Monday, November 28, 2011

Antarctic Call for Artists! Under the Bed Gallery

Why hello there people reading this thing. I know there are actually a fair amount of you, because a few days ago someone told me that I could check visitor stats, and apparently I am not just rambling to myself on the internet (Hi four people from Russia! We probably live in similar climates!).

I've always been a bit uncomfortable with blogging because it seems a bit self aggrandizing and one sided, and I much prefer to communicate in ways that involve interaction. But I have come up with a way to make this a bit more participatory, and I've started something that I want all of YOU to be a part of.

The notion of collaboration has been on my mind a lot of late, and I have been mulling over ways to share the bizarre magic of this environment from afar. Inspired by such lovely endeavors as NEPO house, Vignettes and The Telephone Room, I am pleased to announce that I have founded the Under the Bed Gallery here at McMurdo Station, Ross Island Ice Shelf, Antarctica.

I’m currently putting together the inaugural local show “These things have come to seem normal after living this long on the ice” (for example: the fact that the discovery of a fruit fly is exciting enough to stop dinner conversations, routinely wearing shoes that have pressure valves to regulate insulating air pockets, eating 6 desserts a day, bartering with produce, and speaking entirely in acronyms), and am hoping that you lovely folks will participate in my upcoming February show, "Outside Notions of Antarctica."

I’m looking for your ideas of Antarctica—informed, idealized, or entirely fabricated. Any and all mediums happily accepted, so long as 1. you can ship it to me without violating customs agreements and 2. it’s small. As you might imagine based on the name, Under the Bed Gallery has limited space, so please keep 2D submissions to 8.5”x11” or smaller, and with 3D pieces… well, be reasonable. And know that anything shipped in a box takes a very, very long time to get down here. Feel free to submit poems, prose or any sort of audio, and if you have a performance piece that I can somehow make happen, let’s chat.

Send submissions to:
Tessa Hulls, NANA
McMurdo Station
PSC 469 Box 700
APO AP 96599

ALL SUBMISSIONS MUST BE POSTMARKED BY JANUARY 1, 2012!! Delivery times are wildly inconsistent down here, so it’s best to err on the side of caution. If you would like your piece returned, please include appropriate shipping and handling. Otherwise (and this strikes me as a much more mutually beneficial arrangement), I will install it somewhere strange down here and send you a picture of its new icy home.

If you would like to collaborate in other ways, chances are I will be very excited about any ideas you might happen to have… Want me to wear a People's Republic of Cascadia scarf and spread the word about the Northwest secessionist movement? Leave a copy of your book in the library? Send you a picture of something strange and provide you with absolutely no context? Shout your poem out to a seal? I'm probably down.

Please spread the word to interested parties! 

Under the Bed is currently set up as my studio. Here's a picture; it's quite cozy... I spend a lot of time down here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Antarctic Erotica

Sorry it's been a while since the last post... I am still alive, well, and ludicrously busy, and I have been continuing to draw Antarctic comics. And about a gazillion other things. I have plans for some lengthier posts in the next few days/weeks, but for now here is a crazy landscape picture (I know, I've fallen a bit behind in posting those...):
and some pictures of "Mustache Alley," because people tend to have a sense of humor about organization down here:
and a comic about Antarctic Erotica:

I have a new project that I am VERY excited about, and it's going to require your participation... more on that soon! Like within the next 24 hours, unless I get distracted. Which, I will concede, happens pretty often down here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Birthday contemplation

It's my birthday today (international dateline-- not only do I get to be in Antarctica, I get to be from the future, too) and I am feeling extraordinarily grateful for everything I've learned from the past, inspired by the present, and excited for all the adventures of the future. A big thanks to all you amazing people in my life who keep me inspired and full of wonder. It seems fitting today to share with you the comic that I always keep above my various art makin' spaces:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

SKUA: Antarctica's Permanent Free Bin

In spite of the very limited number of animals down here on the ice, Antarctica does have its very own obnoxious pest: the skua. Skuas look a lot like brownish seagulls, and they brazenly attempt to steal anything and everything that seems even in the slightest bit edible. They've started to show up in earnest the past few weeks as the temperatures have been warming (it's been hitting the mid 20's, and is even starting to creep up into the 30's, which feels INSANELY warm to me. I never really posted about some of the colder days we've seen on station, but I have been outside in -40, just to give you an idea of the weird things that have started to seem normal to me), and they hang out near the loading dock of the galley quite a bit. They have a scavenging technique that involves using a "bait skua" that sits right in front of you and lets you get within a few feet of it, distracting you while its compatriots sneak up behind and to attack your food and shiny things. Fascinatingly wily, eh?

