download pdfs of Ellie's reports
from the polar ice from 2007
Report 1: weeks 1 - 3
Report 2: weeks 4/5
Report 3: several weeks in November
Report 4: polar night Dec/Jan

cilck here for Ellie Ga's website

  Ellie Ga's first image in the Arctic, October 2007

Coinciding with the opening of Dispatch's office on the Lower East Side of New York, in September of 2007, artist Ellie Ga set out on a journey that would take her to the farther reaches of the globe. Ga was the first and only artist-in-residence aboard the research vessel, The Tara, which would drift, lodged in the frozen sea, tracing the paths of the ice floes. Ga became interested in the paper trails that form incomplete records of what were originally vast and intrepid journeys during her 18-month residency at the Explorer’s Club in New York. The logical conclusion of this research and investment into the histories and anecdotes of a number of expeditions, was to eventually be part of an expedition herself. Ga embarked from New York nearly 2 years ago, for what was meant to be a 4-6 month journey, but has only returned recently, having realised that travel had become imperative to the continuation of her work. She is still wrestling with the material and metaphor she collected while suspended in time and space: in the ice. She maintained a close conversation with Dispatch, reporting with sounds, images and texts via email, post and the occasional satellite phone call. Her work will culminate in a series of multi-media performance pieces, the first of which is The Fortunetellers, which has been presented in Oslo, Palermo, Portland and New York.

some excerpts from Ga's various dispatches and reports while in the Arctic, in France and in Sicily, following her polar journey.

April 28 2009:
I ended up stranded on an island called ustica for three days due to storms. I found an exchange for the summer: I'm going to learn how to dive and a place to live, in exchange for helping in the kitchen.
I consider it one of the last legs of my "empirical" research for the arctic project--because doing the dive off the coast of alexsandria is the final footage and the close of the piece in terms of gathering data, knowledge etc. In a way I think gathering all this knowledge is what the performance is all about, and as I learn how to make gnocchi and start reading about diving while I was stuck in Ustica it was just like being back on the boat: you know the closed system, being initiated, missing half of what people are saying to me, the passive aggressive cook who I have to help--and the sea all around which I have no idea about (ie that i will soon be breathing underwater).
I find I have less emotional attachement to the arctic and to the memory of the arctic-I was sad about this last month (Grant, who has completed his book about the expedition, told me that yes, these things just die a natural death) but what I realise is that you don't just access memory through sentiment but also through comparison.

Dec 24 2008:
Here in Palermo, palm trees and oranges makes it hard to imagine that its christmas time or that I actually spent anytime in the arctic at all! The idea of colleges closing, being snowed in, seems so exotic to me now.

Dec 4 2008:
am in love with lina wertmuller films and the stendhal system a malady known as a traveller's disease wherein people faint when in the presence of great beauty, great works of art.
still inseperable from my american friend and daniela...we've created our own universe of myths, references, language, characters--it is like they instinctively know about this idea of polar time and how my head worked up there--it has been very helpful as I go back through material--
alas looking forward to some good solitude starting tomorrow.

Oct 24 2008:
What’s the weather like—here is is, in my opinion, sandals jeans and tank tops
But I realised that the real way to give yourself up as a tourist is to dress like this is balmy late spring weather—for the locals this is the chill of autumn and they are all swaddled in suede boots, jackets, etc…and there is this gold nike sneaker craze (apparently nike only makes them for the italian market) and lots of knock offs that are fun to look at in the shop windows.

Oct 14 2008:
Palermo has been amazing so far--the first day I was signed up to learn how to dive. The second day Aleksandra and I were whisked away with a fleet of fishing boats carrying the whole village of Porticello to a shrine overlooking the mountains (a blessing for next years fishing).

Sept 11 2008:
was listening to some sound stuff from the arctic that i sent to you--you know with that crystal ice shimmer sound of the compression--i love that sound now (although it annoyed me at the time, because it was another reminder of how difficult it was to communicate the pole to you down there). sometimes i think how are we going to make something together about our relationship from that time--or maybe the archive itself is that trace.

my dream right now is to learn how to dive and get to alexandria and dive among the ruins of pharos for footage (which is the last chapter in the fortune tellers--the phare, pharos, the future as light).

September 5 2008:
Oslo was strange in a way, because it was almost a year ago that I left there for the expedition. I remember how nervous I was--taking long showers at Elisabeth's and using the toilet , savoring the last bit of conveniences. I was reunited with the suitcase I left behind which included books, slides, tshirts, self healing cutting mat, watercolor pencils, a small sketchbook. All the last minute things I left behind. Funny how it mattered so much back then, what to leave, what to bring.

I went back to the Fram museum and sat on the pier where I had my first pang of hysteria regarding the polaroid camera. It was nice to sit there having just come from malmo, having found a way with the polaroid after all. I tried to remember myself looking out into the water on the edge of some big dream, really flinging into the unknown so to speak. So much has changed and I think about my mind almost being a blank slate then, waiting on the pier, and now it being filled with images, faces, memories, strange stories, etc.

