UNDERSCAPE / OVERSCAPE


(var. Underlandscape / Overlandscape)

Underscape and Overscape describe an extension of traditional landscape portraiture to include areas beneath our feet and above our heads.

Climate change in the Anthropocene demands that we abandon pastoral horizontal landscapes, which tend to be focused on a human-centric view while ignoring areas where climate change processes occur and can be observed.

The ground is neither solid nor invisible. Acknowledging this requires a radical re-orientation towards the vertical; active and arid lands demand vertical section cuts. The Underscape documents faults, land use past and potential, water, minerals and planetary history.

Traditional landscape painting dismisses the atmosphere as transparent, skipping it entirely–looking right through it–en route to heaven. The Overscape acknowledges that we are, quite literally, in over our heads, and redirects our attention to the makeup and changes in the gaseous envelope surrounding our planet.


Defined by Peggy Weil


Image: Refik Anadol and Peggy Weil, UnderLA, 2016. Photo: Panic Studio LA.

Since 2011, artist Peggy Weil has developed a series of underscapes: landscape portraiture focused on the unseen, but critical processes involved in climate change and energy. UnderLA shows the Los Angeles Aquifer projected onto the banks of the Los Angeles River. Over the course of two 30 min videos, from two different wells, the viewer descends from surface level down 1400 feet through strata dating back over 2 million years. To create the work, Weil photographed lithologic samples collected from USGS well monitoring sites at 10-foot intervals; Anadol and Weil animated the digital images as one continuous vertical pan. UnderLA is a collaboration with Refik Anadol Studio and was Commissioned by The City of Los Angeles for CURRENT:LA WATER in 2016.

A more recent underscape work by Weil is 88 Cores. A four and a half hour video, 88 Cores is one continuous pan through the Greenland Ice Sheet, created from digital scans of ice cores archived at the U.S. National Ice Core Lab. As the camera traces over these visual documents it tracks the descent through two miles of the Greenland Ice Sheet revealing frozen bands deposited over the course of the last 110,000 years. 88 Cores was exhibited for The Climate Museum’s inaugural exhibit, In Human Time.

Mark