Saturday, February 11, 2012

Under the Bed: Outside Notions of Antarctica

As someone who has always loved coming up with silly collaborative projects, I often find myself in the position of organizing something and having absolutely no idea who, if anyone, is going to play along and participate. There invariably comes a point at which I wonder why on earth I have once again decided to charge off to do something epic and time consuming that leaves me masochistically busy. But then that point is always followed by the part where people make incredible things, and community is built and fun is had, and I am left delighted and renewed by the whole undertaking.
Under the Bed took on a life of its own. A few months ago, I asked my artist friends to make art about their Outside Notions of Antarctica. Well. They did. And they spread the word. All told, I received work from over thirty artists (much more than that if you count the third grade and high school classes that sent submitted art, but for simplicity's sake I'm considering each class one very large person) hailing from California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, New York, Alabama, Maryland and Massachusetts. This left me with the fantastic problem of having too much art to fit under my bed, particularly because some people-- ahem, my dad-- chose to completely ignore the size parameters I had set in my call of art.  Because I'd initially asked for tiny art so it would fit under my bed, I felt that it was important to honor the venue.

So I decided to bite the bullet and go through official channels, and I got permission to set up a BUNK bed in Gallagher's Pub, one of the two and a half* bars here on station. Things on station are incredibly hectic right now, as the mainbody crew is starting to go home, and the once-every-two-years resupply vessel is about to arrive. As such, rooms are jam packed and housing couldn't actually loan me an empty bed, so I used my own, and tracked down someone who happened to have an unoccupied bed in their room.

One of the nice things about doing this showing of Under the Bed as a formally recognized event was that I was given the help of the General Assistants (GA's) in setting up. The GA's have pretty much the best job on station; while their job is entry level and doesn't pay well at all, these guys get to go EVERYWHERE. As the title implies, they go wherever help is needed, and so they're always jetting off to field camps and hopping in helicopters to shovel snow and drive snowmobiles all over the continent. I am very, very jealous.

The GA's are my favorite group of people on station, probably because they are the ones who most remind me of the sort of people I am generally friends with back home. As a whole, they're an outdoorsy and gregarious bunch who are competent, down to earth and often hilarious. And I don't know if this just happens to be a particularly good year for GA's, but they are also quite easy on the eyes. Sometimes they rotate through the galley, and because I'm friends with them, they come work with me in my little tucked away Empire of Salad Land, and then the other cooks accuse me of stealing all the eye candy.

Anyways, this is my GA friend Buddy out monitoring fuel lines. This picture pretty much sums up how I think of the GA's: fly fishing, porn, and getting to do all sorts of random weird jobs around station. 

That was a bit of a random tangent wasn't it? Ok, onwards and upwards to Under the Bed. I did the best that I could to document, but the turnout for the show was absolutely ridiculous, and once things really got rolling, I had very little time to take pictures of anything.

I got off work on Thursday after working 9 days straight, gratefully grabbed 10 minutes to shower, and then rounded up my GA's, and set about taking apart my beds and moving them into the bar. 

A friend who is in charge of the laundry room** hooked me up with sheets to use for the gallery walls, and we strung bailing wire across the bed legs for hanging cables, and wove rope lights through the mattress webbing for a light source.

The Under the Bed Gallery. Looks all warm and inviting sitting there in the middle of the bar, doesn't it? 

Gallery sign. The selection of acrylics in the craft room down here was somewhat limited, so I ended up using some very non-Antarctic colors.

We had everything set up and ready to go right around 7pm, and people started trickling in at a little before 7:30.  

And then things got crazy. 

This is a portion of the line to get in. The wait to get in was well over an hour, and the line snaked all the way around the bar. I have no idea how many people came, but the bar was completely packed, and many people were unfortunately not able to make it under the bed to see the show before the bar closed. Which is really the best sort of problem to have with any sort of opening. 

All of the artists wanted their work to find homes down here in Antarctica, and I decided that the best way to make this happen was to give the art away to whoever wanted it the most. With this in mind, I whipped up a handy little form for people to fill out...
People did take me up on trying to bribe me with bourbon, so that also has something to do with why I didn't do the best job of remembering to take pictures as the night went on. 
 Free Art Forms (FAF's, because in Antarctica we make everything an acronym (IAWMEAA))

 Someone folded their form into a paper airplane, and it snowballed from there.

As people were waiting in line, many of them asked if the art was for sale, and I really enjoyed being able to say that it was all free. Creativity and commerce make for awkward bedfellows, and in a perfect world, art would always go to whoever is the most moved by it, not to whoever can afford it... 

Here is a random assortment of pictures of the inside of the gallery. It's mighty hard to photograph in such a crowded, tiny space, but I did the best I could. 

 Nudity is a fairly common occurrence down here in Antarctica, so this piece was quite popular.
The winning FAF.

 Kelly Owens, Seattle, WA

Rachel Rader, Seattle, WA

John Boylan, Seattle, WA

 Rebecca Reilly, Denver, CO
This piece by Bill Fahey was one of the crowd favorites. Many people argued passionately for why it should go to them, but there was a clear winner. My friends Matt and Baxter work out at the Pegasus runway, and they, quite frankly, have waaaayyyy too much free time out there. So naturally, they brought a dinosaur coloring book out there with them, and they started a wall of dinosaur drawings. Everyone pitches in, and the firefighters out there spend huge portions of their day coloring. I wanted to post a picture for you, but I don't have one... I'll track one down and post it later. Here are a few entertaining FAF's about this piece: 
"My mother doesn't believe in dinosaurs, she thinks they are a worldwide government conspiracy." Amazing.

