Ecstatic Desolation

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By Chris Jordan

Recorded by author

Audio descriptions under each photograph recorded by Rebecca Selove

The pandemic of 2020-2021 found me stranded unexpectedly in a quiet village on a huge and marvelously beautiful lake in the south of Chile. This strange time brought my life a much-needed pause, and like many others, I have experienced a kind of forced contemplative retreat. The isolation here has been intense at times, and I have also felt relieved to have some repose from the chaotic pace of what previously had passed for normal.

Concrete-ring-water-and-time-Lago-Llanquihue-Chile-2021 – Photo: Chris Jordan


Exploring daily along the lakeshore in conditions ranging from mirror-quiet to whipping storms, revisiting the same coves and rock formations, my eye slowly attuned to the subtleties of Lago Llanquihue. The ever-changing surface of the water became my meditation. Time slowed down. My camera exposures stretched from seconds to minutes to hours. Underneath the layers of movement, a deep stillness began to reveal itself.

Rock-water-and-time-Lago-Llanquihue-Chile-2021 – Photo: Chris Jordan


This experience offered a container to hold and metabolize the dark news emanating from home and around the world. From this place I watched the spread of unconscious fear in the public mind, morphing into collective psychosis like an immense nascent spirit-demon willing itself into existence. I felt the challenge to hold it all in balance, and the centering energy of this lake became an increasingly powerful ally. In this way these times have taught me the importance of cultivating a nuanced relationship with stillness. Whatever absurdities are happening in human culture and in our own minds, at its center is an empty space where a wordless knowing takes place, without worry or fear, judgment, or thought.

Rocks-water-and-time-Lago-Llanquihue-Chile-2021 – Photo: Chris Jordan


Everyone I know has felt some form of desolation during these times. As part of the teachings from these days, let us remember the value of aloneness, and the consequent slowing down that beckons the mind toward a widening perspective. In this space we gain access to the healing power of beauty. May its sacred medicine remind us of our loving nature. May its eternal song illuminate our hearts.

Sand-water-and-time-Lago-Llanquihue-Chile-202 – Photo: Chris Jordan

September 20, 2021 – Photo: Chris Jordan

~cj, Patagonia, Chile, 2021

Chris Jordan is an artist and cultural activist whose work explores the territory of collective consciousness. Edge-walking the lines between science and art, beauty and horror, abstraction and representation, the visible and the invisible, Jordan’s work challenges us to look both outward and inward at the complex realities of our world. His paradigm-breaking film Albatross reached a global audience with its story of plastic-filled birds on a remote island in the Pacific. Chris’s new work now turns back toward the basics: centeredness, silence, and stillness, as a container for the experience of these times.

Biography recorded by Rebecca Selove

4 thoughts on “Ecstatic Desolation

  1. Outstanding work and presentation Chris. I have been waiting for this in joyful anticipation. You exceeded anything I could have envisioned. Safe travels my friend.

  2. Bro. Hearing your voice really brings this to life. All of what you say about the effects of the pandemic is on point. You were lucky to have spent the time in such a beautiful place. Your photographs honor the lake in a very special way. Most of us were locked up in our homes. Thank you for the inspiration and more so, your friendship. Some day a big hug in person… Be well, be safe and rock on. (Written during an amazing expedition to the Faroe Islands.)

  3. Just so beautiful, both the words and the images. Great gratitude to you. I was blessed to spend the pandemic in solitude at home in my old cottage in Ireland, and now it is difficult not to be wistful for those quiet days, as I embrace the more social aspects of life again, which are enjoyable too but more complicated to keep in balance.

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