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Architect: Alfredo Thiermann

Sound Artist: Ariel Bustamante

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

Program: Installation
Client: Istanbul Biennial

Curators: Mark Wigley, Beatriz Colomina

Project: 2016

Construction: 2016

Images: Alfredo Thiermann, Ariel Bustamante

White day is an Antarctic phenomenon caused when much sunlight is diffused through a completely overcast sky reaching the ice surface where most of it is reflected back to the underside of the overcast. Many of these rays are in turn reflected earthward from the lower layers of the clouds. This process may continue until this endless game of sunlight reflexions equally lights all sides of individual ice forms, prohibiting the formation of any shadows. The omnipresent whiteness causes the ice and sky to look alike and the horizon to disappear. Ideology in Antarctica operates as a white day, making look everything alike, casting no shadow to render visible fundamental differences. This project proposes to draw a diffuse and unclear horizon, but an horizon at the end.


The Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959, established a particular set of constrains product of the fears of Cold-War politics that set an epistemological terrain for a different kind of human. Understood as a closed world, the Antarctic Treaty aimed to coin a new kind of “artificial” nature through a series of negations: No politics. No industry. No natural-resources exploitation. No waste. Therefore, no Architecture, and apparently no Design. But Antarctica is too social and too narrated to be truly natural. We propose to look and listen to

Antarctica as a highly humanized territory, but one populated by a particular kind of human. Through an embodied sensorial experience, the installation will collapse, in two different “documents”, the premises and consequences of this apparently non-designed territory, converting the design/human/nature frictions in an inevitably experience. 

Back-lighted photographies collected from an aerial photographic survey published by the US Air Force in 1953 present a visual taxonomy of the existing topographic variations in the Antarctic surface, attempting to understand the most feasible way to navigate and inhabit Antarctica. When looking at those images today, one can understand that the very Antarctic surface is also a human design, shaped probably by human agency at a planetary scale. Photographed during the years when the notion of climate change was beginning to be shaped, this visual catalog was records and represents this new form of human traces.


Sound is extracted from field recordings in Antarctica. A highly directional sound source is located behind each photography allowing visitors standing next to each other to experience different sonic material. As they walk through this field, they literally intersect  the “sound rays”, producing a momentary displacement by encountering another temporal dimension. Through sound, the vast but mostly invisible, industrial and military presence in Antarctica appears in the form of recorded reverberations against the apparently pristine and natural Antarctic surface.


Seemingly un-inhabited Antarctic could be read as the ultimately contemporary ruin, a ruin that concentrates in its shifting topography the traces and effects of human activities over the surface of the planet. But that seemingly un-inhabited surface appears as populated and mechanized through the sonic encounters producing a blurred illustration of what an “inhabited territory” might look like today. Antarctica is presented and experienced as a sensor, as the source of a new kind of history, thinking in a different kind of future.

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