As one of twenty of an international crew of writers, artists and scientists participating on the Cape Farewell’s 2010 Arctic expedition, I’m in the midst of sailing up the west coast of the archipelago of islands of Spitsbergen from Longyearbyen, Norway. Over the next three weeks, I’ll be sending back regular dispatches and images about this unusual 21st-century expedition. In this my first transmission, I’ll introduce the unusual nature of the work being done by the people involved, all of which loosely revolves around a cultural response to climate change. This takes the form of a short video with one of the artists on board, which we recorded just before we left.
Cape Farewell founder and director David Buckland interviews Matt Clark, of the London, UK-based artists’ collaborative United Visual Artists, the day before our departure for Longyearbyen, Norway. UVA has been commissioned by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich to design a temporary exhibition that captures the essence of a contemporary expedition. Like the rest of us, Matt’s response to the sublimity of the landscape here is instant and powerful—particularly stimulating for an artist whose mediums of light and sound are particularly well suited to what this remote landscape has to offer.
What’s amazing already is the spontaneous dynamic igniting between artists and scientists. For Matt, a conversation at the 78th parallel on the extreme scales of oceanographer Dr. Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez work on the single-cellular beginnings of the oceanic food chain viewed from microscopes and satellites is already starting to inflect his thinking. It’s interesting to imagine that the ripple effect may well extend all the way down to an exhibition for the museum that enjoys the distinctive address of the point zero of longitude at the prime meridian.
Welcome to our journey!
(from somewhere on the cold waters north of Longyearbyen, 1,300 kilometres from the north pole and 2,300 kilometres from Oslo)
“The scientists can tell us what should be done, but it takes the artists to help us understand why.”
–quoted by WHO environmental health scientist Joy Guillemot, one of the five international scientists on the expedition