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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

3/5/21 - Diane Burko - 'Polar Investigations'




My research is located within the Arctic Circle and on the 20th June 2020, Verkhoyansk, in Siberia, Russian (part of the Arctic Circle), recorded a temperature of 38C, where the average cold is that of -60C. Temperatures are rising faster in the polar regions because ocean currents are carrying heat towards the Earth’s poles, and ice and snow which usually help reflect the heat, are melting away. Green house gases are heating the ocean’s and the effects caused by this will have a catastrophic impact on the future of our climate, sea levels, biodiversity, social and economical systems. Where then does this all lie within the proposal and in connection with the artwork?

As I explore the Arctic there is no doubting the fact that I need to address climate change. I have briefly discussed this within my proposal and below is a snippet of rough notes I made.

The Arctic excited and terrified explorers of old, the damned voyage of Sir John Franklin’s Terror and Erebus in 1845 showcased the true danger of when exploring the power of the Arctic ice wall along the northwest passage. Writers, artists, and poets were fascinated by such a hostile and alien landscape that they sought to re-interpret the stories of sailors and explorers who survived that landscape into a physical projection for an audience to experience. John Wilson Carmichael’s ‘HMS Terror and Erebus in the Antarctica’ (1847) produced a romantic relationship with nature and the true power it held over man. This one example (only two years into the three-year expedition) projects to its audience the strength, skill, and bravery it took to journey into the unknown. There is a sense of recklessness with how the media is applied in order to encompass the extreme weather conditions and the danger within. This romanticism we are losing and in 2016, a cruise ship named, ‘Crystal Serenity’ was the first passenger ship to travel through the Artic passage. Human audiences one hundred and sixty years later are now able to engage (somewhat at ease) with those images of Carmichael, Church, and Bradford from a modernised ship embedded within the Arctic sea ice. Accessibility to a once desolate, hospitable environment has become readily available and with this, the once perilous adventure has begun to lose the fear it once held over man and the effect climate change is having is therefore affecting this experience.

HMS Terror and Erebus in the Antarctica’ (1847)

There is a clear cause for concern, but how as an artist do I address this within my work? Is it a case of it being acknowledged briefly within the writing framework? or does it take centre stage? If so for either questions, then how is it transferred to a physical outcome? An outcome that still produces the sensorial experience that I strive for....

Diane Burko is an eco environmental artist who today i stumbled across. At first glance her work entices me in, aesthetically and contextually. The picture below taken in Greenland 'In August 2014 I traveled to the 69th latitude on Greenland’s west coast to Ilulissat Glacier. It is one of the most prolific and fast-moving ones in Greenland. Since 2000, Greenland’s ice sheet (covering over 80 % of its surface) has lost some 739 gigatons of ice - melting at an unprecedented rate. The broad moving 37 mile long mélange of ice in Ilulissat fjord was breathtaking, from the edge and from the air. I sailed 5 hours north to Glacier Eqi Sermia through early morning fog with breathtaking icebergs. At 1PM we anchored in front of a 2.5 mile long glacier front to witness a thunderous calving performance.'

Clearly we see a photographic image but what I see is (away from the contextual element) a Frederich Church. So there is evidence here for the romantic sublime to be re-represented within the now sublime.... (a question of material practice).

I am stopping myself going off on a tangent here, questioning possible material outcomes, environmental issues, anthropocene, viewer experience, exploration as an artist etc etc. I think what I intended to do, was just to make myself aware of Diane Burko and her work and her connection to climate change. She is an artist I would like to revisit and of course put her on the research mind map (still be made evident via the blog).

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