culture: Battling the elements for the sake of art; Artist Anne Brodie battled the elements in the Antarctic to produce a body of transient and minimalist work, as she tells Tamzin Lewis.Byline: Tamzin Lewis
GLASS artist Anne Brodie had the best of intentions when she travelled to Antarctica. She planned to build a glass furnace, melt down old beer bottles and produce new pieces of work in this extreme climate.
Her project didn't work out quite as planned. "Once I got there I thought that my proposal was so ridiculous!" Anne says. "Being in the Antarctic is like suddenly finding yourself on the moon, it is so extra-ordinary.
"I became very caught up in being in this environment and somehow it seemed futile to my original project."
She adds: "People in the Antarctic are very constricted by the danger of the environment and you aren't allowed very far from the base without taking a field assistant with you. So although you are surrounded by this amazing magisterial mag·is·te·ri·al
a. Of, relating to, or characteristic of a master or teacher; authoritative: a magisterial account of the history of the English language.
b. environment, it's actually quite unapproachable.
"Instead of thinking about the environment in isolation, I wanted to see how people work in a place where they are not supposed to be."
The people in question were British Antarctic Survey Based in Cambridge, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is the United Kingdom's national Antarctic operator and has an active role in Antarctic affairs. BAS is part of the Natural Environment Research Council and has over 450 staff. (BAS BAS
1. Bachelor of Agricultural Science
2. Bachelor of Applied Science ) scientists who carry out the majority of the UK's research on the continent. Each year, the BAS takes two artists to live on a research station and make a creative response to living on the Earth's biggest ice sheet.
Anne spent nearly three months at the base in Rothera in 2006-2007 and is showing work inspired by her trip at the National Glass Centre (NGC NGC New General Catalogue (of Nebulae and Star Clusters; astronomy)
NGC National Geographic Channel (TV)
NGC National Guideline Clearinghouse ) in Sunderland.
Although her background is in ceramics and glass, she became more interested in the human interaction with the environment than with making objects. Anne, 45, says: "I was unpacking the provisions for the winter with the rest of the team and noticed that everything is wrapped in plastic. All the plastic is recycled and I also helped out in the recycling plant.
I became aware of the base as a working organism with stuff being used and reused.
"I ended up using the plastic wrappers and sheets of polythene pol·y·thene
n. Chiefly British
Variant of polyethylene.
[poly- + (e)th(yl)ene. as temporary installations: I would plant plastic in the snow around the base."
Scottish artist Anne, who now lives in Surrey, also made precarious ice structures while living in a tent at remote refueling base Deep Blue. She says: "There was nothing emotionally there to support the difficulty of human being in that environment. So to me, these ice structures were appropriate for the environment because of their fragility."
Showing at the NGCA NGCA National Guard Claims Act are 40 glass jars which Anne had intended to fill with different substances as a personal diary of her experiences. Instead she ended up handing them out to engineers, meteorologists Atmospheric scientists
She says: "I realised that being in the Antarctic was about people and the environment. I was interested in the enormity of just being in that situation.
"I gave the bottles out and asked people to fill them up with something which summed up how they felt about being in Antarctica. Everybody did amazing stuff. A doctor took the dentist drill and engraved en·grave
tr.v. en·graved, en·grav·ing, en·graves
1. To carve, cut, or etch into a material: engraved the champion's name on the trophy.
2. the outside of the bottle, one person put blood in one and another filled one with put 100,000 year old glacial ice."
In the last week of her residency Anne, who previously completed a Hot Glass residency at the NGC did finally build the furnace which she had lugged across thousands of miles. She melted down empty wine and beer bottles from the bar and made long, thin strands of glass which she placed in the ice around the base.
Anne says: "It took a long time to find a place for the furnace, where the wind didn't harden the glass the second it was brought out. "It was very difficult to get workable glass, however I did produce a fair amount of glass. I liked using the bottles in temporary installations and then putting the glass back in the recycling bucket. The pieces had five minutes of art in their existence."
So does Anne long to return to an environment where as an artist it is so difficult to produce work? She replies: "There is an addiction to that part of the world and people always want to go back. I would love to return.
"It is clean and uncluttered and it gives you a space in your head to contemplate things in their right place. There are no cars or money, so everything is much simpler but somehow more complicated."
Anne Brodie's Antarctic Series is at the National Glass Centre until March 29. www.nationalglasscentre.com, (0191) 515 5555.
LIVING ENVIRONMENT One of Anne's video stills appropriately entitled Breathing Berg.; CONTRASTING HEAT Molten glass hardens quickly above Antartic ice.; ICE WORK This piece was entitled Crossing The Convergence Zone.