Liquid Architecture – Antarctic Convergence

Words – Tabi Jackson Gee

Photos – Andy Donohoe

Liquid Architecture – Antarctic Convergence, Westspace, Level 1, 225 Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD, until July 14th.

The mysterious, wind-howled icy continent of Antarctica is slowly becoming an accessible landscape for creative exploration. Artists and scientists work side by side on a continent otherwise devoid of human presence. The Antarctic Convergence puts together the recent work of such artists; sound recorders, film-makers and photographers – who have been to the South Pole, and now bring us a pioneering exhibition that denies the boundaries between science and art. For the opening of Liquid Architecture 13: The Arctic Convergence on Thursday night the West Space was carefully lit with warm, low lighting, enhancing what were mainly desolate and dramatic visions. Moving images of uninhabitable landscapes dominated the exhibition, but the only still pictures on display offered another perspective on the frozen continent – focusing on the warm colours of the land closer to the sea where the snow melts away. These images had a striking softness, delicately portraying a warm light that pierced through the fog, illuminating clouded scenes and surprisingly colourful landscapes.

The exhibition celebrates Sir Douglas Mawson’s formidable expedition to the Antarctic a century ago, looking at the fusion between human presence and the vast unknown, combining physical study and artistic endeavour. Sublime landscapes are dotted with isolated evidence of expeditions, both past and present; piles of metal drums and spectral workstations make a subtle transcript of the investigations that have been underway there over the last hundred years. A few mannequins carefully put together in small huddles are the closest things to humans in any of the films. Draped in seaweed and filmed in various arrangements, these small white figures barely make a mark on the landscape – a reminder that we haven’t even begun to touch the edges of what we can learn from this mysterious place. The sounds that provide the atmospheric backdrop to each of these visuals are recordings of lapping tides, impending blizzards and underwater seals. These highly advanced soundtracks prove that even a supposedly soundless continent can make its own music.

The Antarctic Convergence is the perfect way to learn more about a place that few of us will ever be lucky enough to visit. Uninhabited and isolated, we’re reminded of the unconquerable forces that threatened Sir Douglas Mawson’s expedition a hundred years ago. As formidable then as it is now, this is an appraisal of an unadulterated landscape – where science and art work side by side to open our eyes to a vast unconquered territory.