VoM #6 – Antarctic Resolution
reviewed by Prof. Tom Duscher
Antarctic Resolution by Giulia Foscari & UNLESS
Gulia Foscari & UNLESS has created a monumental work of science communication with the transdisciplinary project “Antarctic Resolution”. It is the most comprehensive documentation to date on the Antarctic continent, which is largely hidden from our view, finding itself completely distorted at the bottom of our cartographic representations.
Straight Message through Visualization
The infographic visualizations in Giulia Foscari’s book project place Antarctica at the center of the action and respectfully return it to its central role in the world’s climate. This is because the cartographic resolution and resolution of this continent, which is so significant for the climatic state of our planet, is low. For the commercial interests of the Big Data media corporations, it does not seem worthwhile to depict the ice masses, which are essentially valuable for our climate, with high-resolution satellite images. The images resemble patchwork in many places. These patchworks now adorn the cover of a 1,000-page book body, the result of Foscari’s deeper-digging research and now a political resolution. It is a monolith, a statement and a declaration of a very unequivocal nature: a crystal clear statement about the alarming state of this climate central continent. The result is a first-ever, unique overall representation of the continent and, as a result, a weighty piece of recent science communication.
Interdisciplinary, Collaborative, Intermedia
The research project is first and foremost a truly collaborative endeavour. On the eve of the 200th anniversary of Antarctica’s first recorded sighting, UNLESS invited more than 200 experts from the fields of architecture, biology, chemistry, climate science, engineering, geography, history, law, literature, logistics, medicine, physics, political science, sociology, technology, and the fine arts to participate in this joint effort to create the first holistic body of research on Antarctica. The result of this collaborative undertaking has been compiled in a publication entitled “Antarctic Resolution”. The 1000-page volume is divided into three main sections focusing on geopolitics, science, and architecture, and presents the results in the form of texts, photo essays, infographics, cartographies, and architectural drawings. The publication includes the first census of Antarctic architectures, designed as a freely accessible archive to promote the reduction of the contaminating anthropogenic footprint on the continent.
High excellence in editorial and information design
The book is stunning – both in content and form. Antarctic Resolution was printed using two special colours: silver and a special orange neon. Whilst the silver mimics the reflective ice and snow masses, the neon-glowing orange like resembles the markers which punctuate the white desert of Antarctica. As one flips through the encyclopaedic volume, the silver, as deployed throughout the cartographies, allows for reliefs to become visible or disappear visually expressing the indeterminacy of the continent’s dimensions and constantly fluctuating borders whilst achieving a fascinating dynamic effect in a printed, static medium. Contemporarily the alarming orange is explored by the UNLESS editorial team to provide further explanations to the publication’s visual compendium as well as adding supplementary food for thought to the more than 150 essays. The unison of these two colours throughout both cartographies and infographics, provides for a unique and distinct visual language as well as an easily identifiable information system. In this manner, and considering that the book counts 1000-pages, the volume can also be read crosswise where the visual language is a multimodal layer that conveys an impression of the content beyond the text. Crafted by the international network of the Polar Lab and the Milan based graphic design studio POMO, all cartographies and infographics were meticulously developed according to data mined by UNLESS. A masterstroke not only in editorial and information design, but also in science communication, which on this scale ca be seen itself as a body of research in its own right.
Throughout the 10-minute video drafted for the presentation of the project during Ars Eletronica (Linz, September 2022) where it was awarded the European Union’s S+T+ARTS Grand Prize 2022 for Innovative Collaboration, selected infographics are animated to highlight the urgency of acknowledging Antarctica’s pivotal role and inciting collective action for its urgent protection. The latter reveal how the kilometres-thick Antarctic ice sheet is currently melting at the alarming pace of 200 Olympian swimming pools per minute, and how the total meltdown of Antarctic ice would increase global sea levels by 60 meters, launching the largest migration ever witnessed by humanity.
Actionist: Campaign in the centre of society
True to the twofold ambition implicit in its title to construct a high-resolution image of the continent and advocate for Antarctic resolutions, on occasion of the 44th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) held in Berlin, the project evolved beyond the walls of cultural institutions taking over the German capital with a campaign Speak Up for Antarctica Now. The latter called upon Berliners and passers-by to demand accountability on the future of a continent that is 1.4 times the size of Europe to the ATCM delegates of the 29 decision-making nations that have the right to vote on all matters pertaining Antarctic governance and invited them to embrace their role as Antarctic citizens and Speak Up for Antarctica Now to defend intergenerational justice. Consistently, UNLESS is committed to digitise the multidisciplinary project of “Antarctic Resolution” through the creation of the Antarctic Resolution platform.
With the interplay of these multidimensional communicative measures, “Antarctic Resolution” is more than a worthy representative of a Visualization of the Month. This project is a holistic approach to bring research and communication together cross-medially and an urgent appeal to use the time now to prevent the most threatening scenarios yet. It is a best practice example of multimedia science communication at the highest level of design and communication.
“Antarctic Resolution” is published by Lars Müller Publishing and is a must-read for anyone interested in successful science communication and detailed information about climate change. It is a reference book that presents scientific as well as cartographic and infographic content at the highest level.
For more information, visit the UNLESS website.
During the Frankfurt Book Fair 2022, an insightful discussion about the creation of the book took place between publisher Lars Müller, information designer Marco Cendron, editor and initiator Giulia Foscari and Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives.
About the Visualization of the Month
In our series “Visualization of the Month”, we feature an outstanding visualization on the second Wednesday of each month. One of the criteria for the selection is the extent to which it is aesthetically and emotionally appealing from a design perspective. In addition, we look at the information content. This also includes how the users of the visualization are supported in better comprehending complex contexts. The selection is made within the KielSCN team and involves expertise from the fields of information design, educational science and emotion research, as well as science communication research.