In January 2003, Phil Dadson received an Antarctic New Zealand Artist fellowship to travel into the Dry Valleys region of Antarctica, to record video & sound material towards a series of video/sound works : Polar Projects. Seven video/sound works make up the series: Echo-logo, Aerial Farm, Stone Map, Flutter, Arc, Chthonion Pulse & Terra Incognita. One audio work, Stone,Water,Air,Ice was devised as both radiophonic and headphone piece, related to the video works. The series are designed to relate together as an installation, or as stand alones, similar to the way instruments in an ensemble have distinct but interconnected identities.
In one intense week of camping out with science teams in the Taylor and Garwood Dry Valleys of Antarctica, over ten hours of unique video and sound plus two suites of drawings – The Rock Records – were produced. Rock Records are graphite records direct from the surfaces of stone & boulder surfaces in the Dry Valleys and around the Arrival Heights (Scott Base) location . One suite of 19 images are drawn direct onto Cd size Dobson spectrophotometer, ozone-depletion recording discs, and the other 49, onto the pages of an A5 drawing notebook. " In Polar Projects, Dadson offers a personal vision of a region that looks and sounds like no other on earth – remote, alien, surreal. In Dadson's work – video, sound, experimental instruments, performance & installation – audiences are alerted to extraordinary qualities of sound, in found and familiar materials. In this region of comparative silence, the influence of active polarities and sound continues to direct the way he sees and experiences. Polar Projects reflect a uniquely sonic vision " Andrew Clifford (see catalogue essay to P P ) 'Mostly the valley seems silent, with only a background hiss of pink noise to accompany the intrusive sounds of my body, my footsteps. No bird or animal noises, only occasional ice snaps and explosive retorts from the splintering glacial face and the lakes of seepage frozen from the melt.' Extract from diary written while in Dry Valleys, Antarctica, January 2003
Echo Logo 7' dvd video/sound 2003 A sound echo performance staged under the thirty-metre high ice-face of the Canada Glacier, located in the Taylor Valley, Dry Valley region, Antarctica, realised at 12.30 am, January 24, 2003, with the assistance of an eight-member science team based in the valley during summer. 'Pyramid-shaped mountains like gigantic ventifacts dominate the landscape, with steep polished sides and sharp ridged spines. Boulders as large as buildings tumble from heights. Rocks, stones, gravel and sand – huge dunes of sand banked up against the glacier face – inhabit the valley floor. And ice! Massive glaciers, 20-30 metres high, flow like giant frozen tidal waves. Walls of living ice, pocked, daubed and colour-streaked, plug and command the heads of the valleys. Each one a living body, stressing and straining, through the solstice cycle of summer daylight.' Extract from diary written while in Dry Valleys, Antarctica, January 2003 Aerial-Farm 12' dvd video/sound 2004 Wind and wind-generated tones from an aerial mast with multiple wires. The installation of frame and wires appear in a shifting and illusory graphic outline, much like an animated drawing against the white-ice background and intermittent snowdrift. The circle of long wires on the aerial produces a wide band of frequencies activated by a 40 kilometres-an-hour wind. 'I was scheduled to fly out from Scott Base by helicopter to the Dry Valleys today, but because of a sudden blast of cold from the south pole, bringing continuous falls of snow, strong winds and a biting chill, there was no flight out. Not so surprising, and given the situation round the base where the snow was piling up sometimes two metres thick on the ground and winds gusting to 50 k's, I went instead in search of wind-conjured sounds.' Extract from diary written while around Scott Base, Antarctica, January 2003 StoneMap & Rockrecords 2 x 30' looped dvd video/sound installation. 2004 Two parallel sequences explore Dry Valley desert floors – gardens of gods – and their wind-sculpted stones and boulders. Audio: Glacial creaks and cracks. Barrel-string zither and ostifans. 