These new images are from four winters spent in the Swiss Alps where Newhall limited himself to shooting from the confines of ski gondolas and the infrastructure that supports them. The series title – Funispace – comes from the name of a gondola in the resort town of Verbier, which, if pronounced incorrectly by an English speaker, hints at the strange world presented.
In an essay written to accompany the series, Irish author Padraig Rooney writes of the “no-spaces” that exist in Switzerland – an “otherworld where the picturesque enters the weird zone” – and the artists and writers that have been drawn to them for generations. Here, “snow has right of way and you are merely passing through its dominion, encased in glass, plexiglass, a cabin adorned with the stickers and frail trophies of those who abseiled here before. Whatever lens you have is blurred as old isinglass, encroached on by flakes of snow, struts, gantries, framing a dense forest of man-made machinery.”
The exhibition loosely follows the experience of ascending from mountain base to summit. The images, with their layered and mediated perspective give view to a world turned upside-down by pandemic, a warming climate, and distant human dramas taking place below. From stereo-vision trees to perspective-bending snowscapes by way of brutalist infrastructure and ever-present ads for luxury goods, Newhall’s photographs evoke Switzerland’s “spaces left empty”, a funispace indeed.