In September 2010, a Dutch schooner named The Noorderlicht sailed into the seas around the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. The Noorderlicht carried artists, poets, musicians and scientists on an inspirational expedition with the arts and climate science foundation Cape Farewell to learn more about the Arctic.
One of the expedition participants was Matt Clark of United Visual Artists (UVA) – the art and design practice which works with light, moving image and architecture to create sculptures, digital installations and live performances. Clark’s artistic response to the expedition is the collaborative installation High Arctic, an immersive environment of shifting light patterns and iceberg-like white columns clustered throughout the gallery space of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London (until January 2010).
“To be in a small space for a few weeks during such an extraordinary journey has been very inspiring,” Clark told Phaidon. “The way the expedition has affected this installation is directly visible.”
Visitors are given ultraviolet torches which interact with the room light, so the relationship between each visitor and the work is dynamic and different. Clark and his team at UVA have created an intuitive installation which visitors can explore on their own terms; it is very much about their own reaction to it as there are no static photographs or touch screens with directive information.
“We would really like the visitor to slow down, listen, watch and think about the consequences of human behaviour and how it will affect the Arctic. However we don’t want to bombard people with facts, statistics and preach how it should be done,” Clark added.
Max Eastley and Henrik Ekeus have designed a soundscape which flows through the gallery, featuring the voices of arctic explorers as well as poetry by fellow expedition participant Nick Drake.
Clark explains: “The voices and sounds are an important part of the narrative, focusing on Arctic expeditions throughout human history and telling the story through other senses. UVA’s visuals are usually quite abstract – we use light and technology as our tools predominantly so human voices and other sounds counterbalance this.”
This interactive installation draws the visitor in so they leave with a personal response to the work and a deeper sense of how their actions affect the Arctic.