Cumbria’s award winning arts centre, Rheged, which sits at the gateway to the Northern Lake District, opens a ground-breaking, exclusive exhibition called Being Human at Base Camp, by Cumbrian multi-media artist Derek Eland, between April 29th and 2nd July 2017.
Derek Eland, once an official war artist, swapped battlefields for basecamp to examine the human condition in stressful and challenging conditions. Derek was the first artist to undertake a 6 week residency at Everest base camp during the 2016 April-May summit season, a year on from Everest’s devastating earthquakes.
George Mallory, one of the first British men to try to climb Everest, is famously quoted as having replied to the question “Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?” with the retort “Because it’s there.”
The multi-media exhibition in Rheged’s gallery records the lives of the temporary community of 1,000 people, preparing for the biggest and riskiest journey of their lives, to climb Everest.
Being Human at Base Camp goes beyond Mallory’s mythology and offers a dramatic vision of the emotions, sacrifices, anxiety and psyche of the drive to climb the highest peak on earth. Base camp is where climbers must decide for themselves if their passion is worth potentially losing their lives, abandoning their loved ones and accepting the risk and suffering for the greatest climb; a tick off the bucket list.
This immersive and thought provoking exhibition fills Rheged’s entire Gallery space. At the heart of the exhibition is the Diary Room tent, where climbers recorded their raw and confessional handwritten postcards, videos and stories that form the basis of the exhibition. The sensory exhibition unites film, photography and the written word giving a thought provoking experience of what it’s like to be ‘human’ in the harsh environment of base camp.
Multi-media Artist Derek Eland said “My new exhibition explores the emotions, sacrifices and determination it takes to climb the highest peak on earth. For me the project was the most demanding and intense I’ve ever undertaken and left me exhausted, both mentally and physically. Some of those who wrote their stories went on to die on the mountain and these are their last words.”
‘Postcards from Everest’ form deeply personal, emotional and heartbreaking accounts of what drives people to Everest. For those about to attempt the summit, the stories often describe incredible journeys, tragedy and suffering. These stories, together with hundreds of instant photographs of the people there, capture what it is like to ‘be human’ in the harsh mental and physical environment of Everest Base Camp and the extraordinary experiences of those preparing for the riskiest, most momentous journey of their lives.
Derek also used various cameras during his time there, including a 1923 Kodak camera similar to that used by Mallory and Irvine in 1924, to record through film and photographs the unique place that is Everest base camp.
The exhibition includes four films, each revealing various aspects; from melting glaciers, the Puja ceremony and Derek’s own video diary to the story of Chetna, a member of the expedition team Derek was embedded with. As expedition film maker, Derek captured Chetna celebrating her surprise 50th birthday party at Base Camp before submitting and then being rescued from Everest, in what is the highest mountain rescue ever recorded.
The exhibition is accompanied by a new book written by Derek which includes copies of a selection of the handwritten postcards, extensive photography and his personal account of the 6 week residency.