I am in the Heathrow Airport now waiting to return to Philadelphia later this afternoon. Here is a post I wrote on October 10:
My first connection to the internet in 2 weeks. Time to reflect and transition back from a magical world of silence and absence to the outside digital world – a way to reconnect with you while still in this very northern part of the world. My Blog entries on the whole trip will be done now. If you continue to scroll down you’ll find some of the notes and images hopefully providing a sense of the magnitude of this incredible experience…
An intense experience: visually, physically and emotionally. The journey up north provided major visual overload. There are thousands of images and videos to process – so many ideas to pursue in terms of painting, drawing photography and video.
Then there are the many physical memories of the cold to process as well: moments of the wind and snow hitting my face and stinging my fingers…My fingers were actually the only problem. I basically used my liners in order to handle my cameras to adjust ISO, aperture etc. Periodically my hands were forced to retreat into my pockets to welcoming hand-warmers. Sometimes I used mittens – it was a constant struggle between shooting and keeping my fingers warm.
from bare finger to liners….
And then there was the human dimension - living in close quarters with 26 other adventurers. Aaron O’Conner brought together a mix of individuals with a vast breadth of experience in terms of media, age, ethnicity, life experience and location. I treasure all the conversations we had over meals, hunched over our laptops and in the late hours after dinner and beyond. We enjoyed each other’s company. And I came to know many individuals well as we shared our very different lives. I connected with so many people - Ari Belathar (www.aribelathar.com) for one who described herself as a “poet in Exile” . Her compelling poetry brought tears to my eyes, and Marlene Nichols, an actress and writer, who brought tears of laughter as she read one of her stories. I also got to know Terry Adkins who taught at my MFA Alma mater: Penn since 2000. So we finally meet in the Arctic…
The range of talent was spectacular, from a glass artist to classically trained composers using found sound in their work; from painters using plaster to printmakers creating art out of their copper plates , from a Canadian woman who competed in the Olympics who said that gave her the courage to be a painter, to a young woman,Laura Cheney who created abstract compositions from the debris of Hurricane Sandy and on this expedition collected on her walks garbage and debris to make more work when she returns.
I was especially attracted to the youngest members who seemed to embrace an innate comfort level with all things digital. Here are just a few examples of individuals who remain vivid:
Jolene Mok from Hong Kong who just completed her MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts from Duke is an example. She presented a number of outstanding multichannel videos made from a residency she had on a research vessel, as well as a compelling video portrait of a neighbor. She is now staying in Longyearbyen until the 18th working on a piece about a woman she met before we sailed. www.jojolenelene.net
Marianna Williams , who just this year graduated from RISD applied her sense of playfulness with a huge skill set to her videos and animations. Most of her work shot on a Bolex or Cannon Mark II and what was so captivating was her frame-by-frame hand colored hand drawn pieces. During the expedition she flew a kite equipped with a video camera from land and from our boat to capture details of the environment below. Both aerial maps and short moving images will be created from this footage. These images also will be compared and analyzed with ground-level map drawings of the same locations. I’m looking forward to that as you can imagine. To learn more: www.mariannawiliams.com and look for more on www.millprojects.com which will feature more collaborative work
And then there was the individual who fascinated me the most: Kinez Riza – perhaps because her life was so very different from my own: a 24 year old Muslim woman from Indonesia, who attended a day school from 1998 to 2007 in Singapore. She has travelled to areas of the world I barely heard of. I was attracted to her individuality that informs her spiritual and geographical adventures to locations like West Africa in 2011 where in the semi desert of little Karoo the san people inhabit…there are only 10,000 of them left- they are considered our genetic ancestor she tells me. From there she moved up to the mid desert – Namibia, where she told me of her experiences a sort of “synchronicity” between two unlikely events: where being in the world’s oldest and driest desert – she found herself was in a torrential thunderstorm which deposited 8 years worth of rain in just one day. Visit her site to get a glimpse of a very special talent: www.kinezriza.com
Everyone was unique and so interesting as artists and as human beings. I urge you to visit our site to learn more about each of my fellow explorers: www.thearcticcircle.org