and moral consequences of these various natural states through critical thought and interpretation.”

– Mami Kataoka, curator of the 21st Biennale of Sydney 

Installation at ‘Being(s) with, the 1st Fiskars Biennale, Finland (2019)

“There is an inherent bias in our language of navigation. Colonial and capitalist projects have left a mark on the ways in which one orientates oneself: North is up, South is down. Even as our physical marker of North is slipping, ‘north’ as a concept remains foundational within Western thought. The immersive film installation Navigating Polarities (2018) considers this entanglement between astrology, navigation, and colonization. In a work that spans the cosmic to the cellular, Dijkman examines how the natural forces of magnetism that guided geographical and astrophysical exploration can subsequently affect dualistic thinking and our own sense of morality.

Western thought is organized by binaries: North and South, top and bottom, male and female, right and wrong. These binaries are not equally weighted, they are subject to what Derrida called “a violent hierarchy.” The opening line of the narrative voice-over in Navigating Polarities affirms this imbalance, stating that the universe is asymmetrical. The script disperses dualistic thinking with reference to the writing of scientists, philosophers, theorists, postcolonial thinkers, and new materialist feminists. From this myriad of voices comes a narrative of flux, imbalance, change, reversal, creation, movement, and leakage. It reminds us that preconceived notions, the climate, and the entire universe are ultimately unstable.”

Fragments from the text ‘Beyond Polar Thinking’ by Amelia Wallin, 2018

Navigating Polarities
Duration: 24:02 minutes (HD, Stereo)
Directed by: Marjolijn Dijkman
Editing: Inneke Van Waeyenberghe (editor), Léo Ghysels (assistant editor) and Marjolijn Dijkman
Animations: Jeroen Koffeman
Camera and magnetic experiments: Marjolijn Dijkman
Text editing: Marjolijn Dijkman, Amelia Wallin (assistant)
Sound design: Pôm Bouvier
Voice over: Tess Bryant, recorded at La Vita E Media (Brussels, BE)
Research assistants: Soline Bredin, Achiel Buyse, Sven Dehens, Amelia Wallin
Thanks to: Soline Bredin, Pôm Bouvier, Ann E. Butler, Achiel Buyse, Lauren Cornell, Sven Dehens, Tess Bryant, Léo Ghysels, Mami Kataoka,Tom Keenan, Alex Kitnick, Jeroen Koffeman, Jeannine Tang, The Center for Curatorial Studies / CCS Bard (NY, US), Gretta Tritch Roman, Maarten Vanden Eynde, Inneke Van Waeyenberghe, Amelia Wallin.
Supported by: Mondriaan Fund (NL)
Materials: projection dome (wood and polyester), benches, wall text / printed matter. 
Dimensions: Dome 190 cm. diameter x H50 cm. or 150 cm. diameter x H45 cm. , wall text / printed matter variable sizes.

Commissioned by: ‘SUPERPOSITION: Equilibrium and Engagement’, 21st Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, AU (2018)
Curated by: Mami Kataoka

(The credited fragments referenced in the narrative of the work have been adapted)

Part of collection of: Mu.ZEE, Ostend, BE (acquired by the Flemish Government)

Installation view, 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Photograph: silversalt photography.
Installation view, NOME Gallery, Berlin, 2019
Navigating Polarities, still image of film projection, 2018
Navigating Polarities, still image of film projection, 2018
Navigating Polarities, still image of film projection, 2018
Navigating Polarities, still image of film projection, 2018
Navigating Polarities, still image of film projection, 2018
Navigating Polarities, still image of film projection, 2018
Navigating Polarities, still image of film projection, 2018