antarctic images project

Three-channel video installation, 30:00 loop (2002)

The Antarctic Images Project consists of several kinds of visual materials about Antarctica shown in a series of video projections: a sequence of black and white still photos taken as part of aerial mapping of Antarctica in the early sixties, home video footage of some of the human activities that take place there, a few historical archive photographs, and images from Antarctic webcams. By placing these materials in close proximity, the notion of Antarctica as a distant and distantly imagined site is juxtaposed with the reality of Antarctica as a physical place in which humans exist and work in an immediate and exceedingly practical level.


For the most part the images avoid falling into the "spectacularly beautiful" category of nature and exploration portraiture. The home videos in particular provide a more personal and less filmic view of Antarctica than is usually found in print or mass media. Shot in the eighties and early nineties, these videos come complete with unsteady handheld shots, low-fidelity images, and sometimes lower-fidelity sound; they offer a glimpse into the tactile and sometimes prosaic experience of everyday life in Antarctica. Some of the activities shown here include travel by air and land, conducting of scientific experiments, moving equipment, working in field camps, and repairing machinery.


Counterbalancing this is Flyover, a sequence of aerial reconnaissance images made in the mid-sixties to map The Ross Dependency, the part of the Antarctic continent administered by New Zealand. As rendered in video, the sequence fades from one image to the next so as to give a sense of the scale and timing of the flight. This is accompanied by a voiceover reading excerpts from the Provisional Gazetteer of the Ross Dependency, highlighting the difference between the immense Antarctic terrain and the relatively arbitrary set of names placed onto it.


The Antarctic Images Project presents a look at the Ice and the human activity on it that is by turns personal and detached, and offers a framework to consider the continent differently from the ones usually employed in visual media.


The Antarctic Images Project was produced for the Art & Industry Urban Arts Biennial, Christchurch, New Zealand with support from:
Art and Industry Biennial Trust
Antarctica New Zealand
Gateway Antarctica, University of Canterbury
Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Department of Art & Design
Christchurch Community Access Television
US Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand

Images used courtesy of:

New Zealand Antarctic Institute Antarctic Collection, University of Canterbury
Antarctica New Zealand Pictorial Collection
Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
Australian Antarctic Division, Kingston, Tasmania