Ice Blink

Artworks by Simon Faithfull from his journey to Antarctica

Ice Blink is a term referring to a white glare that appears on the underside of low clouds in sub-zero sea conditions, indicating the presence of ice beyond the range of vision, and warning ships to be on guard.

Artist Simon Faithfull was invited to travel to Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey as part of The Arts Council’s International Fellowships Programme. Departing from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire he travelled on to the Falklands via Ascension Island, where he joined scientists on board the ice-strengthened ship RSS Ernest Shackleton. On its way south to Antarctica, the ship broke its way through expanses of sea-ice, passing icebergs, ice cliffs and uninhabited islands heading for the science-fiction-like Halley Research Station perched on stilts above the empty, white wilderness.

Surrounded by inhospitable conditions outside of the vessel the crew within lived their own set conventions and references that had developed over years of exploration, independent of the changing society in the external world.

Ice Blink was an exhibition of work from this incredible journey; daily drawings made on a palm pilot etched onto glass; a poetic film of a whaling station populated with seals, photographs that defy perceptions of scale; films of the view through the porthole redolent with a Sokurov-like quality of light; experiments with weather balloons; and a performative lecture highlighting the myths of Antarctica and the realities of how the climate change has shifted this archetypal remote location.

Antarctica is a mythical location that has captured the imagination of many, and whose reality defies known perceptions of scale and experience. It is the location where the effects of global warming can be physically experienced and where the remote becomes an identifiable place.

Antarctica is a site tied up with a sense of British identity: a territory far from these shores that conjures legends of great explorers and journeys.

The Antarctica series is an incredible body of work that is filled with a poetics and politics of space, place, and perceptions.

Travelling to Antarctica on RSS Ernest Shackleton from RAF Brize Norton via Ascension Island and the Falklands, Simon Faithfull recorded the displaced and disorienting world he encountered by filming the view out of his cabin porthole and with daily Palm Pilot drawings, transmitted each day to email inboxes around the world. Combined with diary entries and notes, these drawing and films have been incorporated into a series of lectures presented in Edinburgh, Helsinki, Norwich, Berlin and London.

Reproduced in book form, Ice Blink: An Antarctic Essay was published as part of Book Works Opus Projects (Opus 6) by Book Works and The Arts Catalyst and edited by Lisa Le Feuvre.

ISBN 978 1 870699 92

Printed offset in an edition of 1,500 copies, full colour, 128 pages, with a soft cover.

Designed by Practise/James Goggin.

164 x 215mm. 1

Price £14.50

Simon Faithfull


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Interspecies, Manchester

Can artists work with animals as equals? It has recently been discovered that humans are closer to the higher primates than was previously thought.

This exhibition, marking the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth brings together a group of artists who actively question the sovereignty of the human species over the all other animal species.

Four artists were commissioned to develop projects with non-human animals.

Kira O'Reilly, one of the most experimental and controversial performance artists in the UK, presented an action/installed performance featuring herself and a sleeping female pig. The work addresses the ethics of human and non-human animal interaction, acknowledging the implicit ambivalences and violence in the appropriation of animals as a resource.

Nicolas Primat worked with primatologists and zoos to make a new work in which higher apes are taught video skills. The apes make the creative decisions, with humans simply providing guidance and training. Primat's work explores how the animals' ‘natural’ communication skills can be extended into the realm of human/ape creative collaboration.

Antony Hall encouraged the public to directly communicate with live electric fish in the gallery space, through mild electrical impulses (both tactile and visual). The artist's motivation for this project relates to his long term interest in aquariums. Typically installed as calming objects, on closer inspection they are revealed as contained environments of both aggressive conflict and submissive tolerance.

The Department of Eagles (Ruth Maclennan) is produced a participatory project, examining the communications between falconers and falcons. For centuries, these birds have served to naturalise human surveillance.  Arguably, their existence only continues today through human intervention such as tagging, breeding programmes, and the construction of artificial nesting environments.

Two other works were shown: Rachel Mayeri's Primate Cinema, which casts human actors in the roles of mating non-human primates, Beatriz Da Costa's PigeonBlog which investigates the military use of homing pigeons.

All the artists in Interspecies question the one-sided manipulation of non-human life forms for art. They instead try to absorb the animal's point of view as a fundamental part of their work and practice.

Interspecies is part of the Darwin 200 celebrations in 2009. 12 February 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth. A series of talks and debates between the artists, writers, scientists and animal welfare experts accompanied the exhibition.

