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United Visual Artists and Cape Farewell: 'High Arctic' at the National Maritime Museum

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Time 09:00
Date 14/07/11
Price £6

Until 13 Jan. Set in one of many possible futures High Arctic conveys the scale, beauty and fragility of our unique Arctic environment through an immersive 820m2 installation.

High Arctic: Pre-departure from National Maritime Museum on Vimeo.


In July 2011 the National Maritime Museum, in collaboration with United Visual Artists (UVA) and Cape Farewell, presents High Arctic. It is the first exhibition in the NMM’s new Sammy Ofer Wing, a major capital project which enables the organisation to present its exhibitions in an entirely new way.

It’s 2100 AD and the Arctic landscape we once took for granted has changed forever. How will we choose to remember our Arctic past? Is it possible to travel somewhere that no longer exists? Intended to be a future vision of a receding world, it encourages us to question our relationship with the world around us.

In September 2010 UVA’s Matt Clark travelled with the arts and climate science foundation Cape Farewell to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, which lies between mainland Norway and the North Pole. Sailing aboard The Noorderlicht, a 100-year old Dutch schooner, Matt’s trip brought him into contact with scientists, poets, musicians and polar bears. He saw vast tundra, monochromatic rainbows and huge chunks of ice falling from calving glaciers. Conceived as a response to the expedition, High Arctic uses a combination of sound, light and sculptural forms to create an abstracted arctic landscape for visitors to explore.

An exhibition with no touchscreens, no static photographs, and no panels with text: instead High Arctic is a genuinely immersive, responsive environment. Ultraviolet torches unlock hidden elements, constantly shifting patterns of graphics and text that react to visitors approaching; an archipelago of thousands of columns fills the gallery space, each representing a real glacier in Svalbard; an artificial horizon borders the gallery as a seamless canvas of light, shifting in intensity and colour. A Max Eastley and Henrik Ekeus-designed generative soundscape flows through the gallery, weaving in the voices of arctic explorers across the centuries as well as the poetry of Nick Drake who travelled with Matt to Svalbard.

High Arctic is the first time UVA have taken on a commission of this size and scale in the UK and is the first time the NMM has showcased a work of this kind. UVA are an award-winning art and design practice who work at the intersection of sculpture, architecture, live performance, moving image and digital installation; with expertise in fine art, architecture, communication design, moving image, computer science and engineering. UVA’s work has been exhibited at institutions including the V&A, the Royal Academy of Art, the Southbank Centre, the Wellcome Collection, Opera North Leeds, Durham Cathedral and The British Library. Cape Farewell’s aim is to inspire a cultural response to the climate challenge and engage artists as catalysts to provoke a cultural shift towards sustainable society. Other artists that have been engaged in the Cape Farewell programme include Antony Gormley, Jarvis Cocker and Ian McEwan – whose recent novel Solar was inspired by the 2005 Cape Farewell Arctic expedition.


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