|Picture I: Artificial Northern Light created by Lemström in the year 1882. The Drawing shows the phenomenon observed above Mt. Kehäpää.(Pietarlauttasoaivi)
The objective of my project is to work on an exhibtion and a publication which investigates the history of auroral research of the late 19th century. As the main work of the project I try to reconstruct and write the biography of Karl Selim Lemström - a forgotten pioneer of polar light studies.
The starting point of my interest in Lemström has been his drawings of artificial northern lights. From this point I went more and more into the study of the history of auroral research, because I could see there a very interesting overlapping of the field of science and the field of art. The search of such contact-points between art and science has been the underlying theme of most of my projects and is clearly expressed in my latest publication. (»The Straight Line«)
The northern light has very often been described by travellers, scientist and artists as the most powerful »artwork of nature«. In the same time the phenomenon was conceived as undescribable. Every representation was doomed to fail in matching the grandeur of the heavenly spectacle.
Nevertheless there are existing a number of interesting drawings, paintings and other images of the northern light, which I have collected during the last years. An important role in this respect is rewarded to the field of photography. For decades scientists and amateurs had tried to get an impression of the polar light on the photographic plate - mostly unsuccessful. The numerous research expeditions, which were unable to get photographs of the aurora often used their unexposed plates to photograph the natural surrounding of the observation-stations. This brought them the (unwanted) reward of being pioneers of landscape photography. This one could say about Lemström and his assistants too.