A new immersive exhibit, Polar Zero, opens at the Glasgow Science Center this weekend (October 2), infusing an artistic and cultural dimension to the climate negotiations at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on climate change (COP26) in November this year.
In a time of accelerating global warming, rapidly melting glaciers and rising sea levels, Polar Zero invites us to pause and reflect on the impact of humanity on our past climate. , present and future.
The centerpieces of the exhibition are a cylindrical glass sculpture containing Antarctic air from the year 1765 – the date which scientists say predates the Industrial Revolution – and an Antarctic ice core containing air bubbles. air trapped which reveal a unique record of our past climate. The theme of the exhibition is that of hope and optimism.
Polar Zero, a collaboration between British Antarctic Survey (BAS), global engineering and consulting firm Arup, and the Royal College of Art (RCA), is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC),
Wayne Binitie of the Royal College of Art is an AHRC-funded PhD student and the artist behind Polar Zero. His work is inspired and informed by the urgent need to address the climate crisis.
âAbout five or six years ago I formed a unique relationship with BAS and Arup. Our collaboration involves artistic creativity, ice core science and cutting edge engineering. I hope that those who experience these works will better understand the impact of humanity on the natural environment and its climate systems.
Ice cores are cylinders of ice carved out of an ice cap or glacier. They contain information about past temperature and many other aspects of the environment. Importantly, ice contains small air bubbles that contain a sample of the atmosphere – from these it is possible to directly measure the past concentration of gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) in it. the atmosphere.
1765 – Antarctic Air contains a sample of air taken from an Antarctic ice core and preserved forever in the sculpture. This tune connects us to a pivotal moment in Earth’s history, the dawn of the industrial revolution. BAS Ice Core Labs reveal that 1765 is a crucial date after which human activity began to fundamentally accelerate the growth of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere.
Over 250 years ago, Scottish inventor James Watt improved the steam engine to reduce waste and fuel costs. This innovation sparked the Industrial Revolution and a chain reaction that changed the world.
BAS glaciologist Dr Robert Mulvaney says:
âOur research on ice cores reveals the human impact on our climate. This research collaboration with Wayne will hopefully encourage people to think about the past, present and future. It has been a journey of discovery for artists, scientists and engineers, involving high levels of creativity which I have found very exciting. Exchanging ideas in the ice core lab or over coffee was stimulating and I hope people visiting Polar Zero find out. Antarctic ice is an archive of Earth’s hidden climatic history. The artist’s skill is to help us tap into human emotion to provoke curiosity, action and hope for the future.
Arup’s engineering expertise was essential to the making of Polar Zero. This is the first time anyone has attempted to extract ancient air from an ice core and enclose it in a glass sculpture. Exhibiting an ice core without it melting completely is a technical feat that requires precise calculations and creative thinking to build the right level of insulation while still allowing visitors to get close to the ice.
Fellow Arup, Graham Dodd leads a team of materials scientists and engineers. He says:
âCreating Polar Zero was a fascinating technical challenge. The interplay of art, science and engineering is at the heart of the exhibition and the collaboration has given us a tremendous opportunity to do something truly innovative. We hope that visitors will leave inspired by the ambition of artists, scientists and engineers to work together to highlight the urgent need to combat the impact of human activity on our planet.
Visitors to Polar Zero will experience the sound of ancient air bubbles bursting as an Antarctic Peninsula ice core emerges from an isolated tube. As it drips and melts, it captures the fragility of polar ice. Audio recordings of these ancient gases escaping from the ice cores have been incorporated by the artist into a musical soundtrack that evokes the sense of passing time, completing this intimate multisensory experience.
Fragments of ice stories – personal anecdotes, recollections and oral testimonies of national and international scientists and experts whose lived experiences of the Arctic and Antarctic – allude to the science that inspires works of art .
Professor Christopher Smith, Executive Chairman of the AHRC, says:
âPolar Zero embodies the power of the arts and artistic research to tackle pressing contemporary issues such as climate change. It translates crucial yet complex scientific research in a way that will resonate deeply and emotionally with diverse audiences to inspire lasting change. AHRC is proud to support this groundbreaking exhibition which demonstrates what can be achieved when the arts and sciences meet.
Dame Jo da Silva, Global Head of Sustainability, Arup says:
âArt is very important because it can encapsulate a lot of complexity. With a subject like climate change – which is so incredibly complex – we have to engage emotionally.
When you look at a piece of art that has been boosted by climate change, it changes your mind and you look at things in a different way.
Explore all aspects of the Polar Zero climate science-art collaboration here on the project pages of the British Antarctic Survey website.