Snow Day in September in ASCUS Lab

The first Saturday in September was an early ‘snow day’ in ASCUS Lab, in true ASCUS style. In the first workshop of its kind, Snow Shift: Reimagining Snow Data, we aimed to shift the perspective on snow.

We welcomed twelve artists and designers, snow scientists Prof Richard Essery and Dr. Cecile Menard from the University of Edinburgh and visual artist and curator, Natalie McIlroy. The day was packed full of inspiring conversation and creativity, responding to snow science research

Snow Scale and Data Immersion

The group went on a journey of scale, from microscopic snowflake to kilometers of snow cover with Dr. Essery. The artists discovered how satellites are used in the different sites in Alaska, Canada, Finland, France, Switzerland and Sweden and the significance of ‘watermelon snow’, snow coloured by algae. They then became immersed in the dots and curves of the data sets of maritime, arctic, boreal and mid-latitude alpine areas Dr. Menard uses in her research. The artists were enlightened on how to read the data and how the curves and undulations of the data show exactly what’s happening with the weather on a particular day.


Collaborative, Imagined and Changing Landscapes

The creative responses opened and concluded the day’s activities. To get the juices flowing, the group designed collaborative, imagined Boreal, Arctic, and Maritime landscapes using a surrealist ‘exquisite corpse’ technique. The real and imagined features of the landscapes generated captivating discussion to begin the day’s exchanges. We brought the workshop to a close with making. The artists created ‘changing landscapes’ with photographs, ice, dye, and soil, and made animation flipbooks using imagery and data.


The Inspiration and Conversation Continues

The workshop connected visual artists, multidisciplinary artists, environmental artists, textile artists, and jewelry designers. Some artists had been working with snow and ice already. Respectively, they had an interest in snow and ice as a material, in the tools of snow science, in data visualisation, in environmental patterns and in how humans interact with snow and ice. We checked in with the artists four months after the workshop.

Carol Mueller was inspired by snow and crystallisation and sent us this image, ‘From Earth to Snow” taken in Enonkoski, Finland

Image courtesy of Carol Mueller

Nicola Murray has a new short moving image piece titled ‘Folly‘ indirectly inspired by the day’s exchanges. The work will be included in the SSA/Cutlog selected works showreel of moving image artwork on show between December 22nd and February 5th, 2020 at the SSA/VAS 2019 exhibition in the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh. Murray said, “considering ‘snow’ from a new angle prompted me to dig back into my freezer and develop a new time-lapse ‘melting’ piece to add to my collection.” She sent us a preview image

Image courtesy of Nicola Murray

David Kramaric became interested in the social and cultural significance of snow, especially in language. “Inuit language has fifty different words for snow, while Gaelic more than forty for rain. The English language is missing the poetic and emotional link to the resource.” Kramaric plans to create either an artist book or installation based on his research.

Penelope Cain found inspiration in the narratives around data collection and scientific interpretation, particularly inspired by the word ‘hysteresis’, a known phenomenon affecting scientific research and ‘albedo’, a term for light reflection. These terms were discovered by the artist in Prof Essery and Dr. Menard’s research papers. She will focus on this terminology next year.

We will check in with the artists again next year.

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