Janet Biggs

USA (1959). Lives and works in New York.


A Step on the Sun, 2012
Video installation, five channels, HD video, 9’ 22’’, (16:9), in color, with audio

Biggs is a video artist, photographer, and performer whose work has an easily identifiable aesthetic of monotony. She focuses on activities involving repetition and obsession such as extreme sports and obsessive behaviors that we engage in every day unconsciously. A globetrotter, she takes her adventures in remote locations and channels them into new narratives that include both personal experience and geographic records. Biggs’ film work challenges the way we see things and exposes new worlds. She helps to materialize current debates around biopolitics and global humanism.

A Step on the Sun presents the adversities faced by a sulfur miner working at the Ijen volcano in East Java, Indonesia. Official industrial mining is made impossible by the volcanic activity. The crater’s extreme environment harbors the world’s largest sulfur lake. Miners collect sulfur crystals and pack them endlessly, rhythmically, unconsciously into baskets. Amidst clouds of sulfur dioxide, they transport the mineral from the crater to the surface and walk the rocky terrain for miles to reach the weigh stations. The soundtrack enhances the sense of danger, mixing real sounds with other stabbing, harsh ones. We find ourselves in a situation that is uncomfortable, ambiguous, and morally complex, one that simultaneously showcases the beauty of nature and the ugliness of human exploitation.