[ISEA2011] Panel Statement: Judit Her­sko – Anna’s Cab­i­net of Cu­riosi­ties: from the se­ries ‘Pages from the Book of the Un­known Ex­plorer’

Panel Statement

Panel: New Environmental Art Practices on Landscapes of the Polar Regions; Politics, Emotion and Culture (FARFIELD 1)

This per­for­mance lec­ture is based on Judit Her­sko’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with sci­en­tists and her ex­pe­ri­ence in Antarc­tica as a re­cip­i­ent of the Na­tional Sci­ence Foun­da­tion Antarc­tic Artists and Writ­ers Grant. Her­sko ex­am­ines polar ex­plo­ration and sci­ence from the per­spec­tive of a fic­ti­tious, un­known, fe­male ex­plorer, Anna Schwartz, who trav­els to Antarc­tica with the 1939 Byrd Antarc­tic ex­pe­di­tion. Her­sko in­serts Anna’s char­ac­ter into real events and sci­en­tific quests, thereby spawn­ing a nar­ra­tive that re­flects on the ab­sence of women from the his­tory of Antarc­tic ex­plo­ration and sci­ence until the late 1960s. She pre­sents a lay­ered story that ad­dresses the his­tory of Carte­sian sci­ence as well as cur­rent cli­mate change data in the con­text of pre­sent eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal re­al­i­ties, while her in­ser­tion of alter egos such as Anna Schwartz, who con­nect closely and per­son­ally with the polar land­scape, ren­der the sci­en­tific data emo­tion­ally en­gag­ing. Anna Schwartz is a pho­tog­ra­pher and a nat­u­ral­ist ob­sessed with the mi­cro­scopic and trans­par­ent plank­tonic snail the Li­macina he­lic­ina and its preda­tor the Clione antarc­tica. Her in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship with these tiny crea­tures is in con­trast to the heroic no­tions of ex­plo­ration of her day, while iron­i­cally, her focus on the minute and in­vis­i­ble lay­ers of the Antarc­tic land­scape is more rel­e­vant to cur­rent re­search in polar sci­ence. These plank­tonic snails, stud­ied by Her­sko’s col­lab­o­ra­tor, bi­o­log­i­cal oceanog­ra­pher Dr. Vic­to­ria Fabry, func­tion as ca­naries in the coal mine when it comes to ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion – one of the most in­sid­i­ous as­pects of an­thro­pogenic cli­mate change that is rapidly al­ter­ing the food chain and ecol­ogy of the oceans.

  • Judit Her­sko is an in­stal­la­tion artist who works in the in­ter­sec­tion of art and sci­ence and col­lab­o­rates with sci­en­tists on vi­su­al­iz­ing cli­mate change sci­ence through art. In 2008 she re­ceived the Na­tional Sci­ence Foun­da­tion Antarc­tic Artists and Writ­ers Grant and spent six weeks in Antarc­tica. Her re­cent ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tured by Leonardo Elec­tronic Al­manac (March 2011) builds on her col­lab­o­ra­tion with sci­en­tists and her ex­pe­ri­ence in Antarc­tica. Her in­stal­la­tions have been fea­tured in­ter­na­tion­ally in­clud­ing in Ger­many, Aus­tria, Hun­gary, Spain, and in many cities around the United States in­clud­ing Chicago, New York, Los An­ge­les and San Diego. In 1997 she rep­re­sented her na­tive Hun­gary at the Venice Bi­en­nale. She has re­ceived an Art­slink Col­lab­o­ra­tive Grant, a Cal­i­for­nia Arts Coun­cil Vi­sual Arts Fel­low­ship, and has par­tic­i­pated in res­i­den­cies in­clud­ing the Lucas Artists Res­i­dency Pro­gram. She has sev­eral pieces in mu­seum col­lec­tions- for ex­am­ple in The Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art, Lud­wig Mu­seum in Bu­dapest. Her work has been the sub­ject of many pub­li­ca­tions in­clud­ing ar­ti­cles in Sculp­ture Mag­a­zine and Art in Amer­ica. Her piece Pages from the Book of the Un­known Ex­plorer is forth­com­ing in Far Fields: Dig­i­tal Cul­ture, Cli­mate Change, and the Poles, 2011, edited by An­drea Polli and Jane Marsching. Her­sko is an As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor in the Vi­sual and Per­form­ing Arts De­part­ment at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity, San Mar­cos, where she ini­ti­ated the Art and Sci­ence pro­ject in 2004. Her ac­tiv­i­ties in Antarc­tica have led to new and on­go­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions with sci­en­tists, and re­cently she has been in­vited to pre­sent her work in­ter­na­tion­ally at many uni­ver­si­ties, re­search in­sti­tu­tions and con­fer­ences in­clud­ing the Cross­roads in Cul­tural Stud­ies Con­fer­ence in Hong Kong, and the Antarc­tic Vi­sions Con­fer­ence in Ho­bart, Tas­ma­nia, Australia.