For the past seven years, artists, performers, film-makers, writers, architects and scientists have been venturing to the North Pole on a sailing vessel, The Antigua as part of The Arctic Circle residency expedition. Created as an ‘incubator’ to encourage responses to topical issues, the development of new work and cross-disciplinary collaboration, the two-week art programme has initiated a plethora of stimulating projects.
Inspired by the stunning landscape and its environmental fragility, Abarbanel decided to use ice as it “invokes the ideas of ephemerality, temporality and impermanence” and ultimately the boats would “melt and become the very element on which they float.”
We spoke to the Santa Monica-based artist about his Arctic experience and how the project is evolving.
Why did you want to go on the Arctic Circle expedition?
I’ve always been intrigued by a region that seems to hold so much mystery and drama.
Where did the inspiration for the Norwegian boat design come from?
Since I was spending time in a region so close to Norway, I was thinking about other kinds of boats that had traversed those same waters. As much as the project is about ephemerality it’s also about memory – which is also transitory – and so I wanted the project to have a historical connection to that seascape.
How many boats did you make and how long did it take before they melted?
While on the voyage I cast and launched four boats in four different fjords. They lasted 45 minutes to an hour.
What was it like being on the ship for two weeks and with 25 other artists?
It was the longest time I’ve been at sea. In spite of the close quarters, the fact that we were constantly exposed to new and evolving terrain made it an incredibly expansive experience. At night we would share with one another our artwork and our perspectives, and this made for quite lively and interesting conversations.
Is that the most isolated location you have been to?
Yes! I’ve spent a lot of time in the Mojave Desert of Southern California and in other remote areas of the world, but this was by far the most off-the-grid I have been.
What do you want the project to achieve?
This project is a response to the dynamic environment that I witnessed in the Arctic, and the ephemerality of it. As with all of my work, it reflects my general concerns for themes of creation, the passage of time, mortality, and reverence for nature, all of which I hope viewers will contemplate when they see it.
Abarbanel has collated his documentary photographs and video footage of Ice Boat into an ongoing series. Its first iteration is currently on show in Los Angeles along with new works that use ice and pebbles.
‘Joshua Abarbanel: Finding North’ is at Los Angeles Harbor College Art Gallery,1111 Figueroa Pl, Wilmington, CA 907444 until December 16, 2016.