With a trip like this, you’d think it would be hard to know where to start a blog. It isn’t. The first stop on any trip to the Antarctic has to be climate change.
Global Temperature Is Rising. ...
The Ocean Is Getting Warmer. ...
The Ice Sheets Are Shrinking. ...
Glaciers Are Retreating. ...
Snow Cover Is Decreasing. ...
Sea Level Is Rising. ...
Arctic Sea Ice Is Declining. ...
Extreme Events Are Increasing in Frequency
(thank you google for this succinct list)
Scientists are showing that we need change and we need it now. We even know what we need to do. Probably what we should not be doing is getting on a long-distance flight and heading to Antarctica; one of the most environmentally sensitive places in the world. So, the question is
Can artists justify going there?
Here are some of my thoughts...
art historically, has been powerful enough to change society (think of how Leonardo changed the way scientists studied the human body, how The Guerilla Girlz impacted sexism/racism, how Kathe Kollwitz's disturbing portrayals encouraged social change and revolution).
images affect people in a way that facts, figures, statistics and the written word often cannot
art is about feelings, and feelings are how we develop most of our life choices
art preserves history. For example, artists were among the first visitors to Antarctica and scientist often rely on these early artworks for documentary evidence of, amongst other things, glacial retreat.
artists work via intuition and the unconscious brain. This is an important human attribute; one that powerfully connects us all.
art can be an accessible entry point for complex subjects
art sometimes reflects the very core of society in a way that other forms of communication can't
artists often shed light on things that might otherwise have been missed; appealing to different senses
artists can be translators; like scientists they observe, process and report
We have known about the science-side of climate change for a long time and it has done little to change our minds. Culture on the other hand is an incredibly powerful tool in helping us learn what to care about.
So, there is no doubt in my mind that it is justifiable for artists to go. I suppose the big question - the one I'm afraid to ask - is, me? The immensity of the privilege, the weight of the responsibility... it is genuinely keeping me awake at night.
It is hard to articulate – because I don’t yet know – what will come from this residency. I hope the immense mental and physical space will bring surprise and freedom in my work. Whatever happens, I know that I will be working as hard as I can, pushing harder than I ever have, to generate work that is meaningful and symbolic of this extraordinary place. The aim will be I suppose, to inspire; to give a sense of what we are fighting for – rather than a message of what we are fighting against. But I also hope to try and open doors; create ways into the subject of climate – something that is still for many an abstract concept.
Next summer I have been commissioned by Phytology to produce a triple billboard installation and symposium around climate and the Antarctic.
I will also be collaborating with Nick Bridge CMG, the Foreign Secretary's Special Representative for Climate Change, to produce a book of his thoughts and my images.
I am also in early discussions about working on a climate project within the Houses of Parliament... watch this space!