It's fascinating, and miraculous, that I can see the Arctic town of Longyearbyen, in Svalbard, Norway, in real time, via webcam. 24/7 if I choose to. Through my screen, a digital transmission beams into my eye, connecting me visually to a place where I have never been. It is an unseen landscape, and yet I am familiar with the shape of the land by now. As the mountain panorama slowly rolls across my screen, I can recite their names: Sukkertoppen, Gruvefjellet, Sarkofagen. (I will be in this place in September, the first of three upcoming residencies in 2017 and 2018. More on that news at the end of this post)
Science and technology accelerate forward, delivering new capabilities to see, not only outward, to faraway places via digital transmissions, but inward, to examine the stuff of nature and existence itself. We continually extend our minds to go deeper in our understanding of the universe and our place in it. It's in our nature to do so. After all, scientific inquiry begins with curiosity and wonder, two of humanity's more endearing traits. While Einstein's revolutionary theories began taking shape in the first quarter of the 1900's, it has taken almost 100 years for them to trickle down and influence our collective imaginary of world. Today a new generation is being raised in an intellectual, cultural context that completely overwrites our previous understanding of space, time, and the nature of reality. We have not yet unraveled the mysteries of spacetime, but we know that reality is not what it seems. We grasp just enough to comprehend the vastitude of our ignorance, which is good to know, if humbling, and we persist.
Art has an important role to play in this process: to convey difficult and abstract concepts, not in a direct or didactic way, but through emotion and nuance; to create new perspectives, and new contexts for understanding the complexities of our existence by bringing them to ground level where they can be seen and considered. As a visual artist, as a human, part of what defines who I am is my desire to pay attention (observe and reflect) learn, synthesize and transmit about this moment, this world, as I see and understand it.
I am thinking about transmission because climate change is one of those abstract and difficult concepts. The future ramifications of climate change are difficult to grasp, but we cannot delay addressing it. How we perceive and respond to the realities of the here-and-now will directly shape the future. I believe that understanding the nature of one's connection to Nature is a fundamental and prerequisite condition for a meaningful, constructive and reality-based response to climate change.
Transmissions from the Longyearbyen webcam enable me to begin connecting to a distant place in the Arctic Circle. Those mountains, the polar twilight, the whites and the grays, the midnight sun, feed my imagination and instigate a desire to know more about what I am seeing. I hope my images do the same for you. That is the intention behind my current works of visual art - to inspire curiosity, connection and exchange between self and nature.
Transmitting the Arctic
This Fall I will begin a series of three visual arts residencies that will take place in and near the Arctic Circle. In September, 2017 I'll travel to Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway for one month residency at Galleri Svalbard. In October I'll travel to North Iceland for a month at Herhusið, in Siglufjordur. Then, in June 2018 I'll participate in the Arctic Circle residency, 17 days and nights on a tall ship in the High Arctic with 15 other artists and scientists whose shared mission is, in my own words, to transmit about the Arctic. Through these first-hand experiences I'll absorb, feel, inhabit, walk, dream, draw and word my way to a deeper understanding of Arctic. I'll also heave with sea-sickness, no doubt. These experiences will give me powerful tools to work with in my visual arts practice.
Travel to the Arctic involves confronting an inconvenient truth: to access wild and fragile places inevitably contributes to their degradation, no matter how well-meaning the mission. I am taking this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the responsibility that goes along with it, seriously. A core aspect of my creative mission is to document my experiences and transmit. If you haven't yet, I hope you'll consider joining my mailing list to receive updates about my experiences in the Arctic.