22 days in the Arctic C. w artists/scientists. Porous writing. New conditions. What’s happening up there? In here? Polarity, prose.
About this project
I’ve been given the opportunity (in the form of an unpaid residency) to travel to the Arctic Circle,http://www.thearcticcircle.org/#. The October 2016 expedition is a gathering of artists, scientists, educators and innovators who will sail together on a traditionally-rigged Barquentine for three weeks, just 10 degrees from the north pole.
As a kid who fed myself on Treasure Island, then wrote a college thesis using pirates to wonder about radical queer subjectivities, then later volunteered at the SF Maritime Museum slopping paint on historic boats, this is a beyond-wild opportunity.
My creative work has always pushed into new frontiers of language and experience. Often this means spaces that are hard to occupy. Some examples are: a body whose gender is motley–ie not comfortably male OR female; 19th century San Francisco during the Gold Rush; the pink heat of the Mojave desert. Next the Arctic–where I’m hoping bergs of meaning and non-meaning might collide in a sentient slush.
Here at the brink of departure, with a world melting or at very least transitioning–I’m wondering about my own fantasies. About fantasies in general. What’s their possibility, their beyond-monetary cost?
While on board, I plan to write an autofiction-like novella titled: “That Damned White Arctic Killed My Time” (borrowed from a Hart Crane poem). But what will working in a small cabin, with limited-to-no daylight, no internet, low electricity, etc. actually mean?
Art that’s left the deepest mark in me–that’s most changed my personhood, my sense of being in the world, is work that scrimshaws the interior. Limiting myself to handwritten journals, moving around the deck as a porous body, testing fantasy space against whatever I might actually encounter, locating “self” on a moving ship, in terrain that is itself in great and traumatic flux–these conditions will shape the work completely.
On return, I’ll print a limited edition book from whatever comes. A work that is ongoing, corporeal, material, curious about and vulnerable to a planet full of “us”…?
Quick rundown of costs: Trip fees – $6300; Travel to and from Longyearben – $1750; expedition gear/supplies – $500; That Damned White Arctic Killed My Time book – $2000.
The residency starts in Longyearben, Norway (the only 365 day/year inhabited town in the Arctic Circle). From there we enter the International Territory of Svalbard–an archipelago of islands that’s a breeding ground for wildlife (including polar bears + arctic foxes). Maybe most important as an experience frame–the 24 hr/day “polar night” begins on October 26th, so we’ll be working directly in its shade or twilight.
Risks and challenges
Invited to a Polar bear dinner date, but only 1 plate. Scurvy. Seasickness from ALL THE WRITING.