July 31 2008:
I still remember sitting in a fishn'chips restaurant in Portsmouth, more back in "the real world" than we had been before (nevermind that it was a pared down, or super up world--a giant conglomerate of outlet stores) and Marion pointed to a giant can of ILLY coffee behind the bar. We both smiled. It was the can that everyday we scooped our coffee out from (sadly the grind inside was not ILLY).

In Paris, months later, Minh-Ly and I are walking towards the Louvre around midnight and she is very excited to tell me the neighbors occupying the penthouse at her new job...Aubade, the lingerie company. (everyday we had a new super sexy b/w lingerie ad as the desktop image on the group computer). And again, another time, this time walking through Chinatown we stop and see a mechanics' suit lying on the street--the brand the same as the one the guys used. "A sign!" she exclaims. Walking down Rue des Moines in the morning, past the boulangerie which has the "carambar" bon bons on display--a coveted event on the ice to unwrap one of those.

March 15, 2008:
Unpacking the Refrigerator
Over this week, discharging the 25 some-odd tons of material from the boat, I began to empty out the refrigerator and I threw out rotting apples, oranges and lemons that we had probably picked up in Portsmouth, England. I remember how precious fruit was during the expedition and I remember recording the sound of us eating the last pieces of fruit back in October or November. I threw out molded cheeses which we were only allowed to eat on Thursdays and Sundays with a glass of wine. I found a sack of rotten potatoes and remembered the debate about whether to eat the last potatoes on Christmas Eve (as proposed by the French) or on Christmas Day (as suggested by the « anglos » Grant and myself). Thursday, on the eve of his departure, Grant and I sit on the porch of the house and talk about how much time it will take to reconstitute the memories of life on the ice since it all disappeared so rapidly. I tell him about throwing out the rotten food and he says, « Yes that’s it--everything was precious on the ice : fruit, cheese, wine, electricity, water, time alone, time with other people. »

And on the ground there is always more.

  March 1, 2008:
i am in lorient. it has been crazy. we arrived last saturday with an
armada of boats and 3000 people in front of whom I got up on a stage and spoke
french to. Agnes B, fancy clothes, circus tents, seafood, fellini
without the italians. surreal. then we began emptying out this massive
boat and i have never been so exhausted and had so little time to
myself. the good news is that I have a beautiful house on the beach
where i will live until june and my bedroom window opens onto the sea.
i will write more descriptions soon and also tell you some of my ideas
for the work i want to do. this month has been so intense. my hair is
very grey.
  Jan 17 2008:
as for the sun:::yes there were 2-3 days when there was an intense sun at
-6° under horizon which is the equivalent to what is called pedestrian
twighlight and coming from the south, which is now the ass of the boat
and the cool thing one day was that there was the moon and the daylight
or rather intense twighlight like in a technicolor film of big america
like Giant or something and it was an energetic moment. that was 3 days
ago i think and since then we have had bad storms winds and it is cloudy
damp overcast so no pedestrian twighlight to be seen:::on the horizon it
is possible to see a dark band and this is the ice edge

  Jan 15 2008:
weather is crazy
-19c with a wind of a whopping 40nds
the strongest ever
no visibilty even pissing off the side of the boat is a disaster
declined the toilet today::just didnt have the energy
we are at 75°45N and 9°45 W careening towards the ice edge maybe and the
excitement of exiting is now renewed
problem with trying to make a lecture about the future is that every day
the future arrives

  Nov 28 2007:
weather a balmy minus 14 120 miles from ice age; humid cloudy damp
smells a little salty like the sea
a quick walk to toilet just in indoor clothes and a hat

  Nov 25 2007:
my sense of time or rather sense of time of the immediate future has
speaking of which
the hour thing
i wanted to keep track of the days as hours because at the northpole
there are no hours just one long day (the polar day) and one long night.
i started this method and there was one slight problem we aren ot at the
so i had to wait until the sun disappeared on october 6 to begin
counting the days as hours correctly


Oct 21 2007:
if you weren't on the other end i probably would stop all together
then last night we got onto the topic of ham radios
and apparently the ham operators only mission is to make contact
once they confirm they end transmission
i love this idea of the ham operator sitting at a table trying to make
contact with as many people as possible
in fact it is a competition in russia
anyway i am hogging the computer so i must go
but i want to say thanks
and yes i agree that it should be intimate
i am working on a constructed piece with all the parts that may be
interesting for a general public i have attached the intro:
i will send in parts
it is challenging capturing the scene in sounds

  Oct 20 2007
The drift. La derieve. La sortie. Not a day goes by when some combination of these words is not spoken. It’s on everyone's mind and for some of us (myself included) it is a bit of an obsession. Audun and Herve LeGoff work on their own model for the exit, Grant collects everyone’s predictions and places it on the corkboard of daily tasks, weather reports, sun charts. Unlike in the old days of exploration, where explorers had to work extremely hard (not to mention rapidly—if given only few brief moments of sun) to know where they were, we here know exactly where we are. It is not where we are that we are concerned with, but where we are going. And of course how long it will take to get there.

  Oct 16 2007:
there is so little time to write to people and i prefer to send you
email dispatches instead
sometimes i think that if i write down too much i will drain the
and what is the experience
it changes moment to moment
but it is very normal in some ways
what other dispatches do you want
will keep sending the maps but if you think other formats will balance
my binder i do like a good old fashioned homework assignment