Monday, September 29, 2008

narwhal tracks

aerial survey - King Eider

Satellite tracking is complimented by surface observation, surveys by boat and by air to monitor bird flight paths. Planes fly repeatedly across the harbour and count the birds they see and mark them across the map.

oil spill simulation

Kaspar uses data based on real oil spills, sea currents and observed behaviour of liquids to manufacture virtual oil spills. This information is used to discourage oil wells being built at certain sites.


of course I know about scientific objectivity, but still I find it a little strange how different environmental scientists are from activists. While climate change is irrevocably changing the Arctic environment they also see the benefits for some species (the narwhal can now swim through the North West passage, the Caribou has more grazing area, and of course the Greenland people are benefitting from more crop growing conditions. The loss of some species through greater competition? - well that is the dynamics of biology! For some wading birds who already live on the edge of the limits of existence, there is nowhere to go as their habitat disappears. Peter also notes that the millions of humans who are living at the limits will suffer as temperatures rise, not only the islanders but those locked inland in the vast drying continent of Africa.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mariko Mori at ARoS and Thorbjorn Lausten

I have been thinking about the legibility of my work, and how strongly the connection to the scientific researchers work will be made in the final outcome of the project. Is it ok to leave all the interpretation to the catalogue and accompanying wall texts to show where the data comes from. This seems to be the approach taken by veteran visualiser of scientific data, the Danish artist Thorbjorn Lausten who I met for coffee yesterday. His work always has a catalogue to go with it which explains the correlation between his quite abstract paintings and digital projections and their scientific source material. He objects to the words 'digital' and 'interactive' when describing his work - he says - everything is digital, everything we sense is interactive (ie all material things in the world.)

At the beautiful new gallery AROS in the city of Arhus where I gave a presentation about my work , there was a great exhibition called the 9 spaces. The gallery had substantial sound,video and light installations by Bill Viola, James Turell, Olufur Eliasson, Pippilotti Rist, Tony Oursler and Olaf Breuning. But the most interesting for my project was Mariko Mori's work which was a large organic shaped plexiglas totem which glowed in different lights and colours and seemingly random moments. On reading the wall text the abstract lights are explained by a live link to a telescope in Tokyo which is trained on the outer reaches of space. Every time a star dies a light flares and fades in Mori's light sculpture called' Tom Na H-iu', the name for a memorial standing stone. And none of this would be apparent without reading the supporting wall text...

in the North

In the elist guest discussion on Art and Ecology on the Synapse (Australian Network for Art and Science) one German commentator questioned why an artist from the Southern hemisphere was making a project in the North. it makes sense to me as I am also going to further this research with other work with an environmental organisation in the Southern hemisphere. Although there is a lot of dialogue focussing on 'the local' in art and sociological projects , I think it is still important to keep International dialogue going by actually going places. Although my one plane flight might have expended more energy and emitted more CO2 than working at home can I be partially redeemed by carbon off-sets?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Anholt seal monitoring expedition

It is too late in the seaon for a trip to Greenland but the scientist Jonas Teilmann still needed to make some repairs and adjustments to the seal monitoring equipment in the remote Danish island called 'Anholt'. We took a small plane and then a tractor along the beach to a seal colony of around 150 seals (but sometimes up to 1000) at the far end of the island. A webcam and radio instruments are set up in the lighthouse there to monitor the seals, then the signalled is transmitted to the internet via the military base there.

The seals are best viewed from the monitoring hut with a 60 x zoom telescope. After 1000s of years of hunting the seals are very firghtened and will flee to the water if you approach too close... as happened to us. The animals outwitted their human documenters ...