Sur Polar report 01

Sur Polar: Arte en Antartida
Video, installation, art, sound, photography, objects, painting, drawing
An International Polar Year event

National University de Tres Febrero
Buenos Aires
March – April 2008

Sur Polar: Arte en Antartida (South Pole: Art of Antarctica), was an event I had been invited to contribute to last last year. I was very fortunate to receive funding from UNSW to travel there. At the National University of Tres de Febrero in Buenos Aires, artists, scientists, and academics from different countries converged to share knowledge and experiences of Antarctica with each other and the public, through talks, presentations, screenings, performances, an exhibition and a catalogue.

My contributions included the screening of ‘42 days‘, an animated response I had made to the Antarctic landscape, which I traveled to in 2002 as an Arts Fellow with the Australian Antarctic Division, and more recent animations I had made as part of my current research into animating responses to what scientists, artists and other expeditioners are telling us about the Antarctic landscape.

I was particularly interested to be present at the event so that I could engage with other artists who have worked in Antarctica, and to hear scientists talking about current changes happening in the landscape. My research for animating involves dialogue with other artists and scientists both face to face and on-line, and so was on the lookout for more material with which to work.

What I learned from attending the conference was that exchanges between artists, scientists, academics and the public can help us understand the Antarctic landscape from many perspectives, and that animation can be used as a way of understanding the profound connections that some have made to it’s changing landscape. The audience response to the animations I presented was very positive, and I was given some material from other participants with which to animate: scientific data, sounds, and images. Their contributions add dimensions to my understanding of the landscape.

Something else I learned was that artists can offer perspectives to a field through their artwork alone. Presenting an academic paper is not always the most appropriate way for artists to contribute to conferences. They can reveal the unseen, a-typical view, through the language of their practice. For example,sound artist Phil Dadson performed a percussive piece with Antarctic rocks, water, and an elcectonic feedback system, imaginatively taking us into the landscape through a quite different route than the ice – through some of Antarctica’s preciously rare, ice-exposed areas – the only places where Antarctic penguins breed, and the only places where human bases can be built. Our impacts on these parts threaten
Antarctica’s wildlife.

My understanding of what an artist can contribute to understanding the changing landscape of Antarctica has been deepened through my observations and engagements with people at this event, contributing through different disciplines in the arts and sciences.

Since returning, I have animated with Antarctic rock sounds by Phil Dadson, and drawings by some children at the conference. It’s a response to a mental map of Antarctica, by Spanish Parmen Pieira, as part of the exhibition: Mental Substance.