The National Maritime Museum has finally opened the doors of its new Sammy Ofer Wing to the public and is offering visitors a peep 100 years into the future with High Arctic - an installation exploring a potential Northern landscape.
The installation, which sees the cross-disciplinary art and design collective, United Visual Artists, taking over the wing's new temporary exhibition space, takes inspiration from UVA artistic director Matt Clark's travels in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard with arts and climate science foundation, Cape Farewell.
Armed only with a UV torch, visitors are invited to explore the 820-square metre space. Within, little towers are organised into clusters, evoking planned cityscapes as well as more organic human crowds. Shining the torch across the tops of each of the cuboid structures reveals the names of every individual glacier of the Svalbard archipelago.
Floor projections reference different Arctic experiences - the shadows cast by the midnight sun, a blizzard, the rolling clouds, and the ice floes. Shining the UV light on the projections causes different reactions in the animation and points to our ability to influence the future of the region.
The accompanying soundscape knits together ambient noise with quotations from Arctic explorers from centuries past and contemporary poetry from Nick Drake (who joined Matt Clark on his Svalbard journey). You can choose to listen intently, sitting on small wooden benches, or simply let the sounds wash over you.
It's an intriguing exhibition and is representative of a shift in the National Maritime Museum's approach towards a more contemporary and experimental space designed to better showcase its holdings (think Wellcome Collection).
The rest of the wing bears out this shift so if you have some extra time it's well worth exploring the other areas. Voyagers - the permanent exhibition space - which features a wave structure with images and animations projected onto the surface and an object wall with the items arranged according to emotion (Jonathan Flinders' tribute to his cat, Trim is a particular delight). A card system allows visitors to follow up on particular items from the museum's collections in the Compass Lounge and also rewards users with a free e-book from the NMM collection meaning the visit can extend beyond the physical trip.
High Arctic, 14 July 2011 - 13 January 2012, adult admission £6 - see the National Maritime Museum website for full visitor information.
Click on the gallery below to see more images from the installation: