Review: Earth From Above

French artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand's large-scale aerial photos create a magical effect on Kampa island

Yann Arthus-Bertrand- Earth From Above

Have you seen it? How could you miss it! Just get off the tram at Narodní Divadlo and start walking.

The Earth From Above exhibit dominates a winding 150-meter stretch of Kampa park, beginning at the bottom of the Charles Bridge steps and petering out near a café next to the green space.

Large-scale photos of aerial views of the Earth are scattered along the winding path through Kampa, propped up on stilts across the cobblestones.

Their arrangement is systematic. You can stand in between two photos and simultaneously be prevented from seeing the others. As a result, you find yourself standing between two distant places without leaving Prague. I recommend situating yourself between the eye of the Maldives (an Indian Ocean atoll) and a deserted Iraqi tank graveyard in the desert near Al-Jahrah. The paradoxes that Bertrand has created are curious, strange, and infinitely exquisite.

Every photo has a caption giving a detailed description of the scene. In addition, a small factoid is attached, relaying information about our troubled world environment. The information accompanying the photos is overwhelmingly interesting, and a lot to take in in one visit.

When dusk falls on Kampa, spotlights illuminate the images, transforming them into glowing moments in the night.

The impact of these images is felt through the vibrancy of their colors, their faraway subject matter, and their aerial perspective. Take a look at Brazil, at the Corcovado mountain overlooking Rio de Janeiro. The viewer is enveloped in varying shades of soft blue, hanging above the glittering galaxy of city lights, all overshadowed by the luminous statue of Christ the Redeemer.

Ever visited an enclosed Neolithic Tomb? What about an abandoned city in Ukraine? An ancient burial ground inside a glacier? I'm sure you've never seen 1,000 naked bodies in one place? Here's your opportunity. Don't miss it.

The best thing about this exhibit are the views. In front of you are images of places you only dream of. Then you turn around to face another masterpiece - the glittering reflections of Prague on the Vltava - and you know that this exhibit exists beyond what Bertrand has created.

Earth From Above is at Kampa Park, Prague 1 until October 31st, 2006

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