BATON ROUGE – Two LSU faculty members, Patricia A. Suchy of the Department of Communication Studies and Vince LiCata of the Department of Biological Sciences, spent most of January and February last year working in Antarctica on an interdisciplinary National Science Foundation Artists and Writers project called “Persistence of Vision: Antarctica.” The pair worked with scientists and staff at McMurdo Station in Antarctica to recreate modern versions of some of the most iconic photography of the Antarctic continent taken 100 plus years ago.
Antarctic expeditions during the “Heroic Age” often included a photographer to document the landscapes, the people and the discoveries made by explorers and scientists such as Robert Falcon Scott, Edward Adrian Wilson, Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton. Suchy and LiCata worked with modern researchers and staff at McMurdo and in the field to re-enact historic photos, most of them taken by Herbert Ponting on Scott’s Terra Nova expedition, the first to include an extensive scientific program of study.
But LiCata and Suchy introduced a few twists: the subjects of their contemporary photos wear their modern winter gear and are based in the state of the art laboratories and research facilities now in McMurdo. For example, where a photo from the 1910 - 1913 Terra Nova expedition might show a dog sled and explorer in a heavy woolen coat, the Suchy-LiCata photo shows a scientist with a snowmobile in a modern parka conveying supplies in the same location. The photos also showcase the now internationally diverse group of people who work on this remote continent.
The second twist comes in the way the modern scientists and staff are photographed. Using artistic techniques with which artists like Bill Viola and Robert Wilson have experimented, Suchy and LiCata made high-definition extreme slow motion “video portraits,” in which the image at first looks like a photograph to the viewer, but upon closer inspection is seen to be slowly moving. The team also worked on variations on the video portrait form, using modern mirrorless digital and action cameras in the place of historical photographer Ponting’s film cameras and cinematograph.
Suchy and LiCata have worked together on a number of different artistic and performance projects that combine art and science, including a production of LiCata’s play, “DNA Story,” about the discovery of the structure of DNA. Their deployment to Antarctica in 2016 was the culmination of nearly three years of proposals, planning and preparation for this particular project. Since their return, they have been working with a group of LSU students to edit and process their footage and audio recordings in order to assemble “Persistence of Vision: Antarctica” for exhibition as installation art.
This gallery-style installation will premiere in LSU’s HopKins Black Box Theatre (137 Coates Hall) Thursday, March 16, through Saturday, March 18, with admissions beginning at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, March 19, at 2:30 p.m. Reservations can be made at http://goo.gl/LUXdUq. Audience members may make donations at the door.
Following the LSU premiere, plans are to tour the work to galleries and universities, including several where scientists who participated in the project work. A preview installation of three portraits is currently on display in a gallery in Lauterat in the French Alps, where British and French Antarctic explorers first experimented with motorized sledges.
The National Science Foundation supports the Antarctic Artists and Writers Program as a way to foster communication of the value of ongoing research in Antarctica and further understanding of the continent. The Division of Polar Programs in the National Science Foundations’ Geosciences Directorate manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, through which it supports all U.S. government research in Antarctica and aboard ships in the Southern Ocean.
Suchy and LiCata kept blogs of their journey at https://beyondtheutmostbound.wordpress.com/about/ and http://scienceblogs.com/worldsfair/author/vlicata/.
Science Café: SciArts Conversations Series
This month’s LSU Science Café is a SciArts Conversations Series, a presentation series hosted by the LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts, where a scientist and an artist share two views on a seemingly overlapping topic. LiCata and Suchy will talk about their “Persistence of Vision Antarctica” project on Tuesday, Feb. 21. Attendees will hear a conversation about the creative process in one of the most remote places on Earth. The event is held at Schlittz & Giggles, 2355 Ferndale Ave. in Baton Rouge, and doors open at 5 p.m. for free food and networking with the talk starting at 6 p.m.
For more information, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sciarts-science-cafe-persistence-of-vision-tickets-30357131999?aff=es2.
Contact Ernie Ballard
LSU Media Relations
LSU Media Relations