[ISEA2011] Panel: Leslie Sharpe – North, In­ter­rupted

Panel Statement

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

In this paper, I will ad­dress ways in which the North is ac­cessed, un­der­stood, ex­pressed and re­de­fined through re­mote ac­cess to data and meta-phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal un­der­stand­ings of space, place and the be­ings that in­habit and tra­verse the North.  How is this ma­te­r­ial used to build a new un­der­stand­ing of the North and in what forms? How does that un­der­stand­ing also rely on, and draw from, re­lated non-tech­no­log­i­cal datasets? In cul­tural ex­pres­sions, data gath­ered re­motely (e.g., an­i­mal teleme­try) and data gath­ered from di­rect ex­pe­ri­ence of place, might both con­tribute to a sys­temic struc­ture, chore­og­ra­phy or shape of a work, and also pre­sent al­ter­na­tive ways for artists to ex­press un­der­stand­ings of space, place, his­tory and pol­i­tics. Ex­am­ples of data used in­clude the pres­ence or ab­sence of an­i­mals, hu­mans, plants or tox­ins, or shift­ing bound­aries of an­i­mal mi­gra­tion that defy po­lit­i­cal bor­ders. I will dis­cuss ex­am­ples from my own work re­lated to the Cana­dian North as well as the fol­low­ing ex­am­ples from the Cana­dian Arc­tic: an­i­mal tele­met­ric data, maps based on tra­di­tional land-use by in­dige­nous res­i­dents, data re­lated to human land-use (e.g., oil-gas ac­tiv­i­ties), archival and his­tor­i­cal in­for­ma­tion of pas­sages through the Cana­dian North and my own ge­oloca­tive in­for­ma­tion gath­ered trav­el­ing through North­ern Canada. I will dis­cuss how these data are in­ter­preted or man­i­fested in art­works. In my own ex­am­ples, I will dis­cuss par­tic­u­larly how the spaces of the Cana­dian North have been, and con­tinue to be, re­de­fined in our imag­i­na­tions and re­al­i­ties due to human po­lit­i­cal bat­tles over sov­er­eignty, rights to oil and gas, ship­ping routes, etc. In ad­di­tion, I will dis­cuss how the re­cent ac­cess to North­ern spaces – re­motely through data, for in­stance through teleme­try that re­veals habi­tats of an­i­mals that ex­tend be­yond human bor­ders, are af­fected by cli­mate change and human use of land and arc­tic seas, as well as, how such data might pre­sent mys­tery be­yond its dry in­for­ma­tion.

  • Leslie Sharpe is a Cana­dian Artist who di­vides her time be­tween Al­berta, Canada, and In­di­ana Uni­ver­sity, Bloom­ing­ton, where she is As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor of Dig­i­tal Art. Sharpe has been an artist in res­i­dence at P.S. 1 Mu­seum/In­sti­tute for Con­tem­po­rary Art in New York, The Banff Cen­tre in Canada, and Vi­sual Stud­ies Work­shop in Rochester, NY, and most re­cently at Iv­vavik Na­tional Park in the Cana­dian Arc­tic. Her work has been ex­hib­ited at the Pom­pi­dou Cen­tre (Paris), Banff Cen­tre (Canada), Ob­ser­va­tori fes­ti­val (Spain), Ki­asma Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art (Fin­land), and in New York at P.S. 1 In­si­tute of Con­tem­po­rary Art, Exit Art, The New Mu­seum, Artists Space, and Franklin Fur­nace. Her writ­ing has been pub­lished in Leonardo Elec­tronic Al­manac/MIT Press, Frame­work, New Ob­ser­va­tions, and in the forth­com­ing book Far Field: Dig­i­tal Cul­ture, Cli­mate Change and the Poles. Sharpe works pri­mar­ily in in­stal­la­tion and loca­tive/mo­bile media pro­jects, from works draw­ing on genre (crime sto­ries to ghost sto­ries) to re­cent works ad­dress­ing the pol­i­tics and his­tory of place within the con­text of tech­nol­ogy and cli­mate change. Her cur­rent pro­ject North­ern Cross­ings com­bines tele­met­ric data of an­i­mals mov­ing through the Arc­tic with her own move­ments in the Cana­dian North as well as raw ma­te­ri­als gath­ered on-site, such as an­i­mal casts, pho­tog­ra­phy, audio and video. Other re­cent works in­clude Spec­u­la­tions at the Re­mote, a video work on the Al­berta Tar Sands; and Fever, a loca­tive walk for two lo­ca­tions of Mar­coni’s first transat­lantic wire­less trans­fers in New­found­land, Nova Sco­tia, Cape Cod, and Poldhu, UK. 

Full text (PDF) p. 2220-2225