COLLISIONcollective

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*                        For engineers that moonlight as artists and artists that moonlight as engineers                                         *
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Arctic Sea Ice in Glass

Glass, video, still images
2012
Arctic Sea Ice in Glass
Arctic Sea Ice in Glass @COLLISION18:present

This project began in the context of boundaries, and the edges of existence.  By the Fall of 2010, after reading a couple of books involving exploration of unknown environments, watching hours of footage from lunar exploration missions, and venturing to the New England coast at night in the depth of winter, I had acknowledged an affinity for being at boundaries that may be considered primordial, null, or serving spaces so vast and different that we're overwhelmed by the sense of being there, where winds blow across a nearly discontinuous gradient. When I was invited to participate in the 2011 Arctic Circle Residency, the chance to continue a polar trajectory to the boundary between tropical culture and the Polar Eternities presented itself.

I brought along few expectations other than to observe, and to enjoy the liberties inherent in doing so with whatever additional tools I found even remotely useful, such as 3D scanning. It's used primarily as a means to an end, such as for rapid prototyping, and in this case, documentation and cloning of what would be considered fossils.  Scanning Arctic ice was considered part of the observation process, and a way of translating ephemeral matter into a relatively permanent context, or simply replicating it in its own ephemeral material.

The scanning system I built was very simple, using DAVID laser scanning software that connected to a camera and laser mounted on a tripod.  In testing the system at various scales and levels of crudeness, errors revealed the interesting and peculiar nature of how the system saw the world presented to it.  An obvious analogy is slit-scan photography of dimensions Y (or X)  and time, with 3D scanning simply adding the depth dimension. One can, of course, scan motionless objects and record a realistic 3D surface or object, like I did with Arctic sea ice.

Despite numerous unexpected technical obstacles, I was able to scan palm-sized pieces of Arctic sea ice retrieved from two locations around Svalbard.  These scans were used in "Shunyatan Flow" (2011), a 3D animation describing a wind driven by temperature and ego.  Last August, I was able to 3D-print an ice tray of the scanned Arctic sea ice forms, from which I made wax positives for feeding the glass casting process, and then six cast glass replicas.  Despite being about half the size of the originals (due to 3D printer limitations), they otherwise look and feel just like the originals. The images featured in this installation are from a recent trip to Barrow, Alaska, of the glass Arctic sea ice returning to the Arctic Ocean (literally - I lost one while taking pictures).

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