Someone made this delightful ceramic skua; he lives in the library. I read next to him a lot. 
Skuas are pretty cool animals, but there's a second and far superior sort of Skua down here. I shall try to explain to you, but it's hard to know where to start. Those of you who know me well will probably quickly understand why I find this to be, hands down, one of the most fascinating and overwhelming sources of creative fodder I have ever encountered. McMurdo basically has an entire building that functions as a permanent free bin. People are often abandoning things they don't want to lug back to the mainland, and no one really knows what to bring to Antarctica, so it's kept well stocked with... just... everything you could ever possibly hope to find. I draw very little distinction between the roles of artist and sociologist, so I've made it a part of my normal routine to stop by Skua every few days to document and ponder some of the best finds. 

Here's a picture to give you a general idea. This really doesn't do the randomness of this place any justice. There is SO MUCH treasure to be found in here.... 

And here's a comic, because I can't seem to stop drawing them. Eventually I'll learn to make them a little smaller so they'll scan better...

In other news, I continue to be inhumanly busy. I would say that I have about my usual half dozenish creative projects going, but I've never had to contend with a 60 hour workweek before. This is the first time in my life that I'm having to face up to the fact that even my ninja-like time management skills cannot make it possible for me to do everything I want to do down here. So I've picked my battles, and have given up some things that are usually pretty dear to me-- namely sleep (well, that's not really true: sleep has never been high on my list of priorities), bourbon, exercise and anything resembling a normal social life. 

That's how damn inspiring I find this place.

I have decided that, for my time here, I'm going to try to live as though I am here through the Antarctic Artists and Writers Program instead of being here as a cook. I will try to pretend I'm not at work in the kitchen 6 days a week, and that it is instead my job to draw and write and listen and paint 60 hours a week, and I will sleep in March. It will be just like one very, very long day. Which, really, is what this whole year has felt like.

I made another comic that kind of touches on the wonderful insanity of this pace:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Whiskey Gingers at the End of the World

Just in case I hadn't already taken on enough outside of work activities (I love ridiculously over committing myself to art and writing projects that I don't really have time for!), I'm writing a column about drinking in Antarctica for my friends over at The Alcohol Enthusiast. Check out the inaugural column for Whiskey Gingers at the End of the World.

I took an additional part time job bartending down here, so expect some good fodder and some whiskey related comics!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Record Room

I've been debating whether or not to write about this room because a part of me is really drawn to the fact that it's a bit of a secret, and that you more or less only stumble upon it because someone who already knows about it has grandfathered you in. But seeing as most of you probably won't make the trek down here (although I highly recommend that you do!), I'll go ahead and tell you about it:

They've been replacing all the equipment in the radio room (it used to look a bit like a beat up 70's lounge and now it looks like a spaceship), so it's been out of commission for radio shows for the past few weeks, but soon I'll be hosting my own two hour radio show. My plan is to delve through the record room and do themed shows; I'm thinking of starting with "Whiskey," and am open to suggestions for future themes.
I did some inquisitive youtube searching to see how many of the weird things I've found down here have been digitized in some capacity, and have been surprised and impressed to see how many of these obscure... uh... gems have made their way onto the internet. To give you a small sampling of some of the stuff I've found in here:
Around the World With The Rubber Duck 
Mr. T Public Service Announcement
Baroque Hoedown
And here is my personal favorite, just to prove to you that sometimes I do find really gorgeous, moving things in amongst the novelty: the Robert Shaw Chorale singing Shenandoah
and them again singing Auld Lyne Syne.

Have I mentioned that I love it here? I find this place to be so overwhelmingly inspiring, and it's a cruel tease to have to steal precious sketchbook moments in tiny little chunks between work and play. I wish each day had about ten more hours in it....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Gender Ratio

My dad and I are both voracious readers, and when I decided to come down here, he gave me a copy of Kim Stanley Robinson’s book “Antarctica.” There’s a line in the opening chapter that says something to the effect of, “Bringing a boyfriend to McMurdo is like bringing your own sandwich to a buffet.” There’s certainly some truth to that. 

