There’s a saying here at McMurdo that goes: “You come to Antarctica the first time for adventure. You come the second time for money. And you come the third time because you no longer fit in anywhere else.” It’s my third summer season here, and I’m starting to think that the saying is true.
McMurdo’s misfits made a good showing tonight at the MAAG: the McMurdo Alternative Art Gallery, an annual event that turned out to be a spectacular display of visual, acoustic, and interactive art. For the evening, the Science Support Center—a large sheetmetal building devoted to serving this place’s polar science agenda—was transformed into a two-story gallery. With the lights turned out and homemade costumes on display, the atmosphere felt somewhat seedy.
“Flow” was this year’s theme, and installations included a dangling ice sculpture of frozen cones that dripped into a pool of water, a large mural being painted on the spot, hanging mobiles made from construction debris, and a massive MAAG sign that changed colors when water flowed through its letters.
Quirky interactive exhibits such as the talking postcard machine spit out abstract art postcards on demand, and when the machine got excited, it spewed gold glitter. Visitors to the beautifully constructed silent conversation room could sit on soft mats and scribble notes to each other, and a filmmaker treated us to his virtual boondoggle exhibit. Sitting in real helicopter seats with flight helmets on our heads, we watched front-window footage of a flight to the opposite side of the Royal Societies.
It doesn’t take an art gallery to prove that an undercurrent of creative energy flows through life at McMurdo Station. The 2007 MAAG was rather an indicator of that flow’s intensity. Not to be immoderate or anything, but the words gushing, torrential, and tsunami-sized are the only ones that come to mind.
Literature: Tennyson’s “Ulysses”