Introducing The Long View Project

October 1, 2008

Aurora alongside the ice off Western Base, 1911-1914, by Frank Hurley.

Aurora alongside the ice off Western Base, 1911-1914, by Frank Hurley.

I’m pleased to initiate this blog with the news of an Antarctic Artist’s and Writer’s Program grant I recently received in support of my project titled The Art of Recycling in Antarctica : The Long View.

This National Science Foundation award allows me to access the U.S. Antarctic Program’s waste management system in December and January to create a sculptural book arts project made from recyclable material specific to polar research conducted at McMurdo Station, South Pole Station, and a Dry Valleys field camp (most likely Lake Hoare). The project intends to raise international awareness of resource conservation and eco-preservation practices in Antarctica, and by extension, promote and inspire sustainability worldwide.

The completed artwork (to be assembled back in San Francisco) will consist of 100 individual sculptural vignettes hinged to one another for display as a continuous, free-standing accordion-fold book structure. With this conspicuously lengthy form, I’ll be drawing analogies to taking “the long view” in regards to worldwide environmental consciousness as exemplified by the stringent recycling practices in Antarctica.

The project is inspired by the environmental mandates of the Antarctic Conservation Act and its principles. In an act of exceptional recycling, nearly all the refuse generated by the U.S. Antarctic Program is periodically removed from the continent. I’ll be looking for a variety of usable material representative of the 3.64 million pounds of solid waste generated by McMurdo and South Pole Stations, and I’ll be referring to Antarctic waste management data to conceptually structure my compositions and determine the relative amounts of each material to include.

Aurora Australis front cover and title page, 1908. Edited by Ernest Shackleton, illustrated by George Marston.

Aurora Australis front cover and title page, 1908. Edited by Ernest Shackleton, illustrated by George Marston.

Why 100 vignettes? The number is significant to the project in three ways. As I mentioned, the U.S. ships nearly 100% of its refuse off the southern continent. Secondly, the number commemorates the centenary of an early instance of polar recycling. In 1908, Ernest Shackleton fashioned wooden covers from provision crates to bind numerous copies of Aurora Australis, the first book ever published in Antarctica. (This is a fascinating story — look for a separate post on this shortly.) In an homage to this legacy, each of my 100 vignettes will symbolically correspond to each year passed since Shackleton’s example of innovation and resourcefulness. Thirdly, the number represents a coming century (at least) of sustainability. Hence the title The Long View.

By using material unique to each of the three research station’s fields of study, the vignettes will differentiate to form a comprehensive picture of each. For example, I expect to find more recyclables relating to biological and oceanographic fields of study at McMurdo, while South Pole will be heavier in astrophysics and geomagnetism.

These reclaimed elements will be the centerpiece of each artwork. I’ll supplement these compositions with my own drawings, materials, forms, colors, textures, and pigments in order to create a uniquely Antarctic ‘portrait.’ To this end, I’ll also use my time at McMurdo, South Pole and the Dry Valleys to sketch, photograph, and otherwise document the technologies and practices of Antarctic researchers more extensively than could otherwise be possible. Contact with scientists in the field is valuable to my inquiry. I hope to converse with them, take notes, and join excursions if possible, which will all feed into the artwork’s imagery.

The entire process will of course be documented online here — and elsewhere. Yes, there are exciting arrangements and affiliations in the works which will be announced here first. So check back soon and expect to hear much about The Long View in the weeks and months to come.