In the 18th and 19th centuries, scientists shared their discoveries in “scientific atlases”—carefully crafted publications of newfound knowledge—which included figures and records of research. The term “atlas” was derived from geography, but newly interpreted as a collection of maps that would provide new insights into the human body, the blood cells of birds, and the clouds in the sky, to name a few. Visually, many of these discoveries were framed by instruments: the scientific observations through microscopes and telescopes created circular photographs that were both mysterious and fascinating for laymen.
Chisaki Yuki’s project “Frozen Lives”, recalls these scientific investigations in both process and visual form. Yet, Chisaki is not archiving new facts about the physical world. She is using mundane, everyday objects to take us on a journey that explores our hidden desires and dreams, creating an experience that is not dissimilar to that of interpreting a Rorschach test. Simultaneously, Chisaki transforms the otherwise ordinary act of freezing water to cool our drinks into a reflection on the very nature of time. It is a play on “still life” paintings and artwork and also a nod to the 2020 pandemic, where many people felt their lives were put on hold or “frozen” until the pandemic ends.
Like moments in time, no shape or pattern of ice will ever exist twice. Constantly changing their pattern, millions of molecules continually rearrange, bind, and expand inside of an ice cube. However, like our lives in recent times, ice also has a way of slowing down time or even suspending it. A microscope lens camera was used to painstakingly wait for an arrangement of ice and curate these photos. Each resemble objects we life with, such as flowers, soda, and fast food. Others are ways that we live—flying, boating, mowing the lawn.
A miniature tableau exists inside of each cube of ice. Each is a carefully curated still life. A chance for introspection on the fleeting nature of beauty, time slowed down and sped up, and an invitation to live an examined life. Fault lines and cracks in the ice are highlighted by stress points—which appear as white designs under the lens. It is only because of these stress lines that the ice is able to form a design. Other signs of stress exist inside the cubes—such as air bubbles and cracks. There is livelihood inside the frozen structures, and to look at them again and again is to see a different animation every time.
Chisaki Yuki was born in Osaka, Japan. She got her start as a painter at Doshisha Women’s University before studying design there. Her work is concerned with finding beauty in everyday natural objects and joining people together through viewing and experiencing her work. Yuki’s goal is to continue her study of design.