Antarctic Diaries: Day 2

I would appear to be overly ambitious with posting this diary in the middle of organising my exhibition Studio Antarctica [which opens in 6 days]

I was interviewed recently by Lynn Freeman from Radio New Zealand about the project. The link is here. There has also been a little write up in the lovely Capital Magazine out of Wellington. Do pick up a copy and support local print media if you can.

If you want to see the behind the scenes for the Studio Antarctica exhibition. My studioantarctica instagram account is where those images are hiding out.

Back to the diary!

IMG_4641IMG_4634IMG_4636Day 2 Saturday 17/10/15

Wake at 7am – mostly fresh! Storm conditions overnight snow up the window. Things not tied down [flags] flapping furiously in the wind. Lots of flurries of snow blowing like eddies where there are nooks outside. The air moves like the sea and vice versa it seems. Just in different time scales. Making more sense of that now.

Breakfast coffee – not sure about frothing powdered milk. Might move to long blacks.

Meeting about K131 now. Recce likely on Monday , set up camp on Wednesday.

Set up a corner of lab with the rest of K131 after reclaiming some gear that was in storage. Wind still blows. Anthony Powell has a few cameras doing time-lapse indoors pointed at the flappy flags.

I have one set up in the lab doing a test time-lapse of equipment repair and set up.

Drawing from photographs from the flight in blue mechanical pencil.

Makes me think again of the  land writing and rewriting itself. Hard to get the line to do what I want. Wandering, tired and sleepy eyes and hand.


The Antarctic Diaries: Day 1

day 1 The Ice -Friday October 16, 

Christchurch -> Scott Base, Antarctica.

Up at 4am, no sleeping, too much thinking,

Pack, repack bags, load pockets with useful stuff then forget where everything is.

Health check at US Antarctic office – temperature and ebola

Customs card, passport check all by NZ army staff at US office. All units of measurement in Fahrenheit, pounds etc.

Quick breakfast at Antarctic Centre then video briefing .

Quick change into big boots and snow trousers.

then onto the bus.

FLIGHT:: Helicopter in the C17 with us, its blades packed away in a long yellow box.

It took something between 4-5 hours.

Distracted by two tiny porthole windows. Trying to steal the first view of Antarctic sea ice. Excited as.

Eventless flight. Sunny clear day to land. You only get to land in Antarctica when the weather is perfect. Attempted to document my feet touching the ground [sea ice] but failed. Too much to juggle – bags, gear, giant moon boots and footage was too handheld with the potential to give you motion sickness.

Scott Base: Weather -19 – -12. Sunny, clear, blue, mirages sighted.

More briefing/induction  – tour of facilities, health and safety.

After dinner K131 meeting – optional for me, but I go. Tired but interested!

Discuss logistics and planning for Otago work vs CS K131 project. Seems like the greater team will be split into two smaller groups.  CS, TH, CS, GO to field camp, Otago to be mostly based at Scott Base with daily side trips to take sea ice cores and make measurements. I am allocated my own studio container that I will have to share with food and water storage and Learnz when they come to visit.

Field Training is a mystery. It may happen at the camp, or Scott Base. Can’t really go anywhere until this is sorted. FAM trip to Scott’s Hut is fully booked.

Weather turns. Watched the wind blow the surface snow across the sea ice. Much like sea-spray. Reminds me of my thoughts from the South Project publication: “The landscape writes and rewrites itself” Very easy to lose time staring out the windows.

Category 1 weather over night [worst kind – no out door activity]

Drinking loads of water. Skin drying like paper already.

Read part of the first chapter of Alok Jha’s book – Water. All about Antarctica..and sea sickness.

I cough in the night but sleep like a log with ear-plugs. A long week.

The Antarctic Diaries: Day Zero



During various research phases into Antarctic history, I have looked at the diaries of several Antarctic explorers and their various team members. So in this tradition, I kept my own [very meek] diary. Not neccesarily for anyone else, but more as way to try to not forget all these firsts that I was having. What I realise in retrospect, is that I didn’t do a particularly good job. Like memories, it is full of holes and gaps and there is emphasis on not-so-important facts, but it is still a document of my 24 days there. In this blog,  I am about to share some fragments of my time on the ice, along with supporting imagry in the lead up to the “big show” at Pataka Museum+Art in June. I’ll pop a couple of these up a week when I get a chance.

