Residue of a polar past

RACHEL HONNERY

Residue of a polar past is my first response to an extraordinary art residency in the Arctic Circle in June 2018, where I spent two and ½ weeks travelling around Svalbard upon the tall ship, The Antigua. The residency was one of mixed emotions - adulation, excitement, wonder, despair, anger and hope. Whilst the Svalbard archipelago is remote and has a population of less than 3000 people, evidence of climate change and anthropogenic remains were evident. 

The Antigua managed to navigate waters previously frozen, places we shouldn’t be able to access; direct observation of vanishing sea ice. I also saw the reduction of many glaciers. In some fjords, glaciers that were giant, colossal moving precipices of ice were now shrunken and separated by moraine hills. These examples of devastation were contrasted by magnificent landscapes, beached and floating aqua marine ice statues, sparking ice cliffs of assorted blues, and wildlife such as polar bears, blue whales, seals, walruses and birds galore. I also witnessed plastic in the remotest of areas, such as the isolated Mushamna on Svalbard. It was heart breaking to bear witness to so much that we could not physically collect.

 Residue of a polar past asks, “what will the Arctic look like in the future?” and imagines new possibilities as a way to counter environmental shock. The work encourages us to think outside our present human experiences by exploring a possible future. A place where the polar region has been transformed from white (ice) to blue (ocean). A place where icebergs no longer float, crackle and glisten.

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