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Moonland (2018) immerses the viewer in a universe that hovers between dream and reality, a reality defined by fiction and magical, unreal aspects, which evoke a sense of delusion. Yuri Andries has made images of vast sand plains, green oases and a rocky, partly snow-covered mountain range, as well as traces of human presence, all located in Ladakh, a mystical, 3500 meters-high region in northern India, that borders on Tibet, Kashmir and Pakistan, among others.

Reality is not truth, nor is fiction a lie. That is also what this series reveals. Upon contemplating Moonland, one enters into an idyllic, promised land. The photographic images, permeated with a sense of wonder, excite the viewer’s fantasy. Take, for instance, the image of a black bird gliding low above a sweeping sand plain, or that of a young Buddhist monk looking through a meter-high temple window or a white mare surrounded by an overwhelming scenery, a massive, seemingly endless, granite mountain landscape. The imposing panorama recalls the romantic notion of the sublime and reduces the human presence to a metaphor for the insignificance, vulnerability and absurdity of human existence.

Moonland is also a reflection of the resilience and self-reliance of the community living in Ladakh. Isolated until the 1970s from neighbouring countries, and subjected to an inhospitable climate—with temperatures ranging from 35 degrees in the summer to -35 degrees in the winter—the people of Ladakh survive by using natural resources, and thanks to their innovative and problem-solving way of thinking with regards to issues such as irrigation and sustainable energy.

Moonland is a subjective impression of a region permeated with spirituality. It is a love letter. A search for the essential. A poetic, wondrous look at a mysterious yet strange reality that, at times, manages to wrong-foot the viewer. Moonland is a personal observation of how man can relate to nature. It consequently also wonders about the future of Ladakh and calls into question the evolution of humanity in general. Moonland speaks silently, without words, probing both the realms of magic and reality.

© Sofie Crabbé