Things continue to be kind of hectic as there are less then six weeks till the exhibition opens and I have to get photo files to the printers this week, and everything to the framers next week. Next week also marks the start of the schools workshops where we, Dr Craig Stevens and I will work with 4 schools and up to 400 kids to help make the installation part of the exhibition. This is a big science communication multiplied by art excercise that will be chaotic and energetic but a lot of fun. All is going well though. If you have seen my instagram page recently, there will be hints of completed pencil and ink works. Things are getting crossed off on the big list…

PS – I am giving a free public talk in Wellington NZ tomorrow night Wed 11, May in Miramar


So…here goes….

Day 0 – Thursday October 15, 2015


Waking early – 5ish – too much thinking [all good]

To chch. Easy flight with Craig Stevens and Brett Grant K131.

To Antarctic costume cave. Get fitted for gear. Learn how to layer up, sweat, then head to hotel. Pack, repack.

Then dinner in town and meet the Otago part of the team:

Inga, Greg and Andrew.

Bed by 10 – tired as.



#studioantarctica: 9 weeks to go & an announcement.


As it would appear, this year is continuing to be super busy. Along with preparing for THE BIG SHOW in June at Pataka Museum+Art which includes lots of painting; photographic testing, image selection and file preparation; arranging and decision making about framing and hanging of the works; spatial considerations and organising and preparing for workshops in schools. I know there I am missing something here though.

I just made myself laugh as that is exactly what being busy does to me – makes me forget everything that I have done recently as I am focusing on what needs to be done next. Two weeks ago a project instigated by the Porirua Chamber of Commerce  and supported by Pataka Museum+Art launched in Porirua called “Shopfrontin” launched. There is some documentation on my studioantarctica Instagram account. And here is some writing by Mark Amery about a couple of the projects exploring identity [not mine] . To give some background, the Shopfrontin’ project extends from the Teza project run by the Urban Dream Brokerage utilising vacant shops in the centre of Porirua. It seems that most of the shopping now occurs in the adjacent shopping mall leaving dozens of shops at the heart of the city now vacant. As a way of revitalising the city centre, a group of artists were invited to create site specific work to energise the dormant spaces. I created a work out of available parts of about 6 previous ice/Antarctic related works in a site that marks the edge of of a historical shore line. In a way, the work I created ICE CYCLE looks at the life cycle [if you can call it that] of ice while considering what may happen if sea levels rise again. Water freezes, evaporates, melts/cracks and refreezes, moving from one state to another, constantly recycling itself and transforming. So, there were parts of What lies beneath, What Lies Beneath- the return, Cleave and Some time as well as Inland Ice and Heavy Water. It was nice to reflect on this body of work and see how the physical pieces as well as ideas could interconnect despite being made using different systems, scales and times.

This week has seen me preparing and delivering talks in Dunedin as a guest of Otago University. On Monday I presented a talk to the Physics Department at Otago University. It was a full house which means 30-something people and I got to talk about what happens when an artist participates in scientific research. On Tuesday I reframed the talk slightly as it was presented at the Dunedin School of Art. In between there have been many conversations about how art sci collaborations are often one sided – i.e. the artist interpreting the research of the scientist while the scientist is part of a wonderful conversation with a cool outcome, and how my experience in Antarctica kind of turned that on its head, acting as an experiment within an experiment to see if art, could in turn influence science.

In fact, I had so many interesting conversations with artists, scientists, science communicators, lecturers, academics, curators, geographers and other creatives that my head is still spinning slightly and my ability to string a sentence together and spell is now questionable.

It is all good though, and was really helpful to talk about my practice and experiences in a new context and it helped me to make some connections between ideas that I hadn’t considered until now.

Oh and in other news, I am going to Antarctica again to continue my research on Sea Ice platelets and assist Dr Natalie Robinson’s research.

[imagine the sound of me squealing with joy!]

Hello 2016

I feel kind of embarrassed at how long it was since I last wrote a blog post. As per usual, there has been so much happening. In between all that, there was a mercy dash to Australia as my lovely number one supporter and grandma was ill and passed away gracefully, then there was Xmas, and then we moved house.

Unfortunately, in all that upheaval, this little precious space has been left unattended and has probably grown a few weeds too. But despite the above, a lot artistically has happened and I am going to attempt to write it all down. Sorry if it is tedious and over detailed, but if I go in a chronological order to aid my memory it will be easier…and I’ll throw in a few pictures too.