This piece by Jed Dunkerley was also very popular, although some viewers were unsure if the artist is aware that polar bears do not live in Antarctica. The artist's bio did not help clarify this:

"I am an illustrator, collaborator, performer and high school art teacher in Seattle. I painted the scene with a herd of hundreds of polar bears roaming the ice shelf just like they did in real life Antarctica, before they were hunted to extinction by the Eskimos. I wanted to be as realistic as possible, so I showed them engaged in activities that polar bears engage in, like swimming, eating things with blood in them, and humping. I made this to raise awareness about the movement to reintroduce the polar bears to their native habitat." 

I tried to help with this situation by posting a photograph I happen to have of the artist wearing a "no polar bears in Antarctica shirt." Oddly, someone stole said photograph. 

Here are some FAF's about this piece: 
The piece is going up to the Arctic, where its new owner promises that she'll try to take a picture of it with a real live polar bear. 
 Another crowd favorite, by Jackie Margolis of Bethesda, MA

Sophie Yanow, Montreal, CA

Most people were pretty good about sending me tiny art, but as I mentioned earlier, my dad chose to completely ignore the fact that the gallery was going under a bed,*** and he sent me a large kinetic penguin sculpture. 

The artist's description of the piece: 
My real claim to any recognition in Antarctica is that I am Tessa's dad, but I am also currently a guest at the Centre for Environmental Biology at Lawrence Berkeley, helping with work on microbial ecology.
My artwork is a kinetic sculpture, the Penguilum, inspired by Tessa's comments about lack of penguins and an idle fascination with the work of Ernst Mach (1838-1916),  who came up with the pendulum wave idea.   While he made numerous contributions to science and philosophy, he is most famous for his work on shock waves and supersonic speeds which lead to the development of the Mach number, wherein Mach 1 describes speed at which flight becomes supersonic.  Obviously, penguins are not fast enough.

Many, many people wanted this one, but again there was a clear winner. This person first won me over by her decision to ignore the front of the form and write whatever she wanted on the back, and then I loved her argument:

You may have seen Karen Joyce in Herzog's "Encounters at the End of the World." She is the woman who fits herself into the tiny orange bag. Anyways, she's the proud new owner of the penguilum.

I have many, many more pictures, but am going to call it quits for now as
1. this post is getting epically long
2. I LEAVE ANTARCTICA IN LESS THAN 3 DAYS!!!!! And I really, really, really need to pack. And find some way to come to terms with saying my goodbyes with this place. 
I imagine you'll be getting an introspective post about leavings and homecomings from me, but then again, maybe not; this whole year has seen me with zero time to really reflect before charging off to the next thing, and I'm not sure that's something that's going to change.

So I'll just end with a big thank you to: 

Claire Siepser Tuscaloosa, AL
Bill Fahey Seattle, WA
John Hulls Point Reyes, CA
Rachel Rader Seattle, WA
Jackie Margolis Bethesda, MD
Marie Gangon Seattle, WA
Anna McKee Seattle, WA
Martha Cederstrom Forest Knolls, CA
Sophia Larsen Forest Knolls, CA
The Wallabies Massachusetts
Annakalmia Traver Brooklyn, NY
Meghann Riepenhoff San Francisco, CA
Eric Carson Seattle, WA
Rebecca Reilly Denver, CO
Sarah Diehl Seattle, WA
Kelly Owens Seattle, WA
Nichole Rathburn Seattle, WA
Larry Cwik Portland, OR
Klara Glosova Seattle, WA
John Boylan Seattle, WA
Sophie Yanow Montreal, Canada
Jed Dunkerley Seattle, WA
Vivian Hua Portland, OR
Ellie Ray Portland, OR
Saskia Delores Seattle, WA
Jess Engle Leadville, CO
Theadora Tolkin Brooklyn, NY
Leah Faw Oakland, CA
Zach Gore Seattle, WA

And a few sneak preview shots of where I've been taking the art:
The Wallabies Newbury, Mass

Eric Carson Seattle, WA

Sarah Diehl Seattle, WA

The Wallabies Newbury, Mass

*there are two bars and one coffee house. The coffee house serves whiskey and wine, so it's sort of a bar, but generally more mellow. I have not seen people take their shirts off and dance on tables at the coffee house. Cannot say the same for Southern Exposure or Gallagher's.
**interesting Antarctic fact: due to a very dry climate and overtaxed dryers, we have frequent laundry room fires down here. We've had to evacuate the building because of them a few times.
***ever have those moments where you realize you're too much like your parents? Yeah... We both get projects lodged in our heads and ignore practical things that might impede doing them exactly as we want to


  1. Thank you! Oooh - any chance there'll be dinosaur+big red t-shirts for sale in the store next season? Maybe online on Threadless? You could so finance your "off season" with the proceeds. And make tons of friends.

    Once again, envy at the awesome season you're having, and many thanks for sharing!

  2. Cool Tessa! Thanks for letting me participate and for working so hard to make it awesome. The turn out was amazing.

  3. I love the idea that, in order to have an encore of the show for folks who didn't fit, you'd have to sleep in the bar. That somehow seems wholly appropriate. Kudos for what looks like an amazing evening! - Leah

    1. Oh, and PS your Dad is at Berkeley? You should come visit us here in the other land of perpetual sunshine. I'd love to buy you some Bourbon. - L

  4. Cool. I'm big in Antarctica. Great submissions. Thanks for being so silly.

  5. Easily, the article is actually the best topic on this registry related issue. I fit in with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your next updates. Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the fantasti c lucidity in your writing. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates.
    buying mattresses