Antarctica in the 21st century is something of a paradox. This most forbidding of places is fragile, dissolving as we watch—and more susceptible than ever to invasion.
Visitors to the region are made to vacuum their outerwear and inspect their pockets for seeds, crumbs, and other non-native elements before first setting foot on terra firma. People in this austere land, even travelers and wandering artists, are by definition aliens.
Enter the Antarctic Biennale—a head-turning proposition, to say the least. In recent decades, artists like
and Werner Herzog have piggybacked onto national science programs for access to the region. Now this expedition, which ended its voyage today, untethers artists from these sorts of science field trips in order to “propose an expanded Antarctic imaginary,” as curator Nadim Samman describes it.
For the past 11 days, artists have been preparing work aboard the chartered vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov and activating it primarily during shore landings. A selection of the work—much of it in documentary form, most likely—will be unveiled, together with pre-expedition commissions, at the Venice Biennale’s Antarctic Pavilion, on May 9th.
The works of the Antarctic expedition are being positioned as what Samman calls a “provocation” to the Venice Biennale’s nation-centric organizing principle.