Written by Allison McCarty.
Graphic by Peyton Cabaniss.
The Arctic is one of the planet’s most crucial environments, especially when it comes to the topic of climate change. Exploring the Arctic Ocean, an exhibition that is currently on display in the Visual Arts Center, exemplifies the importance of the Arctic and its Ocean as an environment and source of culture. Developed alongside research by oceanographers An T. Nguyen and Patrick Heimbach, Exploring the Arctic Ocean is a culmination of visual art and media that illustrates the Arctic’s dynamic environment and culture. Videos, photographs, data, and 3-D printed models are all on display, illustrating every aspect of the icy region. From melting pattern animations to documentaries, the exhibit emphasizes the natural and delicate beauty of the Arctic, while simultaneously warning of the dire effects if we do not protect it.
In order to present the shifting environment of the Arctic, Exploring the Arctic Ocean has several videos, documentaries, and animations that inform the exhibit-goers of the consequences we face and will continue to face due to climate change. One such animation, called Arctic Atlantification, presents data collected by Nguyen and Heimbach depicting the warming of the Arctic Ocean due to the exchanging of waters from the Atlantic Ocean, which in turn causes the loss of ice cover. Another piece, titled Arctic Continua, displays the data collected by geologists, oceanographers, and glaciologists from Austin and Copenhagen. The video, which combines research of the atmosphere, the Arctic Ocean, and the land of the Arctic, outlines its current volatile state and the effects that will be felt worldwide if nothing is done to prevent the loss of the Arctic’s environment.
The visual media of the exhibit, in addition to portraying the shifting environment, also focuses on the culture the Arctic is home to. One example is the collection of videos titled Longing Fast Forward. The collection, which is made up of four videos all captured within the time span of a year (August 2012- August 2013), depicts the community within Kullorsuaq, a village in Northwestern Greenland. The collection highlights the daily life and community activities found in Kullorsuaq, from hunting to community meetings to music lessons. One video, an 11-hour time lapse, captures a static view of the landscape of the village, including breathtaking sunrises and the intimate glow of homes at dusk. Seasons change within hours, and every day recorded feels distinctly unique and mesmerizing. The seconds-long glimpses of animals and people give a sense of soul to the piece, which reminds exhibit-goers that the Arctic is not just icebergs and freezing temperatures. The Arctic is a home, a crucial and fragile environment that people depend upon, and anything that happens to it affects them. Humanity is tied to the Arctic, and we must ensure that it is taken care of.
Exploring the Arctic Ocean is the product of extensive research and analysis of the Arctic system, and focuses not only on the physical aspects of the shrinking environment but also the cultural significance of the region. The Arctic is vital not only to the Earth’s wellbeing but for the people and living beings which inhabit it. The exhibition informs and warns all those who attend that the loss of this precious system will be felt by all, regardless of proximity. The change has already started to occur, and the Arctic can only be protected by the actions we take now.
Exploring the Arctic Ocean will be on display in the Visual Arts Center (located in the ART Building) from September 21st to December 7th, 2018.