Thankfully I wrote a to-do list on the last blog post!

So, yes, I went to Auckland for one day and attended a most stimulating and exciting symposium –

IMG_4964Half of which was held on a double decker bus while driving through and around Titirangi [pictured above]. It was an amazing opportunity to hear how the Temp project was developing and meet the other participating artists, scientists and the steering group.It was also a chance to get a real feel for how the different projects will exist both separately and also in connection with the each other, their sites and audiences. I presented an illustrated and very excited first talk about my time in Antarctica. I was saddened but completely understood when the the tough decision was made days before Christmas to delay the project by a year when a funding shortfall was apparent. More about this in a minute.

More talking – Yes, I gave another talk, this time at the SCANZ – Science Communicators Association of NZ annual conference with Dr Craig Stevens in Wellington. We talked individually about K131 [research in Antarctica] and the interdisciplinary nature of our collaborations and the added value of placing someone like me with an outsiders view in a research team on the ice. The talk was well received and it gave me a large amount of confidence to speak in this context and made me value my contributions as an interdisciplinary researcher, science communicator and artist even more. It is definitely affirming to be able to talk about my work, and it to have relevance in many contexts.

This is a slice from a meteorite that was handed around at the conference. My only other picture was of the conference room’s carpet…


Painting – the two murals at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington were painted by the wonderful and talented students from St Cath’s and Wellington Girls Schools over two days. They all worked hard to complete their individual works, but also collaborated so well with each other. So much to be proud of – and such a lovely project to be involved in.The greater project was launched on December 16 with many of the contributing student artists in attendance. The work will be up for  a year, so keep an eye out for lots of colours on the concourse, rather than only concrete.

Data wrangling – I logged over 500 video files that I created while in Antarctica. They ranged in length and quality – from accidental videos of 1 second to 20 minutes. Many shaky and hand held as most shots where unable to be planned for or reenacted, but there was so much rich information in there. The footage will go toward two online course videos for

This was a frustrating but amazing process – frustrating as I was disappointed at the quality of many of the files, but considering I was a one person first time operation, much of it is also fantastic and honest and really interesting. It was amazing to relive many of the experiences that I had on the ice by reviewing the material also and to work out how to make connections and tell stories through the often disparate moments that I managed to capture.


Even more talking:  I spoke at the Biennial NZ sea-ice symposium in Christchurch about my time in Antarctica and the research outcomes. It was a good talk at the end of the day. I didn’t spot anyone falling asleep or rustling their pages. There were a few moments afterwards that made me chuckle where the scientists were apologising for how boring it must be for me. In fact it was incredibly interesting and it was beneficial for me to hear where my work sits within the greater area of sea-ice research.

Making art:

I had a mini existential dilemma when Temp was postponed. [even though I completely understood why]  That project was in the foreground of my research and thinking while in Antarctica and gave my return momentum and purpose. Things have all worked out though – as they do. Fortunately an opportunity that I had said no to due to scheduling could be pursued…and I am pleased to announce that I will be having a large scale solo show at Pataka Museum+Art that opens from June 19 – Sept 20, 2016.

It is not the longest time-frame to prepare works for an exhibition, but I have accepted the challenge to work out how to present the before, during and after – work created around my trip to Antarctica last year. It will be a kind of exposé of process, research and data collection and will illustrate the challenge that is a complete change of direction in my practice. It is uncomfortable [for me] but liberating as I can’t rely on my usual bag of tricks to make my art work. I am crossing into languages and media that have been part of my process, but not my outcomes.

There will be photographs, paintings and drawings, a video work on 4 channels and a site specific work made out of cellotape/sticky-tape and light. The working title is Studio Antarctica – Fugitive Ice.  I have an instagram account that is updated more regularly for this project if you would like to follow…


Other news: I have some work in this show in Melbourne that opens on Friday 24 Feb.

Thanks to my lovely friend and buddy from art school Narinda Cook for making that happen.


Also – I have some work in a book that has recently been published out of Hong Kong:


There is much more on the horizon which will have to wait for another blog post. This year went from zero  – i.e., nothing on at all, to turbo.  But first I am going to take a short break and see some dear friends get married, hang out with some family, some mountains and lakes and recharge.



