New Zealand artists have been going to Antarctica to look at the snow for a decade or so now, and when I hear there's someone else ready to board the Hercules, palette knife or Leica in hand, my heart sinks. I have to confess to being inherently disinterested in the Antarctic. (I wavered a little when I watched Marcus Lush's terrific Ice TV show, but that was probably more due to his gratuitous horseplay with the terrible static electricity that builds up on the nylon carpets at Scott Base.) Likewise I find it hard to care about under-the-sea volcanoes, Mt. Everest, or outer space, and if I heard that an artist was ready to set off to one of these places, I wouldn't be anticipating the result with much excitement.
Yet there has been some interesting work made in response to the ice, and every time I've seen it, I've been pleasantly surprised. There's Anne Noble's seminal Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica (2005), which reveals the icy landscape as a photographic opportunity in the making.
One of my favourite Antarctic images was made in Sydney. This is Gavin Hipkins's The Homely: Sydney (Hood) (2001). It speaks of the mystery and menace and blankness of the Antarctic, as well as the talismanic nature of objects which have returned from the ice.
Ronnie van Hout's one of the 2007-8 Arts Fellows in Antarctica. And actually, I can't wait to see what he'll make of the experience. Maybe, as with all good art, what it really comes down to is the calibre of the artist rather than the specific nature of the environment they're in. There's no such thing as a good or a bad subject...