While the Arctic has long been subject to exploration, its very core, the Arctic Ocean remains an uncharted territory for many. An exhibition developed by ICES researchers, Exploring the Arctic Ocean Sept. 21-Dec. 7, brings together eight diverse projects that rely on the power of visual media to make these unknown waters accessible. The projects—video installations, photographic series, and data visualizations—revolve around the inherent dynamics of the Arctic Ocean’s unique but changing environment, its increasingly important geopolitical role, and its many cultural meanings.
Exploring the Arctic Ocean on display at UT's Visual Art Center has been developed alongside the research project “Understanding Arctic System Change Through Synthesis of Hydrographic and Sea Ice Observations from the Early 21st Century,” funded by the National Science Foundation and led by ICES oceanographers An T. Nguyen and Patrick Heimbach. The research project combines observational data and numerical models to gain a better understanding of the interrelation of key properties of the Arctic as a physical system, including ocean circulation and temperature, freshwater, ice cover, and the changes of these properties in time. As a centerpiece and starting point for the exhibition, Nguyen and Heimbach produced a rendered video animation in collaboration with visualization specialists from the Texas Advanced Computing Center’s (TACC) Visualization Laboratory. The animation shows a simulation of a phenomenon researchers call “Arctic Atlantification,” the influx of warm water from the subtropical Atlantic into the Arctic Ocean and its increased spreading within the Arctic.
In the exhibition, the data visualization by the Nguyen/Heimbach research group is placed in a dialogue with works by artists Olaf Otto Becker, Chris Linder, Armin Linke, Lize Mogel, John Quigley, ScanLAB Projects and collective work by Ole Kristensen, Annesofie Norn and Daniel Plewe. These works share an interest in the results and practices of scientific research in the Arctic. At the same time, they represent a broad spectrum of visual strategies. Some works document scientific observation and data collection; others visualize and represent the complex changes by which the remote, dynamic and fragile environment of the Arctic Ocean is currently being transformed. Some works unleash activist potential through global media distribution; others aim at triggering personal and individual contemplation.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of public programs, including individual talks by the participating artists and a panel discussion. In addition to offering a wealth of information on the Arctic Ocean, the exhibition and programs are conceived as platforms to explore how artistic practices and scientific research work differently, similarly, or jointly to shape our understanding.
Exploring the Arctic Ocean is curated by Ulrike Heine in collaboration with An T. Nguyen and Patrick Heimbach, with the assistance of Alberto Escobedo, III. The exhibition and public programs are made possible by the National Science Foundation, the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, the Jackson School of Geosciences, the Institute for Geophysics, the Texas Advanced Computing Center, the Department of Art and Art History, the Center for Space Research, the Moody College of Communication, and the Department of Geography and the Environment.