Arts Plenary: Performances and Presentations

25 March 2024 / 11:00 - 17:30 UK time

Room: South Hall & Kirkland Room

This session brings together a variety of performances, artist talks, and other presentations of projects that tell stories of Arctic change through music, painting, and other media.

11:15-12:15: Performance: “Arctic Sentinels: Listening for Whales”

  • Alex South (clarinet and electronics)
    Katherine Wren (viola)
    Lesley Harrison (spoken word)

As global heating results in decreasing sea ice and warmer sea surface temperatures, Arctic Ocean soundscapes are changing due to elevated anthropogenic activity and shifting patterns of marine mammal migration. Passive acoustic monitoring campaigns are revealing that the calls and songs of gray and humpback whales are joining those of the endemic bowhead and beluga, with unknown consequences for acoustic communication in these talented vocal learners. In this session, musicians Alex South and Katherine Wren are joined by poet Lesley Harrison to perform works informed by recent bioacoustical research and infused with recorded and imagined underwater sounds of ice and whales, "the vast dark hung with ropes of song" (Harrison).

12:15-13:45 Lunch break

13:45-14:00 Introductory talk: Neil Banas, “From Scotland to the Arctic”

Neil Banas is a marine scientist, origami artist, and curator of the ASSW 2024 cultural programme. Here he introduces the artists and works gathered together into the accompanying exhibition “From Scotland to the Arctic” and the themes that cut across recent engagements by Scottish artists with living Arctic landscapes and seascapes.

14:00-14:30 Artist talk: Georgia Rose Murray, “Arctic Sun and Shadow”

Georgia Rose Murray has visited Svalbard several times, specifically to paint in response to the changing light and colours, during each season. Since 2016 she has been invited to stay as a guest of the Czech Polar Station and as a repeat visitor to Ny Alesund. She works rapidly ‘en plein air’, often in extremely challenging conditions, and translates her holistic Arctic experiences into large-scale oil paintings, in her Scottish studio.

14:30-15:00 Artist talk: Ester Almagro, Lisa Milanesio, and Pauline Blanchett, “Naia the Narwhal”

Naia the Narwhal is an XR and social project that uses technology and storytelling to raise awareness about the climate problem, particularly concerning Arctic noise pollution. Naia, an adventurous creature from the Arctic, becomes the first animal content producer in the midst of the dangerous noise pollution in the region. She uses social media to show the truths and spark a revolution, encouraging action around the world to address this pressing issue.

 15:00-15:30 Artist talk: Michael Begg, “Sounding the Ice Factory”

Between 2021 and 2023 sound artist Michael Begg completed composer residencies with the Ocean ARTic Partnership and the European Marine Board. Working in collaboration with climate scientists and researchers the residencies sought to use music built around research data to increase public awareness and engagement with the complexity and fragility of our polar regions as they struggled with climate change. Using innovative technology and composing techniques that transformed data into sound, not only were new forms of musical expression realised that spoke to an audience’s own growing anxiety surrounding climate change, but these data compositions provided both a cathartic release for the scientists, and suggested new perspectives around which to consider the structure and representation of their work. As one researcher remarked, “I found the music fascinating but also surprisingly stressful - being able to hear environmental change is quite an emotional experience”. Beginning with the position that in the 21st century data has become the common vocabulary of science and art, Michael describes the processes through which he arrives at his compositions, considers the differences between data sonification and data composition, and invites discussion around what value or insight may be revealed through consideration of sound and music in research activity. He will also explore solastalgia, the acute anxiety arising from living through climate change, and what these new forms of musical expression may contribute to addressing that condition for listeners, and for researchers.

15:30-16:00 Coffee break (Kirkland Room)

16:00-16:45 Performance: Tinderbox Collective + Uummannaq Polar Institute, “Ice Games”

Over the past six months Tinderbox Collective and Uummannaq Polar Institute have been collaborating on the Arctic Connections funded project “Ice Games”. They have been sharing stories, playing songs for each other, and making games together. Come join them to experience a performance from musicians at the Uummannaq Polar Institute, who have travelled from Uummannaq, Greenland. You'll also see music videos they have created, filmed with ice in Greenland, and inspired by ice in Scotland. 

16:45-17:30 Casual reception and games (Kirkland Room)

Following the closing performance, please join us in the adjacent Kirkland Room to meet the musicians and artists, see the linked painting and photography exhibitions, and play the games created by Tinderbox and Uummannaq Polar Institute.