Philip Samartzis: Antarctica

Within seconds of Listening to Davis Station with headphones on, I feel the sheer weight of Antarctic wind activating the symphonic potential of wire and sheet metal. When the blast ceases, I delight in the beauty of the residual rattling.

Philip Samartzis, whose Antarctica: An Absent Presence is reviewed by Gail Priest in RealTime 7 June has kindly provided an excerpt from “Davis Station” from the CD and the following passage from the book. Keith

“Situated on the edge of the Vestfold Hills on the Ingrid Christensen Coast of Princess Elizabeth Land is Davis Station, which is the most southerly and the most temperate of all the Australian bases on the Antarctic continent. Encircling the station are the Vestfold Hills, a series of low relief hills divided by valleys and fjords, and comprising the greatest variety and number of lakes on the continent. Most of the landscape is crystalline, brown or grey, lacerated by igneous dolerite forming black stripes across the bare hinterland.

Numerous islands fringe the coast out to five kilometres, with grounded icebergs beyond them. Founded in 1954 Davis incorporates assorted types of prefabricated buildings and infrastructure used for accommodation, communication, and science, where various atmospheric research projects interrogating variability and change, and weather and climate predictions are undertaken. The average summer temperature is +3 degrees Celsius and -20 degrees Celsius in winter. In summer the sun stays above the horizon for most of December and January and in winter it stays below the horizon for about two months from early June.

Katabatic wind and extreme variations in temperature often create a volatile set of conditions to underscore the vulnerability of this remote settlement. Inside the braced steel framed and insulated panel buildings pervades a silence that imposes a profound sense of isolation from the immediate environment. Outside the volatility is expressed through a variety of resonances emitted by miscellaneous surfaces and materials undergoing tremendous stress.”


Hear more…

You can also listen to excerpts of fieldwork — including the sounds of a blizzard, snow, and wind pushing at cables — undertaken at Casey Station in February 2016 by Philip Samartzis available on Soundcloud.

Top image credit: Sound recording, Antarctica, Philip Samartzis, photo courtesy the artist

6 June 2017