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...is a designer and researcher with a background in architecture. Her work explores the nature of reality and unreality, imagines alternatives to all-too-familiar narratives, and speculates on the unintended consequences of emerging technologies.




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Mark
> NO-POLE (Work in Progress)



NO-POLE is an ongoing research and design project. It synthesizes rigorous research and world-building techniques to create a breeding ground for alternate imaginations and design speculations at varying scales, by exploring non-binary alternatives, unconventional models of reality, indigenous mythology, geography and algorithms.

The project is imagined as an unintended consequence of the ongoing territorial dispute in the Arctic, where data has become the currency of sovereignty. The scramble to claim the 1.1 million square mile area surrounding the North Pole, currently international waters, is fueled by the promises of global warming: access to troves of untapped resources below the seabed and control over new shipping routes through the thawing sea ice.




1. “Map of Territorial Claims”

The dispute is mediated by UNCLOS (the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), between Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the US. In order to substantiate their respective territorial claims, each Arctic nation uses algorithms to collect and process an assortment of seismic, geologic and topographic data, in the hopes of proving that the portions of seabed in question are a natural continuation of their continental shelf and therefore rightfully theirs. What results from the situation is an unusual type of international conflict, in which authority is not wielded through the brutal use of military force, but through the possession of information. However, while colonialism may have altered its methods, the aim remains the same.  

What complicates matters in the Arctic is the fact that it remains one of the least accessible regions in the world – a continuously shifting landscape of water and ice. It is for this reason that we outsource our understanding of the territory to algorithms, and their digital reconstructions become the lens through which we see the Arctic. 

Piles of data and meta-data are harvested from the landscape using probes, webcams, sensors and satellites, which are then plugged into scientific models to algorithmically simulate interactions between data points and thereby attempt to reconstruct the original territory. The result is inevitably an abstraction of the original: shaped by what is considered typical or atypical, important or peripheral. It is therefore dangerous to simply assume that more data equals more reality.

2. “Terrain (Data Reconstruction)”


While disguising themselves as accurate representations of the Arctic and as equivalent to the Arctic, the reconstructed territories are in fact one version among many. The construct of an objective, singular ‘reality’ that these scientific models attempt to create is therefore as instable as the territory itself. 

NO-POLE considers our entanglement with these technological species, and the elusive realities emerging in their wake – non-Western and post-human. Borders become fluid (between nations and species), the invisible becomes tangible, contradictory versions coexist, and factors usually excluded as peripheral suddenly appear in the foreground. Established hierarchies between the human, the territory and the algorithm are irreversibly altered. NO-POLE exists at the fringes of our reality, and is populated by things that take up too much processing power, things that aren’t considered important or sensible, and things we don’t understand.

Welcome to the algorithmic wilderness.
 


3. “North Pole (Loop)”


The introduction of the coordinate grid to cartography gave rise to the symbolic value of the North Pole as the point of convergence of a global system. A successful claim of the pole seems to suggest an symbolic mastery of the Arctic. Ironically, this singular and fixed North Pole does not exist - what the coordinate system so rigidly attempts to fix into place is undermined by the fact that the pole is perpetually wandering across the Earth’s surface. This animation shows a North Pole that seems to exist in multiples, and continues slipping through Western systems of classification.

 




4. (left) “Border Dispute (between Norway & Russia) + Seismic Pulse + Dolphin”


Generated from actual data collected in the Arctic, these unusual data collisions give form to what is usually overlooked. 

Seismic blasting is essential to resolve a border dispute at sea. Generally omitted from this are the damaging effects of seismic pulses on whales and dolphins. Since these three data sets are never seen in the same context, what might exist at their intersection? An alternate approach to data visualization becomes an alternate representation of a border, merging the coordinates of the border in question with the wave of a seismic pulse and the skin of a dolphin.

5. (middle) “Seal Migration + Ice Extent + Inuit Goddess” 


Seal migration routes merge with annual ice extent data and an Inuit sea goddess who shape-shifts from ice to seal. By allowing the framework of the myth to give form to this combination of data, alternate models of reality can be tested.

6. (right) “Magnetic Storm, 2003 (Conflicting Data)”


An encounter of three conflicting data sets of a magnetic storm in 2003. By allowing three contradictory versions of the event to coexist, the data is brought into a dialogue that is at odds with the singular reality predicated by Western science.




7. “Shadow of a Polar Bear”  /  Indicative Render of Final Piece  /  WIP


As polar bears are invisible to infrared imaging, their shadows might be their only trace within the wilderness of NO-POLE. Reminiscent of a hunting trophy, this piece is a rug in the shape of the shadow of a polar bear. The materiality of the piece is site-specific, as if it in itself is a shadow on the ground.



8. “Humans Classified by Volume”  /  WIP


A glance into the algorithmic wilderness, drawing inspiration from algorithms that specialize in analyzing shadows in satellite imagery to remotely calculate the volume of oil tanks. Whilst we make use of this information to hasten the global economic arms race and fuel geopolitical tensions, the algorithms continue processing. A world classified by volumes and shadows. What do we look like to them? These pieces are currently a work in progress; to be 3D printed and finished in a glossy black, reminiscent of the oil the algorithms are tasked to measure.



9. “Section through NO-POLE”  /  WIP






10. “Section through NO-POLE”  /  Animation Stills  /  WIP














Mark