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Data as art – Aesthetics of water

British Antarctic Survey has an ongoing science & art collaboration with glass artist and Royal College of Art MPhil candidate Wayne Binitie.

Wayne has visited BAS a number of times to develop his art and ideas with glaciologist Dr Robert Mulvaney and Linda Capper (Head of BAS Communications).  He is working with Pete Bucktrout (BAS Creative Services Manager) to film and record audio for his artwork.

Wayne Binitie (RCA) during audio & video recording at BAS Cambridge

Re-calibrating the perception of glacial water through audio-visual contemporary art practice

This practice-based research investigates the urgent and ethical stewardship of glacial water at a time of accelerating climate change. What are the environmental risks posed by the rapid disappearance of glacial water? How can the potency of glacial water be revealed through a contemporary art practice? How can a contemporary art practice reveal and communicate the urgency of climate change to new audiences?

This research seeks to interrogate these questions and posits that advances made within digital and industrial technologies offer timely and renewed scope for increased glacial water sustainability, ethical stewardship and cultural awareness. Anchored by my own audio-visual fieldwork at the British Antarctic Survey ice core archive, the research aims to rethink the use of digital and industrial technologies at the pioneering Arup SoundLab in order to artistically reveal and culturally communicate the significant role of glacial water within the wider global climate change challenge.

Ice cores are cylinders drilled out of an ice sheet or glacier. Ranging across 800,000 to 1,000 years of geological time, the cores extend to a 3km depth and contain important records about the climate including temperature and concentration of gases. Significantly, the ice cores contain small bubbles of compressed air that reveal popping sounds from the ancient past.

Wayne says:

The first stage of the project is anchored by my own audio field recordings at the British Antarctic Survey ice-core archive in Cambridge. Exploring cymatic methods for visualising the vibration of sound, a second stage of the research involves vibrating frit coated glass sheets with audio field recordings from the archive and firing them. Metal sheets coated with volcanic ash are also vibrated with sound. The resultant cymatic patterns are furnace cast with hot glass before cooling then cut, polished and sculpted by hand into solid forms and surfaces.

Within this context, I aim to capture the fleeting disappearance of the glacial atmosphere in glass as a material sonic trace. Moving from the fluid and the solid; the material and the immaterial; hot and cold, the project follows paths opened by artists including Roni Horn, Wolfgang Laib and Tokujin Yoshioka.

Sound and glass

In the third and final stage of the research, the glass objects and audio field recordings will be used as the basis for exhibited sound and glass installations. Drawing the visitor into Antarctica’s hidden and ancient past, the installations seek to provoke thinking about the glacial future.


Form No.2
Form No.2, Wayne Binitie 2016, Glass, 18 cm x 10 cm


Form No.1
Form No.1, Wayne Binitie 2016, Glass, 11cm x 13 cm x 5 cm


Wayne Binite is funded through the TECHNE Doctoral Training Partnership which brings together seven universities (Royal Holloway, Brighton, Kingston, Surrey, Royal College of Arts, University of the Arts London and Roehampton) to provide AHRC studentships and comprehensive training for postgraduate researchers. TECHNE is concerned with the craft of research and draws together the best of traditional scholarship, history, theory and practice across the broad spectrum of the arts and humanities.


The aim of this project is for the artist to develop his knowledge of glacial water and explore how Antarctic ice cores can be considered as objects of knowledge through artistic glass practice.  He aims to raise public awareness of the polar environment through artistic exhibitions devoted to climate change.

The artist’s examines whether the sound of ancient ice cores be considered as archival forms of knowledge in glass? How can this knowledge be notated, written and inscribed? What is the difference between scientific empirical data and affective artistic encounter?

To achieve this Wayne Binitie will:

  • Collaborate with ice core scientists to interrogate the concept of atmosphere, and translates the sounds of ice cores in glass in order to reconsider the hidden spatial and temporal history of the Antarctic landscape.
  • Conduct audio and film recordings of compressed air bubbles trapped within ice cores ranging across 800, 000 to 1,000 years of historical time
  • Collaborate with ARUP to access technical instruction, facilities and expertise in sound labs