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.