“Forty-nine Views of Denali (mt. Mckinley)” presented by Aoki

  • ©ISEA2016: 22nd International Symposium on Electronic Art, Miho Aoki, Forty-nine Views of Denali (mt. Mckinley)
  • Denali (Mt. McKinley) and its Images in Various Locations in Alaska


Session Title:

  • Disc*very Channel: Philonature

Presentation Title:

  • Forty-nine Views of Denali (mt. Mckinley)




  • Abstract
    The Forty-nine Views of Denali is a collection of data, including visuals, text and sounds. The project addresses two main topics: capturing daily lives of contemporary Alaskan, investigating a question, “is a medium still the essential part of an artwork?” This Artist Talk is a presentation of the project in early stage of progress.

    In 2015, President Obama renamed the tallest mountain of the North America from Mt. McKinley to Denali, the Native Alaskan name which has been used for long time in Alaska, the 49th state of the US. Denali is iconic as Mt. Fuji in Japan. Katsushika Hokusai depicted Fuji in the famous series of Ukiyoe prints, the Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji in the 19th century. As Mt. Fuji is a ubiquitous symbol in Japanese culture in both sacred and worldly ways, Denali is prevalent in Alaska. It is everywhere from oil paintings to local business signs.

    There are many writings and images about Denali, but most of them are from views of visitors, such as mountain climbers and photographers. The mountain seems eternal and unaffected by changes in the human world in their images. However, Alaska is facing many changes today. The state with many isolated small communities and the economy depending on the petroleum industry is extremely vulnerable to global changes, such as the climate change and the crude oil price. I would like to capture daily lives of contemporary Alaskans in this state of flux, as Hokusai portrayed Japanese people’s lives in his images.

    For this project, I am recording interviews of 49 Alaskans in various industries and academic fields about their view of Denali through their personal and professional experiences. After interviewing several individuals, I will follow their social connections to meet more interviewees. Using the social connections, the project will also capture the way Alaskan communities are networked. Each interview includes photographs the interviewees have taken, panorama photographs, text and video recordings of the interview including 3D stereo or wide-angle video of interview sites.

    At the beginning of this project, I was not able to overcome one issue: what medium it should be? Would it be a photo book, videos, VR or SNS? The medium determines the final output and also eventually the longevity of the project. Then I realized that artworks don’t have to be bound to one medium today. The interface or the output format could be only facade of the content stored as data. How that would affect the messages? I decided that the final product will be a collection of information stored on the University of Alaska Fairbanks Film Archive server. The data will be organized in the way it could be printed as a book or presented as an interactive project.

    I am also aware that the media still affect many aspects of the project. One interviewee stated that the medium affects the way he would talk, because to him, the audience who read books would be different from ones watch online videos. Through this project, I will be able to see how the media and the final output affect the data collection and the audiences’ interpretation of the content.

    Currently, I am interviewing initial small group of Alaskans, including a scientist maintains an observing station in high altitude, which is few days climbing from the basecamp. The social graph is still small and doesn’t look like a network yet. I am planning to do outdoor recordings in summer and conduct more interviews after the tourism season ends in September 2016