Southern Ocean Studies

The Southern Ocean Studies are part of a series of projects which aims to explore how climate models can function as representations of climate change beyond their original scientific contexts and purpose and exists as a large screen-based installation driven by live and archived data sets. The work was produced with Jonathan Mackenzie and with assistance from the British Antarctic Survey.

The documentation shows the Southern Ocean circulating the Antarctic landmass (central). The project software runs in real-time generating the ocean currents on the fly, to which are mapped various other ecological data sets. These geophysical couplings mesh in real time, to produce flickering constellations of tidal flow, wind direction and biotic form. The shimmering images of environmental change, produced derive from the global mechanics of climate monitoring. Drawing upon a multiplicity of data resources, models, physical theories and sensing technologies it asks how these global infrastructures enable an opening up to the gaze of the hidden systems and processes at large in the wider material world, and our interactions with them. The work also addresses memory: of site; place and environment. By layering up and integrating multiple historic and contemporary data sets within the same moving image we formulate what we describe as ‘deep time landscapes’, extended temporal forms that are visual gestalts of long-term environmental changes.

Whilst respecting the underlying science, the work seeks to develop a sensibility to the dynamics of ecological complexity as pattern and felt experience rather than quantity and measure. In doing so we hope to articulate an aesthetic of system-ness – a metonym for the interconnected forces operative within ecosphere to which lived human behavior contributes and is a part. For Andrew Brown, the project complicates our reading of what we consider 'natural processes' by showing them as "complex eco-systems of cause and effect" (2014). As noted by Suzette Worden, this rendering of a natural environment electronically "makes it easier to see it as part of a holistic earth system" (2015), a counter-intuitive position that brings us face to face with the manner in which human, technological and natural systems interact to formulate material realities.


Many thanks to Nathan Cunningham, Dr Clare Tancell, and Professor David Walton from the British Antarctic Survey who advised us the underlying science of climate change, and Arts Council England, the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council and the University of Westminster who provided the funding to research, develop and produce the work.

See also

A. Brown, Art and Ecology Now, London: Thames and Hudson, 2014, pp. 130-131
S. Worden, ‘The Earth Sciences and Creative Practice’ in H. Dew (ed.) Handbook of Research on Digital Media and Creative Technologies, IGI Global, 2015, pp. 125-126