Related websites

Kira O'Reilly, Antony Hall, Ruth Maclennan, Rachel Mayeri, Beatriz da Costa, Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson, Cornerhouse

The Guardian
Human Features
Open Dialogues Blog

Exhibition supported by

Arts Council England, Darwin 200

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Dark Places

Dark Places uncovers sites of secrecy and technology across the UK

New works by Neal White of the Office of Experiments, Steve Rowell, Victoria Halford & Steve Beard, and Beatriz da Costa explore spaces and institutions below the radar of common knowledge. Dark Places examines how artists are evolving strategies for art as a form of knowledge production, challenging accepted patterns in contemporary culture and society.

The Office of Experiments’ (OOE) Overt Research Project sets a background for Dark Places as it maps and records advanced labs and facilities that are unwittingly – or purposefully – concealed from public view. Developed by a team of independent researchers, 'Dark Places - South Edition', will feature an interpretive slideshow as well as field guide to local sites through an information kiosk. Elsewhere in the gallery, OOE celebrates the openness of knowledge through The Mike Kenner Archive. Revealing years of campaigning by one man into the public biochemical warfare experiments conducted by Porton Down (Salisbury), the work explores how 'Dark Places' throw their shadows onto those that question them.

Victoria Halford and Steve Beard's film Voodoo Science Park traces a secret geography of the Health and Safety Laboratory in Derbyshire, where train crashes and industrial accidents are re-created to examine their destructive pathways. Mixing fact and fiction, the film imagines a delayed encounter between poet William Blake and political philosopher Thomas Hobbes. The result is an uncanny meditation on science and popular memory.

Exploring the ‘dark places’ of zoological science, Beatriz da Costa’s A Memorial for the Still Living is a sombre reflection on endangered species of the British Isles. Presenting a selection of rare animal, insect and reptile specimens, including loans from the Natural History and Horniman Museums, da Costa identifies these collections – and the bleak future they imply - as sites of hidden knowledge.

Steve Rowell from the US group the Centre for Land-Use Interpretation (CLUI), in his project Ultimate High Ground, uncovers shared US-UK spaces of military power. Realised as a multi-screen film installation, the work focuses upon RAF Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire, a communications intercept and missile warning site, known for its distinctive raydome structures. Steve has also worked as a key researcher on the OOE Overt Research Project.

Dark Places also featured a filmed interview between Stephen Foster, Director, John Hansard Gallery and the exhibiting artists. A new publication, featuring a project introduction, artist contributions and an essay by Sally O’Reilly, will be available throughout the exhibition.


The Culture of Enthusiasm - Passion & Technology.  Monday 23 November 2009 4-6pm.  A discussion around the love, fascination and nostalgia for technology with Bee Thakore, Professor David Perrett and Neal White chaired by curator Rob la Frenais.

Secret Spies - children's workshop.  Saturday 12 December 2009 11.30am-3.30pm. A free workshop for children to create and document their own endg=angered species  using mixed media and sculpture.

The Cold War Legacy in the South - Secrecy and Technology bus tour. Saturday 23 January 2010 10am-6pm.

Media Coverage

The Guardian, ArtDaily

Exhibition Supported

Arts Council England

The Office of Experiments’ Overt Research Project is supported by UCL Department of Geography and The Media School, Bournemouth University. Led by Neal White with Steve Rowell and Lisa Haskell.

Dark Places is commissioned by The Arts Catalyst and co-curated with the Office of Experiments, John Hansard Gallery and SCAN.

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Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, Nottingham Contemporary screening

Screening, talk and discussion with curator Rob La Frenais

In Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, the artist imagines a primate social drama in a contemporary urban context and shows this to a chimpanzee audience. Her two-screen video installation juxtaposes the drama enacted by humans in the guise of apes (of a young female city ape befriending a group of outsiders) with mesmerising footage of the reactions of its ape audience at Edinburgh Zoo.

As the watchers of the watching chimps, we perceive - or we imagine - fascination, puzzlement, and flashes of anger in their responses. Sited in different spaces in Los Angeles and Edinburgh we are never sure whether we are seeing a lab, zoo, wildlife park, rumpus room or post-apocalyptic landscape inhabited by half chimp/half humans. Mayeri’s intriguing and amusing story-and-response structure contains darker undercurrents in its contemplation of the lives of our captive close relatives.

