Arts in Antarctica

by Tony Richard Gardner


Book Reviews
Children's Books
DVDs & Videos
How to contact us
About us
Terms and Conditions



'Don't go looking for Antarctica without this book.' - Susan Solomon




This recent DVD release is a fascinating insight into the remote world of Antarctic exploration. Told through the medium of music, art and documentary via three separate programmes, the awesome beauty of what must be Earth's most inhospitable continent is revealed in all its glory.

Sinfonia Antarctica

In 1948 Ralph Vaughn Williams wrote the film score to the film Scott of the Antarctic, and subsequently went on to expanded the work into a full symphony that he eventually completed in 1952. And whereas Vaughn Williams' original score was conceived to accompany and compliment a film, we now come full circle with the Sinfonia Antartica that fuses breathtaking footage as a pictorial commentary to what is unquestionably one of Vaughn Williams' most emotive compositions.

The music breathes real life into the majesty conjured up by the visual impact of the pictures, effortlessly transporting the viewer to a continent that could plausibly be another planet, so stark and unending is the landscape that unfolds before you. With the use of techniques such as time lapse filming and superimposed shots of historic images of explorers, this is an emotional marrying of music and video that captures the struggle and challenge of what is tellingly described in the documentary that follows it as 'the last continent'. Journey through blizzards, across ice flows and under water with stunning modern filming techniques, while still retaining the memory of Shackleton through rare historic footage. And all the time Vaughgn Williams' music carries your emotions along, with the result that you could almost imagine what it must have been like to battle with such an environment. Almost.


The documentary Icebound, made in 1994 and subtitled '100 Years of Antarctic Discovery' details the story of those who have opened up Antarctica despite unbelievable hardships. Amundsen, Scott, Fuchs, Shackleton, Hillary and others - triumphant and desperate in equal measures, one can only have the greatest admiration for these extraordinary men who took on this frozen desert. Beautiful camera work and a narration that holds the interest to the end, this is a well executed documentary that boasts interviews with some of the leading names of the Antarctic.

The Unframed Continent

Finally, we come to The Unframed Continent, giving a brief historic overview of art in Antarctica. Three artists travel across Antarctica with the aim of producing a book of words and images inspired by Antarctica.

The photography is stunning and try's to convey how phenomenally inspiring Antarctica is for artists, and one isn't oblivious as to how privileged these men are. The landscapes would make any artists' mouth water - although aspects of the dialogue were irritating. They were in search of the evocative, emotional and spiritual. It didn't need annoying background music to promote these states. A simple verbal response would have done the job.

Our three artists are Chris, an agoraphobic cigar-smoking poet; Nigel, a vertigo suffering painter and poet; and Bill, another poet with a sense of irony. Chris searches for the hidden meanings of the scientist's quest for data and sees Antarctica as 'a dwelling place of the spirit'. Nigel is a naive painter who questions the presence of people in Antarctica and he uses his work to rewrite and rearrange history. I initially took a dislike to his work, thinking it too simplistic in content and form. However, my opinion changed, especially when seeing his work collectively, realising how much more dynamic and honest his work actually is. Meanwhile, Bill is inspired by language and finds links with poetry and scientific language and turns to rhyme - something he doesn't normally do. He is inspired by the visitor's book in Shackleton's hut, which is full of 'ironic fatuous comments'. Bill is himself ironic, dry and erudite.

Their journey takes them to Shackleton's hut, across the sea ice to a scientific base, Scott's hut, on to Antarctica's largest base, then Hillary's hut on the last leg of their journey. After which they had 24 hours to produce a book of which there are 22 copies entitled Homelight.

DVD Special Features
· Lonely Planet travel guide
· Reflections of Antarctica
· Antarctica Facts
· Websites on Antarctica

DVD published by Natural History New Zealand Limited. Copies of Sinfonia Antarctica may be ordered direct from the publisher.

© Tony Richard Gardner 2003


Home Arctic Antarctic Art Organizations Book reviews Children's books DVDs & Videos Events Museums How to contact us About us Terms and conditions

© Polar Publishing Ltd 2002-2012. All rights reserved.
Copyright infringement is a serious and criminal offence. Polar Publishing Ltd believes in policing copyright for the
benefit of both authors and readers. Polar Publishing actively pursues infringers of its or an author's copyright.