AAJ Press
Art & Public Space, Commissions & Projects, Ecology, Environment, Exhibitions & Events, Installation, Nature

High Arctic: United Visual Artists, National Maritime Museum. 14 July – 13 January 2012

In September 2010 Matt Clark of United Visual Artist (UVA) travelled with Cape Farewell, the arts and climate science foundation, to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, between mainland Norway and the North Pole. The trip, sailing aboard The Noorderlicht, a 100-year old Dutch schooner, brought him into contact with scientists, poets, musicians and polar bears. He saw vast tundra, monochromatic rainbows and huge chunks of ice falling from calving glaciers.

High Arctic an installation / exhibition conceived as a response to the Cape Farewell expedition in collaboration with United Visual Artists (UVA) and Cape Farewell, and the National Maritime Museum. High Arctic uses a combination of sound, light and sculptural forms to create an abstracted arctic landscape to explore. Intended to be a future vision of a receding world, it encourages us to question our relationship with the world around us.

The exhibition has no touchscreens, no static photographs, and no panels with text: instead High Arctic is a genuinely immersive, responsive environment. Ultraviolet torches unlock hidden elements, constantly shifting patterns of graphics and text that react to visitors approaching; an archipelago of thousands of columns fills the gallery space, each representing a real glacier in Svalbard; an artificial horizon borders the gallery as a seamless canvas of light, shifting in intensity and colour. A Max Eastley and Henrik Ekeus designed generative soundscape flows through the gallery, weaving in the voices of arctic explorers across the centuries as well as the poetry of Nick Drake who travelled with Matt to Svalbard.

Cape Farewell’s aim is to inspire a cultural response to the climate challenge and engage artists as catalysts to provoke a cultural shift towards sustainable society. Other artists that have been engaged in the Cape Farewell programme include Antony Gormley, Jarvis Cocker and Ian McEwan – whose recent novel Solar was inspired by the 2005 Cape Farewell Arctic expedition.

It’s 2100 AD and the Arctic landscape we once took for granted has changed forever. How will we choose to remember our Arctic past? Is it possible to travel somewhere that no longer exists? Set in one of many possible futures High Arctic conveys the scale, beauty and fragility of our unique Arctic environment through an immersive installation which fills the entire 820m2 gallery space, the first exhibition in the NMM’s new Sammy Ofer Wing.

UVA are an art and design practice who work at the intersection of sculpture, architecture, live performance, moving image and digital installation; with expertise in fine art, architecture, communication design, moving image, computer science and engineering.

National Maritime Museum, Romney Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF. 14 July 2011–13 January 2012.  Every day. 10.00–17.00 (closed 25–26 December). Admission: Full £6.00 / Concession £5.00 / Children (age 7+*) £4.00  (*children 0-6 go free)

About jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space


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