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Our ice caps are melting. Through an Artificial Intelligence generated video installation, the Antarctic Pavilion explores whether there’s hope if we act now.

PANGAIA is proud to support the first ever Antarctic Pavilion, featuring the artwork Cold Flux by Ben Cullen Williams, at the London Design Biennale 2021. 

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As a response to the theme ‘Resonance’, Ben Cullen Williams’ artwork Cold Flux maps the complex network between technology, environmental change and our understanding of the world. The work spotlights an underrepresented region that is critical to our planet’s health and highlights the need for more Climate Action.

Special thanks to the administering body, the 2041 Foundation.

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Cold Flux

Cold Flux is a three-channel AI generated video installation created from footage Williams filmed of the Larsen-B Ice shelf whilst on an expedition to Antarctica with polar explorer Robert Swan. The ice shelf splintered off from the Antarctic peninsula in 2002 and has been disintegrating since. The footage was used to train machine learning algorithms to generate the video landscapes which seemingly exist within a state of melting and freezing, forming and un-forming.

Accompanying the video is a haunting audio track by British musician Gaika. The track is delicate, yet strong, digital but also human. By mapping the complex network between technology and environmental change, Williams challenges our understanding of the world and the need for more Climate Action.

Cold Flux will be presented at the Antarctic Pavilion during The London Design Biennale which runs from June 1st—27th at Somerset House.
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Why is it important to raise awareness?

Cold Flux brings a global issue to the forefront, immersing viewers in a visual narrative that can no longer be ignored. The polar ice caps and glaciers are crucial in mitigating the effects of climate change. Because ice is white, it reflects the sun’s energy back into space, helping to keep the average temperature on Earth stable.

The more ice melts and is replaced by the darker shades of ocean and land, the more heat is absorbed, creating what’s commonly known as ‘the snowball effect’ and accelerating the warming of our planet. Melting ice caps also contribute to rising sea levels which directly affect low-lying islands, cities, settlements and over 700 million people living in coastal areas.

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Meet Ben, the artist

Ben Cullen Williams is a London based artist, whose practice consists of sculptures, installations, photography and video. In his work, Williams explores humankind’s relationship to the world in a rapidly changing environment; he focuses on the intersection between space, technology and landscape. He investigates how related spatial typologies can be understood as a physical manifestation of our own human condition. He draws on a range of fabrication processes from physical to digital to understand our changing relationship to the material world. In 2016, Williams embarked on an expedition to the North of Antarctica with famed explorer Robert Swan.

About the 2041 Foundation
Established by polar explorer and environmentalist Robert Swan, the 2041 Foundation's mission is to engage businesses and communities on climate science, personal leadership and the promotion of sustainable practices.

We asked artist Ben a few questions, to find out a bit more about Antarctica and the project. 

How did you get involved with Robert Swan and the London Design Biennale?
I went on an expedition with Robert to the Antarctic a few years ago. I was introduced serendipitously through a friend of a friend and a couple of months later I was meeting him in Ushuaia at the bottom of Argentina. He instilled a belief that it’s our duty to act rather than thinking other people will act.  So as Antarctica doesn’t have an embassy I thought could act as an ambassador for the continent at the Biennale,  fortunately Robert was happy to be involved too. A collective individual effort rather than a political representative. This mindset I believe is the way we must approach many issues facing our planet.

What was the most memorable/impactful experience from your expedition to Antarctica and why?
When I was seven years old I did a school assignment about Scott of the Antarctic. I was drawn in by the idea of this vast untouched wild expanse of snow and ice,  seen in the grainy black and white pictures of that expedition. So to be in place that I had pictured from such a young age was incredibly special. The unforgiving rawness of the natural world there couldn’t be stronger, yet it is truly the most beautiful place I have witnessed. 

What interests you most about the intersection between space, technology and landscape?
As humans we are constantly reorientating ourselves within the built and unbuilt landscapes as they change, we are confronted with the familiar and unfamiliar. Technology is a key mediator in the way that we see and understand the world around us; through new architectural and technological structures, to GPS networks that tell us where to go, or internet searches create preconceived ideas about a place before arrival, or algorithms that create weather predictions. Our understanding of the world around us is fundamental in our ability to dwell and forge a symbiotic relationship with the planet.

How can art be used to better our planet?
Contemporary art reacts with the now, the present.  It teases out complex issues and ideas that are not necessarily clear within society or indeed it is able to distill complex issues into singular works. So art can be used to create discussion and thought,  I don’t think it is necessarily the role of the artist to argue a point, rather bring a series of issues to the surface. So when addressing such a complex issue such as our planet, I believe it is to make people tune in, connect and raise debate. 

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