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Neville Gabie

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My work is based around the idea of making the journey to the Antarctic to fly kites. Perhaps of all recreational activities flying kites is the most playful, even frivolous. It conjures images of warm days, a gentle breeze and colourful shapes dancing above our heads. So flying kites in the Antarctic, even in the summer months, is the antithesis of our expectations. Not only are the weather and wind conditions hostile, but the very idea of 'recreation' in the Antarctic seems contrary to the seriousness of the work undertaken there. That is my intention - the aim is to use a simple device, a kite, which most of us are familiar with, as a tool for considering something outside our comprehension.

But then kites historically have been used for all sorts of bizarre things. During the First World War huge kites capable of supporting the weight of a person were used for spying out the enemy trenches and increasingly kites are used for collecting all sorts of data. And as is evident on the BAS website they have already become part of the recreational activities at the research stations. Beyond just flying kites, I will use them to film the landscape. The resulting footage has less to do with photography, much more to do with exploring the mood or atmosphere of that landscape. With a kite, what is recorded is almost entirely determined by the wind, revealing it both in sound and movement. Flying close to the ground, what is made visible are the ephemeral marks on the surface of the landscape, tyre tracks, foot prints, or the lines of a ski left in the ice; the traces which are often overlooked or left unrecorded. The physical activity of moving through the terrain, of pulling and guiding the kite above my head, is also about filming myself in a landscape I have become visibly part of; a performance.

As much as it is possible I would like to integrate with the meteorological team and to learn something of the various methods used from balloons to UAV's for collecting data and to see if kites can add anything to the toolbox. Working with the meteorological team will I hope also give me the opportunity to travel out from the research station to work with the kites in the field. I am particularly interested in working with my kite on the ice sheets and the Brunt ice shelf around Halley research station, but I am very happy to take advantage of any opportunity that might arise. I am looking for a landscape which is in effect a clean white canvas.

I cannot believe how fortunate I am to have been selected to be going to Antarctica as part of the BAS team and getting to the Antarctic is the endpoint in a journey which begins with my first visits to Cambridge. Long before boarding the ship I understand there are no guarantees, but I see the whole process of preparation and travelling with that intent as a wonderful opportunity in itself and the basis for developing a project. Much of my previous work has been based around the idea of making a journey which has included several walked projects in South Africa, a journey to fetch a piece of wood from the Baltic's on board a Russian cargo ship and most recently a journey overland from China back to the UK with a granite kerbstone, on truck, train and by foot. With each journey the preparations in terms of clothing and of filming on route have been of significant importance.

I plan to develop the project to Antarctica in a similar way, beginning with being 'kitted out' with the appropriate clothing. On route I am keen to record conversations with a range of BAS staff who have an understanding of the landscape and research programmes from personal experience. Using similar methods to those used on the train I also plan to draw the seascape on route.

My work as an artist is developed in relation to specific contexts or locations. I am interested in landscapes which are in a state of flux; physical as well as social upheaval. An essential part of my practice is allowing time for research, conscious that the final form of any project will be shaped by a sustained period of involvement. Despite its harshness the Antarctic remains vulnerable to human activity. In common with many great deserts, far from dense urban populations, the Antarctic is a place where the planet's frailty is most visible. That is what I am keen to draw out of this experience.