Straight back into it

I have been back from Antarctica for just over a week and it has been an interesting and busy time. My whole state of being while there was of sensory, intellectual and creative [over] stimulation. It was one of the most incredible experiences to date, both creatively and I think professionally. I am pretty sure I was smiling, buzzing and bouncing off the walls for most of it like a giant toddler. I didn’t really want to sleep, but keep working, and even when I tried I just lay there thinking about work. The 24 hour daylight probably helped too. Needless to say, when I got back I was exhausted. Even though there is no difference in time-zones between Wellington and the McMurdo area of Antarctica, I had some kind of jet-lag and being back in a world full of different weather, animals, plants, people and food options was another kind of sensory overload and I had to shut down.

I have also been trying to work out how to deliver and present and process all of the data that I collected while on the ice. I literally have thousands of photographs of both scenery, field camp work as well as artwork created. There are also 500ish video files to be logged and their usefulness determined and I also kept a diary. Not a confessional, but more containing lists of the things that happened that I don’t want to forget.

Anyhow, I haven’t fully resolved how I will do this yet. It is possible that I will drip feed blog entries chronologically after I have dealt with the 1000’s of gb data collected. In some ways, I wonder if all of it belongs in its own separate place but I am not completely sure that if that will work either. The trip to Antarctica and the data collected in isolation is one thing but I know that the legacy of the experience as well as how the data is processed is going to cross pollinate all the other work that I do in ways I can’t control. Sorry, thinking out loud here, but I do need to be strategic about how I disseminate the data/ documentation and new artworks. What I don’t want to do is dilute their power or value by rushing anything.

However, this week I am straight back into it and I have been busy doing preparation for a mural project that I am involved in at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington. I have worked with two groups of high school kids to develop some murals that will be on display for at least a year on the concourse.

Here a a few pics and the video of the painting preparation. The actual action of painting a 5m wall with brightly coloured paint has been some kind of therapy for me. Such a simple thing to do but you get to use your whole body and I love how intense colour stimulates my retina.

The time-lapse video should be here on my vimeo page.


In the meantime, I am preparing some talks that will form part of the outreach responsibilities from my time in Antarctica. This is something that I realise that I am mostly comfortable doing, and the fact that I am still excited and buzzing from the experience should be capitalised on.

So here is my to-do list:

  • Preparing a talk for a symposium in Auckland next week that forms part of the exhibition project that I am working early next year.
  • Preparing another talk for the  SCANZ – Science Communicators Association of NZ annual conference
  • Thinking about developing another couple of talks.
  • Logging and reviewing all of the video files that will be hopefully used for an online course at Victoria University next year.
  • Preparing and strategising for the big TEMP project early next year. There is a large education/outreach/community collaboration component that needs to be refined and organised.
  • Sourcing materials for the above.
  • Organising and retouching photographs from the work that I did in the K131 Field Camp in Antarctica. There is lots of dust, water droplets, a cracked surface and seal snot to remove.
  • Keep pushing future projects as after the end of March 2016 I have nothing on the agenda.
  • Paint a couple of murals.
  • Spend time with family.


I am definitely not winding down as the year comes to a close and really when I think about it my work and life are very intertwined, so even if I didn’t have that massive list above, I would be painting and drawing from the photographs taken on the ice. It is the perfect way to analyse and make new observations from images that would otherwise be hanging out in deep storage.




A whole lot of awesome

Here are a few pics (from my phone) from the last 24 days in Antarctica. 

It was seriously the best and most inspiring experience to date. And yes, I walked around grinning like a maniac for all of it…and I made a lot of work and maybe even did some science. More pictures to follow from the real cameras. Below is just a stop-gap.  Still need to decompress and get from Christchurch to Wellington.


No sleep till Antarctica

  Image: test photocopies of paintings and photographs 2015

Well, that isn’t exactly true but I have just said goodbye to the kids and my love and have my bags brimming with all sorts of useful/warm stuff and I will be catching a plane today.

So, really, it is the first travel day where we are flying from Wellington to Christchurch where we will be issued our cold weather gear. Dinner and a catch up are scheduled and hopefully a tiny amount of sleep before we head to the Antarctic Centre by 6am for the 9am flight [on a Hercules!!!] to Antarctica.

