Antarctica’s Larsen Ice Shelf lies between the Bellingshausen, Weddell and Scotia Seas. It also forms a barrier between the Southern Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. As a result of unprecedented global warming, the B part of the Larsen shelf dramatically fell into the Weddell Sea in 2002. What has happened to this melted water? Has it reached the Arctic yet?
Larsen’s Lost Water coincides with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. The exhibition focuses on the ways that the relatively uncharted parts of the globe – the Polar Regions and the seas – are (mis)represented, through exploring context and how introducing an alien or unexpected object into a space affects both components’ readings. The exhibition plays with the dislocated object as cliché, metaphor and metonym in relation to climate change. Ruth Little, from Cape Farewell states, ‘Metaphors allow us to think at different levels of scale simultaneously, linking the minute to the infinite’. However, isn’t there a danger that these metaphorical objects become clichés? These objects and visualizations are impotent as agents for change because - quite literally –‘we’ve seen it all before’ through TV or internet footage.
As few of us have been to the Polar Regions or to the depth of the seas, the exhibition considers the proximity of objects, and how we engage with and witness them. What might happen if the viewer shifts from being a spectator into a witness, because what is happening in front of their eyes is an actuality, not a media representation? As critical writer, James Polchin states, ‘The word witness, as we have come to define it in the latter half of the twentieth century, is more readily equated with the experiences of surviving trauma, investing the act of witnessing with an ethical responsibility.... to witness, especially in the context of historical visual documents, demands not only a speaking, but a speaking out’. So when you are witness to something, you become implicated in it.
Opening to coincide with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, the show will include pieces such as Bryndis Snaebjornsdottir and Mark Wilson’s project ‘Nanoq: flat out and bluesome’, which archives the taxidermied polar bears in the UK’s public and private collections, Tania Kovats’ ‘Where Seas Meet’ and Heather Ackroyd’s and Dan Harvey’s ‘Crystal Fish’, while the centrepiece of the exhibition will be an ocean-going raft designed and created by four Wimbledon students collectively named the ‘Raftonauts’.