Antarctic Futures emerges from two paths of lllawarra based association with the Antarctic – one academic and the other artistic.
The academic genesis stems from a multidisciplinary group of academics at the University of Wollongong involved in the ECO-Antarctica research project. This group included marine and terrestrial ecologists, data scientists, environmental toxicologists, climate scientists and modellers, experts in Antarctic and environmental law and policy, a historian and an artist. At the heart of the group were the circle of researchers associated with Professor Sharon Robinson’s Antarctic moss ecology research. Alongside more formal academic gatherings, ECO-Antarctica ran a small mixed discipline show, Antarctic Footprints, at the UOW Innovation Campus that aimed to highlight the threat of climate change to the Antarctic environment. Although the ECO-Antarctica project finished in 2020, a number of the team remained keen to develop a more ambitious public event. Professor Robinson, Associate Professor Brogan Bunt, Dr Melinda Waterman and Research Officer Georgia Watson approached Early Start and the new UOW Art Gallery about the possibility of developing a larger event that would involve an exhibition, public seminars and children’s early learning workshops. Gaining approval, they then successfully obtained National Science Week funding to support the event. Their overall aim has been to shape an event that seamlessly combines aspects of understanding and imagination to reflect upon potential Antarctic futures within the context of climate change.
Associate Professor Bunt provides the bridge to the other trajectory of Illawarra based Antarctic association – local artist Ashley Frost’s Theme Polar Arts program. For close to two decades (2003-2018) Theme ran an artist residency program that placed local and international artists aboard Arctic and Antarctic tourism ships from 2003-2018. It was also contracted to produce innovative multi-media logs of these voyages. Bunt had developed the initial multimedia system and been on a number of voyages as a multimedia producer. He was keen to highlight this unique Illawarra venture and the body of artistic work that it had produced.
These two trajectories have coalesced in Antarctic Futures. The UOW Gallery exhibition is an eclectic mix of Theme Polar Arts program work by local artists Liz Jeneid, Rob Howe, Bettina Kaiser, Trudi Voorwinden and Ashley Frost, as well as work by artists Bunt, Janet Laurence and Mary Rosengren and scientists in the UOW Antarctic moss research team. In a similar fashion, the seminar series incorporates both scientific and humanities based critical perspectives, and the workshops aim to engage both creative and conceptual aspects of environmental understanding.
The curatorial team is very grateful for the vital assistance of the Early Start and UOW Art Collection staff in enabling Antarctic Futures to happen.