An ocean voyage to the Svalbard archipelago in summer 2013, researching the Northwest Passage & the history of humanity’s hubris.
I’m excited and overwhelmed to be invited by The Arctic Circle 2013 to join a group of artists and scientists aboard a 150-foot tall ship in the Arctic Ocean, exploring the Svalbard archipelago, just ten degrees from the North Pole, for a period of about two weeks over the summer solstice.
My writing tends to focus on spectacular failures, lives lived in extremis, and alternate ways of thinking about history, preservation and loss, and I’ll be participating on this voyage as part of a longer project researching the history of the Northwest Passage. I’ve long been moved by the countless narratives of those explorers and entrepreneurs who plunged so bravely into certain failure and likely death in a quest for a navigable trade route through the Arctic Circle that lasted for several centuries. Now, as we’re witnessing the birth pangs of an environmental apocalypse in the guise of global warming, the Northwest Passage has perversely taken on a new life. Carbon emissions have sadly done what previous explorers could not—create a navigable Northwest Passage. My goal with this trip is to research and write about this place which has formed a locus of so many failed dreams, and which, long forgotten, now once again presents itself as an opportunity. What once spoke to nature’s mastery over man’s hubris now suggests environmental disaster and human folly, and the cost it wreaks on those last reaches of the earth.
In addition, I’m undertaking this voyage in partnership with Machine Project, a non-profit alternative art space in Los Angeles, investigates the intersection of art, natural history and literature, among many other interests. In the past few years Machine Project has branched out, undertaking installations, performances, and lectures in places as diverse as Minneapolis and Miami, and while on this trip I’ll be acting as Machine Project’s North Pole Correspondent, offering the northernmost latitude lecture ever given by Machine Project, and curating an Archive of Banishment and an Archive of Preservation while I’m in Svalbard.
Funding this project will allow you to participate in these Machine Project-related events, and you can also receive whatever strange writings are birthed by this obsession, either in the form of my unprocessed notebook, or a unique story/essay written exclusively for you.
(Photo Credit: Janet Biggs, 2009)
(Video Animation: Nicole Antebi)
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Because The Arctic Circle is a well-established program, there’s little risk involved (likelihood of being eaten by bears is fairly low), though at this point in my writing process, it’s not at all clear to me what final form any writing I do will take. But that’s part of the fun, I suppose, of being involved so early on in the process!
June 2013; I need to start gathering supplies and paying for airfare, along with the fee for the residency, by mid-March.
Two weeks! That's a long time without night.
From their website:
"The Arctic Circle is a nexus where art intersects science, architecture, education, and activism--an incubator for thought and experimentation for artists and innovators who seek out and foster areas of collaboration to engage in the central issues of our time."
Unlike some residencies, this one isn't paid for--the vast bulk of the money I need to raise will go to cover the participation fee. In addition, I'm raising money to cover airfare, and equipment. (As someone who's lived in Southern California for the past fourteen years, you'll have to trust me when I say I don't have a lot of all-weather gear rated for -10 degrees Celsius.)
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Museum of Banishment Have something you’d like banished? A break up letter, a piece of bad news, a terrible secret, an annoying email from your boss? Colin will read your document (automatically encrypted, so even he doesn’t know its contents) to the blasted, frozen ice, banishing it forever to an unforgiving wasteland. You’ll receive a certificate of documentation, along with the satisfaction of knowing it’s now trapped in the Arctic, and your document will be dedicated to the memory of a sailor who perished in the search for the Northwest Passage.Estimated delivery:
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Museum of Preservation Have something you’d like forever preserved? A note from your beloved, a piece of good news, an exciting secret, word of a promotion at work? Colin will read your document (encrypted or not—your choice) to the timeless, unceasing ice, forever preserving it against the ravages of nature and humanity. You’ll receive a certificate of documentation, along with the satisfaction of knowing it’s now forever locked safely in the Arctic, and your document will be dedicated to one of the plant species preserved in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.Estimated delivery:
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Banishment and Preservation Have one document forever banished, and one document forever preserved. They could even be the same document! You’ll receive a certificate of documentation for each.Estimated delivery:
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Arctic Notebook After the expedition is over, Colin will send you a limited edition, print-on-demand book containing his Arctic notebook, including all fully formed thoughts, ideas in development, quotations from other Arctic adventurers and ice-related literature, miscellaneous jottings, and maybe even a doodle or two.Estimated delivery:Add $5 USD to ship outside the US
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Notebook + Banishment or Preservation Get the limited edition notebook, plus banish or preserve a document (includes certificate of documentation).Estimated delivery:Add $5 USD to ship outside the US
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Machine Project Lecture: North Pole Edition You’ll receive a year-long membership to Machine Project, plus you’ll be invited to (virtually) attend the highest latitude Machine Project event ever: Colin will laminate a picture of your face and then stick it in the snow, giving a talk to all of the laminated attendees. Participants will documentation that this happened. Also includes the Arctic Notebook and the chance to banish or preserve a document.Estimated delivery:Add $5 USD to ship outside the US
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Tales of Arctic Adventure After the expedition is over, Colin will call you and read to you a personalized tale of Arctic adventure that he wrote just for you. (Perhaps as a bedtime story? It's up to you.) The reading will last 10-15 minutes, and afterwards you’ll receive a copy of your personalized Arctic Adventure story. (Which Colin reserved the right to publish at some future date.) Also includes the Arctic Notebook and the chance to banish or preserve a document (but not the Machine Project membership).Estimated delivery:Add $5 USD to ship outside the US
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Complete Arctic Package Banish a letter, preserve a letter, get the Notebook, get the Machine Project membership, attend the lecture as a laminated participant, and the personalized Tale of Arctic Adventure.Estimated delivery:Add $5 USD to ship outside the US
- (30 days)