This past year, at the 2014 Venice Biennale, the usual nations were represented (from Italy to Iran), but there was one peculiar addition: the Antarctic Pavilion. The participation of Antarctica in the biennale marked the first time a continent had been represented.
But the ideas and art presented within the Antarctic Pavilion were even more peculiar. Take, for example, Alexey Kodyr and Ilya Babak’s Polar Poppy, a rendering of a solar and wind-powered Arctic greenhouse in the shape of a giant snowflake. This was just one of many futuristic finds in the exhibition, which asked international architects and artists to present current and future models of living at the South Pole (a difficult task, considering the population of Antarctica is just 4,000 in the summer months and 1,162 during its sunless winters).
Now, Nadim Samman, the curator of the Antarctic Pavilion, and Alexander Ponomarev, an artist with experience as a nautical engineer and submariner, are attempting to turn science fiction into non-fiction by organizing a biennale in the Antarctic.
Their plan is to hold the 2015 Antarctic Biennale aboard two research vessels, the Akademik Ioffe and Akademik Sergey Vavilov, from the Russian Academy of Sciences. The biennale will take place during the voyage from the port of Ushuaia in Argentina, to the Falkland Islands, through the Drake Passage, and then ashore on the Antarctic Peninsula.
“During these landings the artists participating in the project, jointly with the support group, will make objects, installations, performances and stage actions,” the committee explained. “Their constructs are to be portable, designed to withstand weather conditions, to cause no hazard to the environment and to be dismantled by the end of the stopover.”
The hope of the biennale is to promote cultural exchange between artists and scientists. “What will artists find there? The sublime, perhaps,” wrote Samman. “But there is more to discover. What will a hundred artists who travel there on two icebreakers have to say? What will they teach the scientists based there who, presently, set the interpretive agenda?”
Ponomarev’s ideas are even more poetic, and written in prose on the committee’s website:
These centers of creativity, communication and debate will sail, skirting icebergs, islands and capes, and encourage an artistic attitude with fairytale landscapes.
Though it’s doubtful we will attend (we like our warm California winters), we are excited to see what is presented at the first Antarctic Biennale and what will happen in the future. Imagine if JR pasted his iconic eyes onto the sides the ships, if Tom Sachs installed Space Program: Mars at a scientific research station, or if Jeff Koons placed one of his balloon dogs among the penguins in the blurry, white Antarctic tundra.