 Here's another picture from the Halloween party that nicely illustrates my point. Two of these gentlemen are my suite mates (I live in a flamboyant tiki lounge that is the informal epicenter of the McMurdo gay community-- don't worry, I will elaborate on this in some later post, complete with illustrations), and their costume is a reference to the fact that OSHA safety regulations say that for any object heavier than 40 pounds, you must find a second person and perform a team lift. I told them I'd make their t-shirts and give them all sharpie sailor tattoos with their supervisor's name on them if they bought all my whiskey for the night. Totally mutually beneficial arrangement.

The current gender ratio here on station stands at 28.2% female and 71.8% male. This is actually less noticeable than one might expect, as cold weather gear makes it impossible to discern gender when anyone is outside, and even indoors, the first thing your eyes register is an impressive expanse of gender neutral carhartt overalls. But when you stop and look for it, you do realize that there are a loootttt more men than women down here. Most of this can be chalked up to the fact that the majority of the jobs available are in the trades, and the fact of the matter is that most mechanics, electricians and heavy equipment operators are men.

Working in the galley, the gender balance is somewhat more even (what with women knowing their role and staying in the kitchen and all… Kidding: the women down here are decidedly not of the submissive wallflower variety), although there are definitely still quite a few more men than women.

Whatever the reasons are, this gender balance makes for some incredibly interesting social dynamics. I’ve been wanting to do a series of graphic novel-ish illustrations about day to day life down here,  so here is my first attempt. I’ve never worked in this medium before (brush pen and India ink), so it felt a little awkward, but satisfying. Also, the only scanner I could find is too small for the paper I used, so it's kinda weirdly cropped: 
And I had so much fun with that one that I did another little one about a hike I went on last week: 

I’ve been thinking it would also be a fun project to illustrate a series of McMurdo Missed Connections: “You: Female (I hope? Could have been a beard tucked away under that balaklava?) Walking to the mail room in a white out, was drawn to the alluring way you clutched your hood closer to your face to block out the wind. Drinks at Southern sometime? Me: Male, bearded, wearing carhartt overalls and a Big Red.”

It’s strange being in an environment in which my gender makes me something of a scarce commodity, and, as a cook, I have the added allure of being one of a very small handful of people on station who is able to say the three words guaranteed to win over any heart: I have avocados. I feel a bit like I’ve ended up in Vegas at a point where I don’t really feel like going to casinos and would instead rather stay in and read a good book. Funny how these things work out, eh?

Gender isn’t something that I put much thought to in my stationary life, but it is a topic that comes up constantly when I am traveling (or, as it turns out, when I’m in Antarctica). I always travel by myself, and as such, I’m very, very used to people telling me that it’s not safe for a woman to travel alone. It’s easy enough to hear from men, because with them you can just politely listen and smile and tell them that you disagree, and then go out and live your life in a way that proves them unequivocally wrong.
But it’s always heartbreaking for me to hear other women tell me that they wouldn’t feel safe traveling alone, and how they don’t feel strong enough to do it. I wish that those women would go out and experience the overwhelming hospitality and inherent goodness of strangers, but I know that they never will. If you go out already determined to be afraid, you will find things to reinforce your fear.

I can get pretty angry about the self perpetuating myth that travel isn't safe for a solo female, and I think part of the reason I choose to travel the way that I do is because I want to do my part to chip away at an unwarranted culture of fear. Sure, bad things happen, but hiding yourself in the cloistered safety of the familiar isn’t going to protect you from those things. It just saddens me that so many people have been brought up on the myth that the world outside of their immediate horizon is populated by bad people who want to do them harm. 

Sorry for the soapbox moment... Just happens to be a topic I have strong opinions on. Expect more comics from me! I'm having fun with them!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween in Antarctica

Howdy friends. I'm out of commission with a nasty cold, so I won't say much about Halloween down here. Only that it was as ridiculous as one might expect. Following my trend of the last few years (Little Prince's asteroid, a giant angler fish), I made a costume of something I dearly love:

We took another Occupy Wall Street Picture with all of us in our costumes.
You know... I think this picture says all that needs saying. I'm going back to bed.