Cultural events at Davis

Steve explains some of his art exhibited inside the Davis radome on 31 January 2003.
Steve explains some of his art exhibited inside the Davis radome on 31 January 2003. (Photo: J Smith)
Aldo discusses art works on display in the Davis radome on 31 January 2003.Some of Steve's art works on display in the Davis radome on 31 January 2003.Gifts and speeches with Chinese, Russian and Australian expeditioners at the Zhong Shan banquet on 31 January 2003.

31 January 2003

Davis expeditioners experienced two significant cultural events on the last day of January. One was an art show at Davis itself, the other a celebration for the start of the Chinese Spring Festival at Zhong Shan Station attended by six people from Davis.

Steve E is an Australian artist who has been at Davis for the past two months under the AAD's humanities program, together with video-cameraman Matthew R., who is making a film about Steve's creation of art works in an Antarctic setting. The two of them proposed putting on a show for all Davis expeditioners toward the end of their stay at Davis, as a social occasion and to allow the rest of the community to see, appreciate and criticise Steve's works.

The setting was novel: inside the radome, a large weatherproof (but unheated) sphere constructed to protect the satellite dish through which all the station's electronic communications pass. The geometric pattern of panels forming the dome, contrasting with the angular metal support struts, itself provided an artistically interesting backdrop. There were paintings and sketches on wood and fabric, many with stitching as an additional medium, exploring aspects of our unusual environment of rock, water, ice and sky, and its influences upon an isolated group of people.

Matthew describes the event:

A fitting finale to my time at Davis was the stupendous cultural event of the summer, Stephen Eastaugh's exhibition of artwork he has completed down here. This amazing show was held in the ANARESAT dome, the geodesic wizardry proving a fitting space to set the scene. There was live acoustic classical guitar played by Tony G, canapes and nibbles provided by our good chef, Meredith N., and her able assistant Marjolein van P, accompanied by red wine and home-brewed beer.

Doors opened at 4pm and it was bring your own beret and cravat. If I hadn't been there I would not have believed it. An Antarctic station load of intrepid and quite gnarly expeditions transformed into swooning and sometimes frowning art critics. Everybody had an opinion! The artwork was beautifully set off on white walls installed by Mick 'Shacko' K, Chris 'Google' L and Jeff 'The Postman' B, with lighting strategically hung by Felice 'Flea' P. For two hours the place went off. People perusing, purchasing, quaffing and waxing. Art had come to town and the people were alive! Congratulations Steve.

While this event was unfolding, six other Davis expeditioners had flown by helicopter to Zhong Shan station 120 km down the coast. They had been invited by Wei Wen-liang, Leader of the 19th CHINARE (Chinese Antarctic Research Expedition) to attend a banquet for the celebration of Chinese Spring Festival. Jeremy Smith went as station leader, taking engineering services supervisor Janine L, senior weather observer Geoff F, atmospheric physicist Frances P and two pilots, Rick P and John G.

Old friends were met, and new friends made. Davis enjoys close collaboration with Zhong Shan particularly in weather observing and in atmospheric physics research, and several of our Chinese hosts were already known to some of our party. Also present were three members of the nearby Russian station, Progress 2, and their station leader had previously met Rick elsewhere in Antarctica. The Antarctic community is multinational, but close!

Zhong Shan is beginning a rebuilding program, and we were interested to see the new living quarters under construction. Problems and experiences were shared; it turned out that they were short of some small but necessary engine parts and Janine was able to promise their delivery from Davis. Gifts were exchanged, photographs taken.

The banquet was lavish, followed by entertainments. By midnight it was over – but midnight Zhong Shan time is 2.00 am at Davis. When the Australian contingent found that snow prevented their immediate return home by helicopter, they were very ready to fall into the beds hospitably provided at short notice. Altogether it had been a wonderful occasion, further cementing old ties of international friendship and collaboration that are such a hallmark of Antarctica.