I haven’t been sleeping so much this week, excited, restless and waking early as my daily to-do lists have been epic. I have been mostly sorting out provisions and details for the kids and a few extra just in case items for the trip. Almost a month is a long time for the kids to be without their mum, but hopefully they will slip into this new routine and do well without me.

I am sitting in my office now and have just realised that the only thing that I have forgotten to pack is my blue tooth speaker. So my Antarctica dance parties-for-one will have to use my laptop speakers or headphones. For me, I am impressed that it was just this one thing…I might realise that there are more things missing once I get unpacked and set up at the base but I am sure I can make do with my gaffa tape, hot glue gun and cable ties . [as long as the chocolate doesn’t run out!!]

This weekend I should be attending Antarctica Field Training which has been a kind of fantasy for me. Over 10 years ago I made a work about building a snow cave and did a lot of research around the different ways we can use our hands to build spaces and survive under extreme pressure. It is going to be interesting to put this long considered theory into practice. I am also going to learn to ride a skidoo!

Next week we will create our field camp that is about 20kms from Scott base on sea ice and is made up of a series of shipping containers. At some point during that week I will actually start to make some work. Unfortunately, I will have very limited, if any, internet access so I will be very quiet on the social media front. Expect a barrage in November though!

Some plans that I have for my own work on the ice are:

Documenting everything I can with everything that I have – i.e. video, photo, sound, drawing, painting and writing. I don’t necessarily know how this is going to be used. I am thinking of it as a collecting data that I will then process and turn into something at a later date.

Trying to understand – Much of the above will be in order to try and understand the work that the scientists are doing, the research, the physical space, environment, climate and headspace of a field camp in Antarctica and trying to reconcile my reading about Antarctica with the real thing.

Studio Antarctica –   I will have some dedicated space to make work and I hope to set it up as a temporary remote exhibition of work created toward the end. This will be another documentation exercise.

Site responsive work – I am planning on doing some discrete site specific installations within the shipping container field camp.

Have some new ideas for some new work – no pressure or anything, but I do have a major project looming for Feb/March in Auckland.

Seeing how many photographs I can take and being flexible with my expectations.

I know the photographic tally is going to make me laugh at some point. I’ll let you all know where I get to at the end. I also may run out of time to do everything on my list which is bigger than this. The experience is everything though and I will be carrying it with me beyond my time on the ice.

Ok, I didn’t realise I had so much to say, but I better sign off now.

If I do get a chance to use the internet on the ice – it might just be on twitter.

You can find/follow me at::: o_gabbyo

Otherwise there will be a flood of interestingness from November 10 when I am scheduled to be back in Wellington.

One week till Antarctica

And not enough time to write a blog post. Here are some pictures instead :::



So, as I type [and think] that line above, I gulp and feel a bit nervous and excited and then some all at once. I feel no apprehension though as the opportunity to go to the Ice is a privilege far greater than that silly feeling.

Really, I just can’t believe that the year has happened so fast and it is nearly time to pack some bags, board a few planes and then live on sea ice for a few weeks – i.e. put into practice what has been pure theory and speculation for so long.

My biggest fear is running out of paper for drawing and painting which makes me laugh too. I am not limited in the amount of equipment I can take which is refreshing, but having no limits is not always the best for me. I am very good at over packing with the thought of needing something “just in case”, but in reality, this is probably the best thinking for this kind of trip where there are no shops or places nearby to get something to solve a problem and where you have to improvise regularly. Gaffa tape, cable ties, hot glue gun, sewing kit, rope, baby wipes and wire are things that I regularly think will solve many tricky situations. I just hope I don’t forget anything – but I think as long as I refer to my now epic lists, I’ll be ok.

Coffee and dark chocolate are pretty high on that list too.

I now have a new passport with an appropriately serious and also funny photo. There are only a few things that I need to purchase for the trip – extra batteries for my camera and go pro, a neoprene face mask for skidoo travels, some more paper, a couple more paint brushes and one more light from Bunnings.

In ten days, I will need to have all my equipment packed to be shipped down in advance and will be left with just sketch books to tide me over until I depart. This will be a bit weird as I have been very busy and focussed on painting and photographing and have had a good daily routine with these activities. I suppose some time apart from these will give me a chance to miss it enough to fuel productivity later.

Speaking of productivity, this is what I have been up to most recently:

IMG_9375 IMG_4004 _DSC0197 _DSC0201