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Scott’s tragic Antarctic expedition inspires experiential reflection


Sharlene King
13 March 2012

The imagined emotional states of Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott before his expedition’s tragic demise in 1912 are the subject of a new multimedia experience

The imagined emotional states of Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott before his expedition’s tragic demise in 1912 are the subject of a new multimedia experience featuring the work of a Southern Cross University digital media artist and a former contemporary music student that will preview in Lismore on March 16.

Multimedia ensemble co.sonance uses programmed studio composition, live instrumental performance using violins and keyboards, spoken word and live mixed visual projections to envelop the audience in the remote, icy and ultimately ill-fated world of the 1910-13 Terra Nova expedition of Antarctica, in a work entitled ‘The Ice Suite’.

‘The Ice Suite’ will have its world premiere performance in the Nolan Gallery at the MONA in Hobart, Tasmania, on Thursday, March 29, as part of the Antarctic Centennial Year celebrations.

Before opening in Hobart, Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus is hosting a special open rehearsal of 'The Ice Suite' on Friday, March 16 in Studio D129, which is free of charge.

Co.sonance is a collaboration of NSW North Coast artists Karena Wynn-Moylan (digital music composition, programming and spoken word), Ken Naughton (violin and keyboard composition), former Southern Cross University student Cye Wood (violin and octave violin), and senior University lecturer Dr Grayson Cooke (digital imagery and visual mix).

Dr Grayson Cooke, course coordinator of the Bachelor of Media degree in the School of Arts and Social Sciences, said the visual imagery combined his own photographs with Terra Nova expedition photographer Herbert Ponting’s black and white images and NASA landsat images of Antarctica.

“I have taken hundreds of photographs of ice, surreal and beautiful ice textures and landscapes,” said Dr Cooke.

“I’ve wanted to do something with my ice images in terms of live performance for a long time. This project enabled me to use the photos to construct a kind of expressionistic experience of an icy world.”

Typically Dr Cooke works with video images so ‘The Ice Suite’ presented new challenges.

“Most of the images for this production are photographs that have been animated and worked with digitally. It’s a very kinetic show and all that kineticism has been produced using still images rather than video footage. It’s been an opportunity to be innovative,” he said.

The inspiration for ‘The Ice Suite’ was conceived by Karena Wynn-Moylan more than a decade ago after reading a news article in 1998.

“The story described how Captain Scott had finally arrived in death at the destination that eluded him in life. Encased in his icy tomb he had drifted north beyond the supply depot, One Ton Camp, that he failed to reach in March 1912,” Karena said.

“Given the constant movement of the ice sheets, a glacial dynamics expert had plotted the journey made by the bodies of Scott, his chief scientist Dr Edward Wilson, and Lieutenant Henry Bowers. Decades of snow meant the bodies were now resting about 27 metres below the surface, at the same time as they were moving at about a kilometre a year.

“It’s the irony of this whole tragedy that when the men perished in 1912 they were only 17 kilometres from One Ton Camp.”

Karena used excerpts from Scott’s diaries as well as her own imaginings to create the spoken word dialogue overlaying the performance.

“It’s my interpretation of Scott’s ongoing internal dialogue. What people write down in their diaries or memoirs for posterity is one thing; what’s going on in their head is another thing entirely," she said.

In one section, Karena reads out a long list of the expedition’s provisions.

“I imagine Scott ruminating over them as he travels the icy landscape: sack of oats, 160 lbs; tent and poles, 28 lbs; alpine rope, 5 lbs; two pairs of undersocks; two pairs of outersocks; one pair of hair socks; one pair of nightsocks; and so on.”

Former SCU contemporary music student Cye Wood will be playing both violin and octave violin during ‘The Ice Suite’ and said this collaboration was unlike anything he had previously done.

“The real life story and unfolding tragedy is what attracted me to this work,” said Cye, who studied composition and nowadays works full time as a musician.

“We’re taking poetic license with it and creating an emotional journey with the music and visuals. It’s an interesting project to be involved in.”

Event: ‘The Ice Suite’ open dress rehearsal, a free event open to the public, will be held in Studio D129, D Block, Southern Cross University, Military Road, East Lismore, on Friday, March 16 at 6pm. The world premiere of ‘The Ice Suite’ is at MONA in Hobart, Tasmania, on Thursday, March 29 at 8pm. This is a ticketed event. Photo: Members of co.sonance, (left to right), Ken Naughton, Karena Wynn-Moylan, SCU’s Dr Grayson Cooke and former SCU student Cye Wood.