7 weeks until Antarctica

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Last week I moved a box of stuff into a temporary office at NIWA so that I can make preparations for K131 to Antarctica. The plan is to test some photographic techniques/set ups for documenting ice crystals and ice crystal clusters. Getting good documentation of these beautiful structures will hopefully help the scientists to understand the process and cycle of sea ice formation and break up a little better. Worse case scenario, I get some really nice pictures, best case, I contribute to real science which is a very exciting thought to me.

Day one began with security, health and safety inductions, cake at morning tea to celebrate a very expensive piece of equipment surviving Cook Strait and not crashing into rocks over the weekend and a bit of work.

As I won’t be able to make real ice crystals that join together, I have been looking into creating substitutes  – which suits my training and interest in materials and sculpture.

Over the past weeks, I tested some pva – the test failed in the short term, but it might come good in the coming weeks. I poured some pva onto some plastic sheets to wait for it to dry clear…but after a week, it was still milky and not translucent enough. So, onto plan b which involved raiding the stationary supplies – clear packaging tape and clear binder pockets and I started to create a material that resembled ice [for photographic purposes] as closely as possible. Layers of tape complete with air pockets and layering and dust particles were created and then cut into crystalline shapes and joined together like a 3D puzzle. I tested a few different ways of joining as well as photographing  them – different coloured backgrounds [black worked best] and colour vs black and white photography, settling on B+W as more detail could be seen. The photos above are the best results from the first day – bare in mind, they are from my iPhone with a little processing on a simple photographic app to increase contrast, but that is all.

Later in the week I began to test out some time lapse documentation of my fake ice platelet sculptures on a lazy susan using a few different cameras and lighting combinations.

Below are the links to these lovely experiments. Yes, I am having a lot of fun and it is to be continued!

Before I forget, over the past couple of weeks, I have also had my Antarctic medical as well as attended a first aid course. There is still a bit to organise, but all is moving in the right direction.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/136781080″>wednesday test 2 – Large</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/gabbyo”>Gabby O'Connor</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/136794184″>Thursday Test</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/gabbyo”>Gabby O'Connor</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Two Months until Antarctica

It would appear that despite my good intentions to write more frequently about my art I have been a complete failure!  What I realise is that I reserve this space for my contemporary art projects and practice and since my last post I have been busy with other projects that include teaching and exhibition design for kids, which, for the purpose of this blog I keep separate. I have also written a large number of applications for funding and projects that haven’t come to fruition, but are leading to other opportunities. The process of writing the proposals was a great way to organise my thoughts and current art practice trajectory. Nothing wasted; even proposals are recycled.

In May I was also lucky enough to attend an incredibly inspiring weekend workshop at the very majestic Lake Ohau Lodge hosted by NZARI [who are also funding the research trip in Antarctica] and Antarctica NZ. The weekend was attended by many esteemed Antarctic scientists who discussed their research generously, journalists/media who have an interest in science, and me. The aim was to consider how to better discuss and foreground the issues relating to Climate Change, Antarctica and us as citizens of not only NZ, but the world. It was eye opening and completely frightening but also positive – an incredible group of people that I felt privileged to be amongst. Listening to the Guardian newpaper’s series of podcasts The Biggest Story in the World helped give much of the information context. At the workshop I really felt like the odd one out, but also that I had something to offer the conversations as well. I know that my art/sci workshops with primary kids are very important as they are not the usual target audience of this information but they are incredibly receptive to it. One of the most important things that I communicate to the kids in the workshop [that us grown ups often forget] is how interconnected everything is – I am talking about earth systems here, not something wishy washy! So even though Antarctica is perceived as far away and an abstract concept, it is only one length of NZ [both islands] away in winter, and two lengths of NZ away in summer and the winds, weather and ocean currents effect us every day. Antarctica is in our back yard, but sea level rise and the swift melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet will effect the world. The workshop gave me great context and back ground for thinking around my trip to the ice.

All this happening in the background doesn’t mean that I haven’t been making and thinking about art. In fact it is quite the opposite as time races toward the departure date of October 16th 2015. My lists are epic at the moment. I have been painting and drawing quite a bit as a way of focusing my thoughts. I am also going to start testing some photographic techniques so that I can take decent photographs of the research that I will be observing. Clear shiny ice crystal clusters are going to be fun/tricky and interesting to document. I am also attending a first aid course this week as part of preparations, I will also renew my passport, get an Antarctic medical in the coming weeks, read, write lists, purchase more icebreaker items, plan and draw and paint some more. I also need to find somewhere to exhibit whatever-the-heck-giant-site-specific-installation [not blue and no triangles] I will make after my trip to the ice…if you have any ideas/contacts, let me know!


