Visual artist professor finding inspiration in summer solstice expedition

By Costa Maragos Posted: June 22, 2017 6:00 a.m.

Risa Horowitz and some of her 29 fellow artists, educators and scientists on the last night on shore before boarding the Antigua to set sail, Sunday, June 11, 2017.
Risa Horowitz and some of her 29 fellow artists, educators and scientists on the last night on shore before boarding the Antigua to set sail, Sunday, June 11, 2017. Photo Courtesy of Risa Horowitz

Dr. Risa Horowitz must be feeling on top of the world these days.

Horowitz, Associate Professor in the Visual Arts Department in the Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance, is in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime residency.
It’s called the Arctic Circle Summer Solstice Expedition. Horowitz’s Arctic adventure includes a group of 29 artists, educators and scientists aboard the three-mast barquentine tall ship, the Antigua.
The three-week residency started June 12 when the group set sail from Longyearbyen in the International Norwegian Territory of Svalbard. From there, they’re crossing into the Arctic Circle to experience the Land of the Midnight Sun.

The Arctic Circle is promoted as a nexus where art intersects science, architecture, education - an incubator for thought and experimentation for artists and innovators who seek out areas of collaboration.

Horowitz says she feels humbled by her good fortune and her life of adventure as an artist.
“The Summer Solstice group includes visual and media artists, dancers and choreographers, architects and writers, filmmakers, and scientists with creative practices,” says Horowitz.

Summer Solstice
The summer solstice group is on board the Antigua, a 3-mast tall ship. Photo courtesy of Julie Forgues
Those on the trip include a visual designer and educator from Madrid; a multidisciplinary visual and sound artist based in Berlin; a professor from the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University; an installation and media artist from Toronto; a London-based choreographer; an artist/architect from Australia; a fiction and TV author from Oregon and a cinematographer from England.
All the participants were selected through a competitive process.

More information about the 2017 participants and the expedition can be found here.

Horowitz will bring together her past explorations in landscape and astronomical imaging, focusing on the midnight sun in the context of Arctic fjords and horizons.

She will create artworks in digital and large-format photography, along with video and film, also exploring performance-oriented image-making from aboard the ship and on landings (there are zodiacs on board) amidst the fjords, shores, and sea ice.

The Summer Solstice Arctic Circle Expedition 2017 kicks off Horowitz’s first sabbatical year during which she will develop finished works for public exhibition.

A solo exhibition of her work emerging from the Arctic Circle residency will take place at the Art Gallery of Regina in October 2017.

That month she will present an artist lecture about the work at the Universities Art Association of Canada Conference in Banff in a panel exploring art and science collaborations, and at the Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance Lecture Series, October 27.

Having previously attended two artist residencies at The Banff Centre, and the International Residencies Program of the Canada Council for the Arts at the Paris Studio, Horowitz is thrilled by her current adventure.

“Artist residencies are unique opportunities for artists to carry out their practices in unfamiliar environments and to develop rich international networks,” says Horowitz. "I am also pleased to collaborate with Nic Wilson, University of Regina Visual Arts MFA candidate, who I supervise, in collecting images at the site of the Global Seed Vault."

The Global Seed Vault was built to be a fail-safe seed storage facility dug into the permafrost within a mountain at Longyearbyen. It holds the world’s largest collection of crop diversity. However, meltwater has recently flooded part of the vault.

“The seed vault is a noble mission but is ultimately very vulnerable. Perhaps its true function is far more gestural than utilitarian?” says Wilson, who has received assistance for his research from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

In their collaboration, Wilson aims to articulate some of the complexities of such global gestures of salvage and safekeeping using Horowitz’s images to develop sculptural models.

Horowitz would like to gratefully acknowledge the support of the Saskatchewan Arts Board, and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Artists who have attended this residency have had dozens of supporters from around the world including The John Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, National Science Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, Institute of Physics in Ireland, Council for the Arts at MIT and the Manitoba Arts Council.