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Photo of iceberg in Antarctica.

The Antarctic Biennale; Or the Reinvention of the World From Antarctica


An inspiring initiative brings together artists, scientists, and thinkers on a ship traveling around Antarctica to rethink the planet with languages ​​and frontiers.

Antarctica is one of the most beautiful and strange landscapes on the planet. Its beauty, impenetrable, almost extraterrestrial, has inspired artists and scientists for centuries. It’s now the site of the first ever Antarctic Biennale. An unusual biennial, it brings together artists, thinkers, and researchers on a maritime expedition intended to foster a dialogue between participants speaking from their own disciplines, the Antarctic environment, and with life across the planet.

The brain-child of Russian sailor, philosopher, and artist, Alexander Ponomarev, the Antarctic Biennale is defined as an experiment. It’s a socio-cultural phenomenon drawing on the methodologies of multiple disciplines – arts, philosophy, and science – to delineate scenery including the oceans, the polar circles and even outer space. The purpose is to create a space for artistic reflection around what the Russian calls “shared places,” spaces that exist on the edges of human experience, and which are suitable for rethinking the planet as a whole (with all of the philosophical, aesthetic, ethical and ecological implications taken for granted).

Explorers on an iceberg in Antarctica.

On its first expedition, in March 2017, the vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov left Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, with more than 100 participants on board. The ship crossed the Drake Pass, entered the Antarctic polar circle and, after traveling to a few islands, returned to Cabo de Hornos, within Argentine territory. During the 11-day tour, the boat stopped at scientific stations and hosted a restless creative exchange among the passengers.

Antarctic Biennale activities included lectures, debates, artistic performances, conferences and exhibitions, and all aboard the Sergey Vavilov. Art installations of all kinds were left in the places where the ship stopped. These were ephemeral pieces and were carried back to the ship once completed. Mobility, ecology and artistic and conceptual expressiveness within the natural environment are just some of the themes which governed the creative expedition.

The project which made the Antarctic Biennale possible have only begun. The hope of the founders is to extend a new method of reflection and art into the future. It’s one that’s intimately related to the power of the environment to not only create but also to induce the epiphany so urgently called for today. The journey becomes, in a romantic way, an instrument for rethinking the Earth, the ultimate canvas of life (and hence of the artistic imagination, too).

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