Ice Bound


Well, I acknowledge that it has been a rather long absence in this space and that I must get back in the habit of documenting all the behind the scenes goings ons like I used to.
There has been a lot going on…as always but one thing in particular that I couldn’t announce for a while, and then I had to get my head around it.

I AM GOING TO ANTARCTICA IN OCT/NOV 2015!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, that statement required all caps and as many exclamation marks that I could fit on a line. I have known for over a month but during that time I had to complete the Upstream art Trail project and a few other things. In the background, I have also been running kids workshops, doing family stuff and a little bit of research about what the heck I will be getting up to in Antarctica. I’ve also been experimenting with casually dropping that sentence into conversations.
I will be accompanying a research team that my long time collaborator Dr Craig Stevens [NIWA/University of Auckland] is part of. Apparently we will be 5 kms from Scott Base on sea ice, residing in 20 foot containers and eating a lot of couscous. Details of the research project are here: The title of the research is “Supercooled ice shelf cavity water and the influence on sea ice growth”. At this early stage, I am not even going to attempt to paraphrase the research as I won’t do it justice… yet. I need to study up and observe the actual science in action.
My role as part of the research team will be outreach. This means that after and possibly before I go to Antarctica I will try to talk to the public as often as I can about Antarctica. Schools workshops and an exhibition will be a focus. [about what and where will be TBC].
These are activities that I do already while talking about my art or whilst running art/sci project workshops, but only with second and third hand information. I can’t even imagine how transformational the trip down to the ice will be.
So in the mean time I am writing lots and lots of lists. What I’ll need to take with me, what might be interesting for me to research and hanging out in the library, painting with water colours and thinking about woolly hats.
I am also going to try and document more of all the above on this blog.

I will leave you with this advice I was given on how to acclimatise to Antarctic conditions, with thanks to Dr Craig Stevens:

” re: polar aclimatisation … if you’re serious…. dress up in ALL your clothes, find a big box to sit in, put a fan on blowing straight into your face and I’ll come round, scrape the frost out of yer freezer and throw it at you while simultaneously telling jokes, complaining about management and cooking you ANOTHER meal of cous cous, frozen veggie bag and mystery meat. It’ll be just like the real thing.”


One last workshop

Just before Christmas last year I ran a lovely little workshop as part of a lovely series called “the colourists“. It was part of the Urban Dream Brokerage and the brainchild of the lovely Sophia McKinnon .
I ran the final workshop, in the final room all about the colour blue.
Here are some snaps from the day:










Peacocks, pirates and all that lives under the sea and sky. It was a great final workshop of the year.

Running workshops in schools – Upstream Arts Trail – Shelter

I am currently involved in an outdoor art trail here at Central Park, Brooklyn, Wellington for local emerging artists and designers running from March 5-8.
This project, Upstream Art Trail has been organised by the Friends of Central Park who are all locals that devote time to maintaining and improving the park. It is an incredibly thoughtful and generous project that gives emerging artists and designers an opportunity to exhibit a site specific outdoor work with a modest budget. Upstream also aims to bring new visitors to the park, while also providing a cultural experience and a different point of view to the regular users.
My involvement was initially to select the artists and to act as a mentor – helping with logistics, practical concerns and advice along with the wonderful Vanessa Crowe.
I am also running/coordinating a local school community project that will result in a collaborative artwork made by children from the four closest schools to the park: Te Aro School, St Bernards, Ridgeway School and Brooklyn School.
In December, I ran research workshops at the four schools on the theme of “Shelter” which is the greater project’s theme. Using a class/group from each school we brain-stormed the theme into What, Who, Why, How, discussing all the types of shelters we could think of, the different creatures that made them and why and how we can make shelters ourselves along with many other tangents! I then asked the students to draw a creature and its shelter/s and then they drew an ultimate/fantasy shelter. We also tried to make shelters with our own bodies.