To make Primate Cinema: Apes as Family artist Rachel Mayeri collaborated with comparative psychologist Dr Sarah-Jane Vick, testing different styles and genres of film to gauge chimps’ responses and discussing issues around cognition and communication in research primates. 


Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, a collaboration between Rachel Mayeri and Dr. Sarah Jane Vick, has been commissioned by Arts Catalyst.


Wellcome Trust Arts Award, Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Studies and Arts Council England. With the kind support and collaboration of Edinburgh Zoo's Budongo Trail.


Rachel Mayeri

Nottingham Contemporary

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Cinema as Primatology symposium, London

A symposium about the collaborative research which informed the development of Primate Cinema: Apes as Family

DNA sequencing has placed humans firmly within the great apes, so how do our cognitive abilities differ from those of chimpanzees?  Creativity is considered to be a divide between humans and other species, but do we share basic preferences for novelty and perhaps even form and content with our closest relations? The symposium  explored similarities and differences in perception, cognition and socio-emotional behaviour between humans and chimpanzees, through the perspectives of comparative psychologist Dr Sarah Jane Vick, who studies chimpanzee cognition and behaviour and artist Rachel Mayeri, whose new work Primate Cinema: Apes as Family was made with the chimpanzees at the Budongo Trail, Edinburgh Zoo.

Prof Rachel Mayeri is a Los Angeles-based artist whose work often deals with the intersection of science, art and society. Her videos combine fact and fiction, documentary and storytelling, on topics such as special effects, popular science and cultural disease. She has collaborated with primatologists, anthropologists and psychologists to study primate behaviour, making a series of films responding to these explorations.

Dr Rob La Frenais is curator at The Arts Catalyst. He has an interest in animal studies and primatology stretching back several years and  this has informed a number of his recent curated projects, including Interspecies (2009) and Rachel Mayeri's Primate Cinema: Apes as at Family (2011).


Wellcome Trust Arts Award, Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Studies and Arts Council England. With the kind support and collaboration of Edinburgh Zoo's Budongo Trail.

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A Treetop Odyssey

A screening and discussion event focusing attention on the one of the world’s most inaccessible and under-explored areas - tropical rainforest canopies.

Some of the rarest plants and animals on earth are found in such locations, where undiscovered species live exclusively in these tree tops and never set foot on the forest floor. Until now, the rainforest canopy has been virtually inaccessible to scientists.

The event will start with a screening of Werner Herzog’s 2004 film, The White Diamond, which eloquently illustrates the complexity of human desire and our need to further explore the planet and its resources. Set in the Kaiteur Falls in the heart of Guyana, it features the efforts of one of the world’s leading dendronautics engineers, Dr Graham Dorrington, in his attempts to test his airship designed to explore the forest canopy.

The screening will be followed by presentations and discussions by a unique group of botanists, artists and engineers, all pioneering the use of airships and dirigibles to explore the rainforest canopy. They will discuss their work and its wider implication in areas as diverse as the future of medicine and culture.


Dr Graham Dorrington (Queen Mary, University of London), Marion Laval-Jeantet and Benoît Mangin (Art Orienté Objet).


This event is a partnership between The Arts Catalyst, Queen Mary, University of London and LCACE and has been developed as part of The Inside Out Festival at ICA.

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Zero Gravity

Projects for Years 6 and 7 to explore the theme of gravity and weightlessness through dance, science and art

Projects explored:

What is gravity?

How gravity affects us

How gravity has shaped who we are & how we move

What if there was no gravity: the idea of 'weightlessness'

Living in space/zero gravity

Pupils took part in art and dance/movement workshops imaginatively exploring concepts of weight and weightlessness, changing gravities, orientation, freefall and rotation, and a zero gravity seminar, which included videos of French choreographer Kitsou Dubois dancing in weightlessness and problem solving activities on living in space.

Led by various artists, including Tim Millar, Morag Wightman, Graham Hudson, Karen Lowe. Participating schools: William Patten School, Hackney, London; Gayhurst Primary School, Hackney, London; Otford Primary School, Otford, Kent; Langafel CE Primary School, Longfield, Kent; Betty Laywood Primary School, Hackney, London (adapted for a gifted & talented group of year 1&2); St Mary's Primary School, Islington, London; Grasmere Primary School, Hackney London (year 5). All Year 6 except where stated.

The Zero Gravity pilot project with Sebright School in Hackney culminated in the production of a CD-Rom 'Expedition Space' by Year 6 pupils on space and gravity. 

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