“About the Antarctic Biennale”

by Lisen Schultz

What interests me about the Antarctic Biennale is its potential to explore, question and create human-nature relationships. We are now a dominant species on the planet, currently destroying our own home in the universe. Many of us have mentally separated ourselves from nature, and made nature into an object that we may admire, protect or exploit. And yet we are so small, so vulnerable, and so exposed when moving outside of our civilizations. So fundamentally dependent on nature, no matter how civilized and high-tech we become.

In Antarctica, the artists’ visions met an unpredictable reality. It was too warm to make a tent out of ice. The wind was too soft to get a kite to fly.
The rules were too strict to allow a live tropical fish explore the Southern ocean from a deployed, heated aquarium. But the artists fought hard, adapted, and helped each other. Antarctica offered constantly changing conditions. And in the end, all found their way forward, in collaboration with each other and the place.

One of the strongest experiences was Julian’s spontaneous installation – 30 minutes of shared silence.

He explained that we had made the imprint after imprint on Antarctica, and that it was time for us to give space for the place itself to make impressions. On cue, all fell silent and stayed where they were, spread out on the ice, surrounded by mountains and sea. We heard the ice rumble, quirk, sing. Heard avalanches spread from the distance to the edge of the ice. We connected.

Some said that nature had made a stronger impression on them than the art. It was as if Antarctica spoke back, with a hundred shades of blue, fifteen whales playing around our tiny boats, with a school of dolphins in the most splendid sunset anyone had seen. But to me, the Biennale was not a contest between culture and nature.

No culture can survive without nature. We all depend on Antarctica, whether we like it or not. But in the age of humans, it is also true that no nature will survive, unless our cultures care about it. So the point is that we are here together. We need to find ways of living that recognize this mutual dependence.
I feel that experiencing Antarctica first hand is an enormous gift that comes with a responsibility. Not everyone can go there. So the question I am left with is this: How can I return this gift, and to whom?

This text was first published in the Antarctic Biennale Vision Club (ABVC) book. The ABVC is an initiative which unites key representatives from the cultural sphere, members of the academic community and entrepreneurs experienced in new technology development. It discusses longterm scenarios for humanity and its relationship with our planet, focusing on three “shared spaces”: Antarctica, the depths of our oceans, and Outer Space.

Lisen Schultz is a sustainability scientist dedicated to understanding and unleashing the human capacity for “biosphere stewardship” – regenerative and restorative relationships between societies and the living systems we all depend on.

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