Gender on Ice Gallery S&F Online

Anne Noble

next artist >

Art (Click images below to enlarge)

noble photo 1 noble photo 2 noble photo 3 noble photo 4
noble photo 5 noble photo 6 noble photo 8 noble photo 9

Statement About the Artist

Anne Noble is more than a photographer of the Antarctic: she is discoverer of the visual history of the Ice. Noble has been on the trail of the last continent from the vantage point of New Zealand for some years now, and visited the Ice (as the New Zealanders call Antarctica) on a tourist ship and as part of the NZ Antarctic program. As Gender On Ice is published, Noble is the guest of the U.S. National Science Foundation Artists and Writers Program, photographing the ever-shifting ice.

Antarctica, to Anne Noble, begins in the imagination. Its medium has been photography. As Noble states, ". . . our sense of the Antarctic comes from the long tradition of 'heroic' photography . . . from wilderness and tourism photography and museum displays. . . that reinforce images we have already seen." For Noble this means that much of her Antarctic photography takes place in sites off-continent, in tourist cruise ships, museum installations, historic artifacts, traveling exhibits and family-style entertainments such as "Kelly Tarleton's Antarctic Experience," a well-known tourist attraction in Auckland, NZ, where live penguins on display vie with life size recreations of the interior of Scott's hut, down to the detail of the contents of the explorers' bookshelves. Noble questions the formulaic power of Heroic Age representation in re-photography. In her notorious rephotographing of the Scottish 1902-04 national expedition's well-known image, "The Piper and the Penguin," the kilted bagpiper still screams Scotsman on ice, and the penguin, not so subtly tethered to a tambour, remains the Scotsman's captive audience, now through layers of time and irony. Noble is herself an Antarctic curator in the broadest sense, providing a cultural history of Antarctic representation through her own substantial body of work, as well as her editorial work in the 2007 special issue on Antarctica of New Zealand Journal of Photography.

This engagement with how Antarctica is imaged, produced, and circulated characterizes Noble's recent work. In 2006 Noble created a suite of images and artifacts displayed at a New Zealand gallery that played with both the commodification of Antarctica and the art market in which her work on Antarctica inevitably takes on meaning and value, as it circulates knowledge about the least capitalized place on earth. Noble was inspired to create "Antarctic Shopping Party" when she came across "mention of the organization Antarctic-Link, Canterbury. One of their key objectives is to build a marketable Antarctic product-set for Christchurch New Zealand, to help brand the city as a 'Gateway to Antarctica . . .." Keeping in mind tourist shop creations such as stuffed penguins and krill key rings, explorer logo mugs, T-shirts and the like, Noble crafted consumables such as Antarctica shaped (iced) cakes and cookies, a continent-shaped jigsaw puzzle, and CDs and video tapes branded with the image of the continent—all for sale at the gallery. Locked into the parody is a " . . . sadness . . . about the desire and longing for that transcendental feeling of place and how it becomes a thing we consume." As beautiful and enjoyable as Noble's Antarctic objects may be for an audience, their appreciation is innately linked to a sense of loss of the object of Antarctica, here so complexly represented. In her "Whiteout" project, Noble engages another type of loss, a visual one, as she points her lens mercilessly into Antarctic icescapes that lack horizon, color fields, or any conventional markers of place. Seeing Antarctica as Noble presents it in "Whiteout" becomes as perilous an act as navigating the white expanse of the Ice.

The ways culture has created to know and to interact with Antarctica is most simply seen in the map, an economic object that both represents and circulates Antarctica. Anne writes of her map series: "This collection of maps points to the way visual colonization of place occurs as a part of the way that we map, photograph, organise, define, and interpret place." Expanding on the idea that photography is complicit in the evolution of an Antarctic economy, Noble finds maps in obvious and strange places. Amid plastic blow up world maps and other casual ephemera, a chilling reminder of early corporate involvement appears in the British Petroleum map of Antarctica from 1955. Following up a lead from her stay at New Zealand's Scott base, a nicely preserved set piece from the 1950s, Noble discovered the map in the archives of the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, NZ. The BP map is shaped as a board game and is an accidental witness to the foundational, and taken for granted, influence of petrochemical corporations in the creation of Antarctic place.

Noble's Antarctic vision is so varied and deeply thought that it reminds us of a most important and overlooked fact: Antarctica is not a single or unified place. It is not timeless, or an empty signifier for sublimity, or a culturally neutral notion of grandeur. Noble is more interested in the ways "grandeur plays out in an artificial environment" both on the continent and in other locations. Noble has pieced together a global "puzzle" of multiple, competing, and even incoherent Antarcticas. This inexhaustible Antarctica ultimately has no sure origin or foregone end. Noble's remapped representational histories have profound implications for geopolitics: who owns this place, or even its image?

Statement by Elena Glasberg. All quotes from: "A Landscape Brought to Light." The Age. 13 September 2008.

Artist Links



next artist >

subhankar banerjee : joyce campbell : andrea juan : isaac julien : an-my lê : jane d. marsching : anne noble : andrea polli : annie pootoogook : connie samaras : marina zurkow

© 2008 Barnard Center for Research on Women | S&F Online - Issue 7.1: Fall 2008 - Gender on Ice