'Imagine a landscape with no trees, no flowering plants, no insects of any visible sort, no animals, no birds, no history of human occupation aside from visiting explorers, scientists, surveyors and artists in recent times – in essence a pre-evolutionary primitive condition, synonymous with the origins of organic life. The sound continuum is silence, broken into by the birth of a rock onto a surface littered with jutting boulders, rocks, stones, gravel and sand. Stones are living things, with voices. Knock one or grind one, and you'll know what I mean.' Extract from diary written while in Garwood Dry Valley, Antarctica, January 2003 The installation involves two video screens (preferably plasma), placed on opposite walls of a viewing space, with an independent stereo sound track comprising location and devised sound, played into the space (2 or 4 speakers). Stone-Map can be exhibited with or without a collection of drawings titled Rock Records, 65 graphite rock record/imprints; 49 x A5 size, and 15 circular "rock-ozone records" (modified dobson ozone charts), displayed individually in same-size acrylic boxes, hung approximately 1200mm from floor, and spaced one from another according to gallery dimensions. Flutter dedicated to Apsley Cherry Garrard 8' looped dvd video/sound 2004. Red flag in a ripping wind dances and sings on Arrival Heights. '…yes, I can verify first-hand now that Terra Incognita is indeed a chilly icy terrain where distances – as in a desert – trick the eye and haunt the imagination. The great mountain of Erebus looked to be only a kilometre away, but was in fact forty. A couple of nights ago, after a full half-day out in the snow fields doing a survival exercise and building a snow-dome, I slept the night in it. Can you imagine going to bed at 11 PM in full sunlight, in an absolutely clear blue atmosphere where every little undulation in the surface of the ice/snow surface looks like an amazing landscape in miniature?' Extract from diary written while around Scott Base, Antarctica, January 2003. Chthonian Pulse 3 x screen dvd video/sound 24' looped. 2004 Chthonian, from the Greek kthonios; in or beneath the earth. Primal masculine/ feminine forces, rock/fluid, hard/soft. 'As I write this I realise I've lost or misplaced my watch, the one I pin to the inside of my left-hand pocket. It's missing in a landscape where time, as we measure it, has no status. The earth's inevitable rotation and spin around the focal source of light (and relative heat) is a measure of rhythms of recognisable pulse but also of unpredictable and surprising detail… 'I have a passion for viewing landscapes upside down, standing on my head, legs in the air. I love how it presents the world in a way seldom seen; WUD, a world upside down. Much of my camera work in the Dry Valleys involved looking through the viewfinder of an upside down camera, often giving rise to surprising, and surprisingly iconic, imagery.' Extract from diary written while in Garwood Dry Valley, Antarctica, January 2003. ARC a simple arc of pee into pristine snow and ice . .pools and disappears. Stone, Water, Air, Ice Sound piece. 45' 2003. radiophonic or headphones Stone Water Air Ice: a 45' diary-style sound piece for radio or headphone listening, which tracks water from the first glacial trickle to a racing torrent under the ice. Diary / January 28th. Garwood Valley, Antarctica. '. . . and when it thaws, water – above and beneath the icy surface. And the sounds of water; from glacial melt-slurps and dribbles, trickles and tinkles onto ice, oozing and flowing through weakened fissures until it gushes and spouts along the glacial face. The sound of water alone amidst an enduring silence; drip-become-trickle-become-stream-become-lake-become river-become-sea, a soloist with every variable of pitch, timbre, volume. No orchestra here, only solos or occasional duets and trios of ice, air and stone. "Can you imagine a landscape with no trees, no flowering plants, no insects of any visible sort, no animals, no birds, no history of human occupation aside from visiting explorers, scientists, surveyors and artists in the 20th/21st centuries, in essence a prehistoric primitive condition, synonymous with the origins of organic life. In these Dry Valleys, the living communities consist of stone and ice. The sound continuum is silence, broken into by the birth of a rock onto a surface littered with jutting boulders, rocks, stones, gravel and sand . or by the creaks, groans, cracks and explosive calving of ice as it cascades from the face of a glacier onto stones and ice below. And when it thaws, water, above and beneath the icey surface. And the sounds of water from the glacial melt; slurps and dribbles, trickles and tinkles onto ice, as it oozes and flows through weakened fissures until it gushes and spouts along the glacial face, released in an ejaculatory torrent. The sound of water alone amidst an enduring silence; drip-become-trickle-become-stream-become-lake-become river-become sea – is a soloist with every variable of pitch, timbre, volume. No orchestra here, only solos or occasional duets and trios of air, water, ice, stone".Extracts from diary written while in Garwood Dry Valley, Antarctica, January 2003 Terra Incognita 3 channel work depicting a looming shadow crunching across ice, flanked by pans around the interior of Scotts Hutt near Arrival Heights, accompanied by anthems of all the nations represented on the ice. An ironic piece about the magnetic pull of the ice for adventurers, explorers, scientists, artists alike.
Polar Projects : assisted by Antarctica NZ, Creative NZ & Sony NZ.