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August 14, 2009

LV Sketchbook Page 025

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The 1988 Madrid Protocol, as I mentioned yesterday, calls for all Antarctic Treaty countries to remove their old trash as well as their newly generated waste from the continent. Twenty years on, cleaning up the old stuff remains the taller order because of irreversible early waste management practices.

One such practice involved bulldozing rubbish out onto sea ice during winter to have it sink when the ice broke up in spring. “Sea-icing,” as it was called, had its heyday from 1955 (when McMurdo Station was built) to 1981 (when sea-icing was discontinued). During this period, scores of fuel drums, machinery and scrap metal accumulated off McMurdo’s shores. Open burning, untreated sewage, oil and chemical spills, and coastal landfills also contributed high concentrations of hydrocarbons, PCBs, and other toxic chemicals to the water and bottom sediments.

View across Winter Quarters Bay towards McMurdo Station in January 2009, with Scott's Discovery Hut at left.

The primary dumping ground during those decades was Winter Quarters Bay, seen here in January ’09 with a view towards McMurdo. Robert Falcon Scott had used this natural harbor to anchor his ship Discovery for two winters during his 1901-04 expedition. During their stay, he and his crew built the historic Discovery Hut seen at left.

Winter Quarters Bay would never be that clean again. By the 1990s, the cove was deemed one of the most polluted spots on Earth. (“Testing Tainted Waters.”)

Despite the clean-ups, contamination still exists and is likely to remain for some time. One reason is that hydrocarbons break down at very slow rates in Antarctic temperatures. Another factor is the cost and logistics of retrieving vast quantities of sunken trash. According to a 2001 New Zealand sponsored study, researchers revealed 15 vehicles, 26 shipping containers, and 603 fuel drums among approximately 1,000 items strewn across the Winter Quarters seabed. In addition, a 2005 survey determined that the act of decontaminating the bay risked creating greater adverse environmental impact than leaving the waste where it is. (“Contaminants Measured Near McMurdo.”)

On a positive note, the bay’s contaminants appear to be localized thanks to a shoal that prevents the toxins from spreading into open water beyond. I imagine Captain Scott cheering for that. And toasting the Madrid Protocol. And flipping over conscientious waste management. And high-fiving Shackleton over the ban on sea-icing.

This could be good sketch material. In the meanwhile, today’s drawing/collage juxtaposes stacks of stuff in Scott’s hut with stacks of stuff submerged outside his door to illuminate the proximity and continuity between them. More artwork to follow on this theme.


Filed under: Antarctic History and Exploration,Environment,Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 11:37 pm

July 9, 2009

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This is a fabric map of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The airstrip is at top. The
new elevated station is shown in blue. The Xs indicate the ever-migrating geographic
South Pole marker, and the knob at right is the Dark Sector, a research area free of electromagnetic interference. Everything else that goes on is at left.

Accuracy and scale aside, I could have used one of these sewn to my jacket sleeve dur-
ing my visit there. It beats fumbling with paper maps in windy, subfreezing conditions.


Filed under: Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 5:27 pm

July 8, 2009

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That’s the new South Pole Elevated Station on the left, and the Degree Angular Scale Interferometer (DASI) on the right. A la fabric discards.


Filed under: Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 5:37 pm

July 7, 2009

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Continuing with the fabric theme, this week I’m posting sketchbook pieces created
with cloth and thread. I’m new to the medium, so my wife Lili is introducing me to
the varieties of stitching, and the material comes from her sewing leftovers.

It’s exciting to be learning a new craft and once I get the basics down, I’ll work
Antarctic content into these pieces.


Filed under: Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 3:27 pm

April 25, 2009

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I originally expected to fill my sketchbook with technical notes and drawings in figuring
out how to create this project, but it’s not proving necessary. Kind of disappointing
since Leonardo-style notebooks are so utterly cool, but at least my approach fulfills
its aims. Which is to say, I’ve come to formulate the direction of this project more
clearly with every cut-paper composition I create.

How is that possible in the absence of diagrammatical plans? Because the challenge
isn’t in engineering the final structure (I worked that out in my head weeks ago) as
much as in sustaining an improvisational, experimental approach to creating my art-
works from start to finish. That process can’t be planned; however, it can be practiced
and that’s what I’m attempting here.


Filed under: Process,Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 11:58 pm

April 24, 2009

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I’m working on several sketchbook entries at once. I jump around from page to page trying different shapes, experimenting with arrangements, trying to keep it spontaneous. (Or at least spontaneous-looking…) I’m not as concerned with the color palette (yet) as I am with developing the image vocabulary.

So far I’ve posted pieces I like. By the time I get around to showing the duds, I hope to have some nice sculptural pieces to show instead;)

That part should be under way within a couple weeks. I just found the specialty hinges that will string my vignettes together, a necessary step in determining the type of panels I’ll build my assemblages on. I’ll elaborate more on these technical aspects when the time comes. Till then, more cut paper and found Antarctic objects to follow…


Filed under: Process,Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 11:01 pm

April 23, 2009

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My recent sketchbook entries are stream-of-consciousness pieces that allude to my Antarctic collections and recollections. I’m less interested in literal depictions than capturing the essence of these objects and experiences. I’ve found that a less med-
itated approach often yields more interesting and energetic compositions — in and
outside of the sketchbook.


Filed under: Process,Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 5:44 pm

March 25, 2009

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The subject of this ‘sister image’ to yesterday’s post is whaling.

The first Antarctic whaling station was established in 1904 at South Georgia island. By the mid-20th century, several of the eight whale species that populate Antarctic waters had been hunted to the edge of extinction. They’re now gradually recovering thanks to international regulation of commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean, though their numbers aren’t nearly that of a hundred years ago.

At the other end of the world by contrast, whale hunting has been central to the Inupiat people’s subsistence for over a millennium. I’m currently marveling over thewhalehunt.org, a unique photo-documentary of an Inupiat whale hunt in Barrow, Alaska. Its extraordinary approach to storytelling and brilliant interface was created by Jonathan Harris, with stunning photography by Andrew Moore. Not to be missed.


Filed under: Antarctic History and Exploration,Environment,Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 11:14 pm

March 24, 2009

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I create my sketchbook entries improvisationally, drawing on Antarctic impressions
and recollections as I go along. By this process I’m building a visual vocabulary with
which to create the Long View Project’s sculptural pieces.

This particular composition codifies Antarctic tools, venesta shelving, and maps. My principal medium is cut paper, often reclaimed from old mail, packaging and scraps.


Filed under: Process,Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 11:38 pm

March 23, 2009

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Today’s sketchbook page imagines some of the large number of undiscovered species that Antarctica is home to. Scientists are hoping to reveal some of the mysteries of evolution through these future underwater discoveries, and I never tire of visually speculating on the nature and appearance of these life forms. It’s a theme I’ll be returning to often throughout my project.


Filed under: Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 11:16 pm
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