'The Ship: The Art of Climate Change', the latest addition to the Museum's dynamic art and science programme, brought artists to the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. Specially commissioned photography, film, sound, sculpture, painting and printmaking explore one of the most pressing issues of our time as seen through the eyes of renowned artists.
The exhibition is a collaboration between the Museum and Cape Farewell. Each of the exhibiting artists travelled to the wild and beautiful high Arctic as part of the Cape Farewell project. Created by David Buckland, Cape Farewell brings artists, scientists and educators together to address and raise awareness about climate change. There have been three expeditions, after which the crews have communicated their experiences through their chosen disciplines, to inspire us all to change the way we think and live and to safeguard our future.
"Much of our environmental awareness comes from what we see on television. But art can often reach us in a way media headlines and scientific data cannot," says Bergit Arends, curator of contemporary arts at the Natural History Museum.
Exhibiting artists include Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey, Kathy Barber, David Buckland, Peter Clegg, Siobhan Davies, Gautier Deblonde, Max Eastley, Nick Edwards, Gretel Ehrlich, Antony Gormley, Alex Hartley, David Hinton, Gary Hume, Ian McEwan, Michèle Noach.
The work of the 16 artists is displayed in the spacious Jerwood Gallery. Among them is Siobhan Davies' 'Endangered Species' film which shows a woman dancing gracefully, but movement becomes increasingly restricted.
There are thought-provoking glacial ice texts by David Buckland and a poignant painting of a hermaphrodite polar bear by Gary Hume, depicting the devastating effects of chemical pollution. Max Eastley's soundwork of cracking, melting ice resonates eerily through the gallery. There are also seats to sit and contemplate a moving essay on the subject from novelist Ian McEwan.
Free film: Watch a stunning film about 'Cape Farewell, Art from a Changing Arctic', by award-winning director David Hinton. It shows how the artists were both inspired and challenged by their journeys to the Arctic. Lasts 59 minutes, and starts every hour from 10.30 in the exhibition foyer.
The archipelago of Svalbard is located about halfway between the city of Tromsø on mainland Norway and the North Pole, between 74 and 81 degrees north, and 10 and 35 degrees east. Humans have hardly left their mark on it and most of this territory is still pristine, without roads or other signs of human intervention. The archipelago consists of islands of various sizes, the largest of which are Spitzbergen, Nordaustlandet, Edgeøy, Barentsøy and Prins Karls Forland. Its administrative city, Longyearbyen, has around 1700 inhabitants and is the northernmost place in the world that you can visit on a regular scheduled flight. The name Svalbard means "cold coast", and the first written mention of the archipelago appears in 12th century Icelandic texts. Around 60 per cent of the islands in the archipelago are covered by ice.
Even though people have been visiting Svalbard for years, it was not until 1990 that the Norwegian authorities permitted general tourism. Today there are daily flights, first-class hotels and restaurants and many exciting activities for visitors to Svalbard – it even has its own university.
The Ship: The Art of Climate Change
3 June - 3 September 2006
Open: Monday to Saturday 10.00-17.50, Sunday 11.00-17.50
Natural History Museum
London SW7 5BD