The Arctic is simultaneously a zone of geopolitical tensions and a space for transnational, circumpolar, and intercultural cooperation and collaboration. In light of the effects of climate changes, the indiscriminate economic exploitation of untapped sources of energy and natural resources in the Polar Regions is increasingly feasible and potentially inevitable. Yet vested geopolitical and economic interests give very little deference to the determined indigenous cultures inhabiting the circumpolar territories. The Arctic Perspective Initiative (API), a transnational art, science, and culture working group, intends to direct attention to the global cultural and ecological significance of the Polar Regions. API does this through knowledge sharing, learning from and empowering the local citizens of the North through the creation of open and participatory communications, sensing, aggregation, and transmission technologies and strategies. 

API and the local stakeholders will create the framework conditions for collaborative projects between indigenous cultures, artists, hunters, scientists, tactical media workers, and engineers in the Arctic within three broad topical fields: migration, climate, and telecommunications. In order to address these issues, API’s current activities include the development, installation, and deployment of mobile, sustainable, zero-impact modular research units, open-source Information and Communications Technology (ICT) literacy workshops, and presentation activities within the circumpolar regions. API’s mandate is to understand and address systems of migration, climate, and telecommunications; each sharing complex mathematics, a dynamic matrix, and global reach through scientific and poetic terms.

In 2009 API established an open, international call for the design of the first of the research systems. (see the jury results here) These systems are envisioned as mobile media-centric facilities and life support modules that will allow tactical media workers, local stakeholders, scientists, hunters, and community members to create, live and work collaboratively on the land, physically separated from the settlements yet connected through new communication technologies and sensor networks. These units will serve as a model for sustainable, low-impact, technologically saturated creation and research in polar conditions while utilizing traditional local design approaches which have been refined by Arctic Peoples over millennia.

In addition to the physical and technological systems, a key component of the project is the development of an open structure for the dissemination of content, research, and design results and a set of open data policy and participation guidelines. These guidelines can be extended for use by a variety of organizations and individuals within native, scientific, cultural, and academic projects and activities. Thus, with the establishment of an open communications infrastructure, the mobile, on-land media-centric units will serve as a model for an empowered mediated mobility for Northern citizens, which is one of the primary long-term aims of the API.

Rather than giving a voice to popular science, our initiative intends to strengthen the territory of artistic research with and within indigenous cultures and traditional knowledge. Both cultures, that of art as we describe it and that of science and engineering, value human curiosity, creativity, the desire to understand and represent the unknown, and the ingenuity of the human spirit which situates itself within the fragile balance between man, nature and technology. We believe that differing epistemologies and forms of knowledge production can be used effectively in the proposed collaborative matrix—primarily by taking into account the geopolitical setting, the sociopolitical and spiritual conditions that are integral to the Polar Regions of the world and beyond.