The Scream of the Arctic
The Scream of the Arctic
70 × 93 × 1 in
Handmade paper (fibers: abaca, flax, cotton, wheat straw, linen, cattail seeds and reeds, desert agave; inclusions: soil, desert sand, beach sand, leaves, red and green marine algae, lobster shell, campfire charcoal; pigments), PVA.
70 x 93 x 1 inches installed; composed of 9 panels each 22 x 30 inches
“I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”
— Edvard Munch, 1895
“The Scream of the Arctic is a map of the future Arctic polar region as it undergoes climate change. In it, recently opened shipping lanes are already well exploited due to the disappearance of sea ice, once frozen permafrost is rapidly thawing, methane is burning, ice sheets are melting, harmful algae blooms are proliferating. The warmer Arctic is rendered in an expressionist manner and titled after Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream (1893), imposing primal anxieties and subjective expression over empirical geographic topography.
The map is constructed of various handmade papers, using color, texture, and patterns to express the physical realities of climate change as well as my subjective, psychological reactions to them. The base sheets are made of pigmented abaca (Musa textilis) representing the spectrum of greens, reds, ambers, and browns found in marine algae. The color spectrum represents the increasingly frequent harmful algal blooms (HABs) occurring in warmer, more nutrient-rich waters (due to runoff from agricultural regions). HABs flourish and lead to oxygen-depleted hypoxic “dead” zones. Without oxygen in the seawater sea life cannot be sustained, the delicate balance of marine ecosystems are disrupted, and livelihoods based on the availability of marine life populations are destroyed. For populations living in these regions, this can be a physical and cultural death sentence.
Another problem associated with climate change is thawing permafrost. Permafrost, or cryotic soil, is composed of frozen organic material that will release massive amounts of methane (greenhouse gas more powerful than carbon dioxide) when thawed. According to a recent study1, as little as 1.5 degrees celsius rise in global temperature is enough to begin this process. As arctic permafrost thaws, the buildings and infrastructure built upon it begin to degrade structurally, posing a danger to inhabitants who will eventually be displaced. Methane is highly flammable and already evidence of the fire hazard can been viewed in videos posted online2. In The Scream of the Arctic, bright red and orange papers represent this combustible threat.
Unfortunately for inhabitants of the Arctic, and the rest of the world, we are now firmly on a trajectory for a rise of at least 6 degrees3. That amount of warming will cause extreme weather events including massive flooding, rising sea levels, and desertification, leading to famine and wars across the globe. Handmade papers composed of dry, dead plants, and materials gathered from the desert, represent these extremes in The Scream of the Arctic. Under these circumstances most species will not be able to adapt and will become extinct. As humans rely on healthy ecosystems to survive, our species might certainly be one of them. Based on these dire predictions, my arctic anxiety, as well as the anxieties of concerned scientists, activists, writers, artists, indigenous leaders, and academics around the globe, is well-founded and its source is in need of sustainable, ambitious, and immediate solutions.”
— Maggie Puckett, 2013
1 Harvey, Fiona. “1.5C Rise in Temperature Enough to Start Permafrost Melt, Scientists Warn.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.
2 A REALLY Inconvenient Truth: Dan Miller. Perf. Dan Miller. FORAtv Video. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.
3 Connor, Steve, and Michael McCarthy. “World on Course for Catastrophic 6° Rise, Reveal Scientists.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 18 Nov. 2009. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.