There was a fantastic amount of data collected which has allowed me to develop the project further. This project is student led whereby I had no idea what materials or form or system that this project would take – unlike my other collaborative projects. The unknown makes it a little scary – working outside my comfort zone, but it is also thrilling and reliant on serendipity and experience.
One thing that was announced by the Wellington City Council just after my initial workshop phase was the idea of Wellington becoming a “super city” and I have decided to run with this for a few reasons:
Kids are fantastic problem solvers and lateral thinkers and should be involved in this discussion.
Wellington is already a Super City full of Super people.
What if kids designed a city?
I am looking forward to the types of shelters and city planning that the kids will come up with – they may be on to something.
The artwork will be Super. Ok, I know I have used the S word rather liberally, but kids are, and they all know/understand the idea of a Superhero being someone with extraordinary powers who comes to the rescue. Extending from my last blog post – these guys will be inheriting the world from us and they may need to rescue the future from some of our decisions.
I will be running the artwork “making” workshops in the last two weeks of February where I will be spending a full day on site at each school making the components for the greater artwork.
The local school communities will then be invited [along with their families] to assist with the install of the works at the park in the days leading up to the launch. The details will be announced shortly.
Here are some images from the research workshops in early December 2014: [in no particular order]


















The Upstream Arts Trail would like to thank the Wellington City Council, Creative Communities, The local schools participating, The artists, The friends of Central Park and private sponsors for making such a wonderful community event happen.

Running workshops in schools – Antarctica Day, Dec 1, 2014

Happy 2015 to you all. I have been avoiding this space [apologies] as it has been a busy time over the Christmas, New Year and Summer holidays.
But this doesn’t mean that I haven’t been busy thinking, making or teaching – I just haven’t had the time to reflect and document, but here it goes.
On December 1st 2014 it was Antarctica Day, so to celebrate, I ran some workshops at a local primary school in Wellington NZ to consider our icy neighbour. At the request of Hanne Neilsen I ran a ‘flag making’ workshop for 6-9 year olds. First I talked to the kids about some of the main facts relating to Antarctica. Most of the kids are familiar with how our local weather is affected by the continent as the Southerly wind that Wellington is so famous for travels swiftly here without any obsticle.
I find it really important to reinforce to the students how interconnected everything is and how our actions have consequences. These mini ambassadors are inheriting this earth and the more knowledge they have now, the better human beings they will be.
Antartica has no flag of its own, so after our initial discussion that includes geography, topography, history, science and wildlife, the kids set about designing their own personal Antarctica flags on post-it-notes:


Then the kids formed groups of 4-6 where they discussed the best ideas presented in each of their designs and together came up with a plan for a group flag.
The students worked on taped out areas on the floor and with recycled scraps of paper from my stash and from their classroom’s resources.
In the form of a temporary collage – ie, nothing was stuck down, the kids cut and tore the elements of their designs in the four colours provided – red, blue, white, black and their final works were incredibly thoughtful and original.








As you can see, the results are fantastic, but the best thing was what happened in the classrooms after I had finished the workshops.
The effect of the only one hour workshop continued as did class led enquiries into Antarctica. Here are some of the results from both classes:




There is much power to providing a genuine experience to young learners. I am painfully aware there is only so much that I can share with the students during the workshop time, but it would seem in all occaisions, a very potent seed is planted that allows for further investigation and learning.
I love my job!

Inland ice, NZIcefest

Photo credit Aaron Campbell Photography

So Icefest has come and gone now and this post has been sitting incomplete in my drafts for the last couple of hectic weeks. Sorry!

Here is the link to the info about Inland Ice and NZ Icefest- that is now being disassembled. This is probably the shortest time frame I have created an installation for – it was open to the public for a little over two weeks. An incredible amount of focus for me but it had high impact and a very consistent audience, as well as a 24 hour time cycle. It was also an wonderful problem solving exercise /collaboration with the weather and collaboration with a really interesting and excellent bunch of people who all played a part in making my project and Icefest happen.
Over the weekend I was given an incredible opportunity to speak at Breaking Ice symposium along with some very esteemed and inspirational others. I felt like a very small fish but also that my thoughts and practice were completely relevant to the content of the day. There were many holes in my talk as I always have too much to say and included too many images and there was not enough time. However, the most important points were heard and were also part of the general consensus of the power of combining art and science and the similarities rather than the differences between the disciplines despite appearances and how we are taught to separate them.

Yesterday I was able to tear down some of my favourite sections that I will keep for no particular reason other than fondness, and the remaining 21 panels will be dismantled over the week and the materials will be reclaimed while some will unfortunately be disposed of.
Things are calming down for me now which will allow all the excitement of the past year or so [but especially of the past weekend] distill and manifest into something new. I have no major projects on the horizon which is a combination of scary and thrilling. What it will really mean is that I can get back to some painting and research so I can write some proposals rather than just keeping up.
More Icefest pics soon though – I just have a serious amount of editing to do there!


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