The Imperial Transantarctic Expedition

Medicine Lake, Minnesota (2009)

✳ Collaborators: Molly Goldberg, Amber Phelps Bondaroff

The Imperial Transactarctic Expedition was a collaborative community experiment conducted on a frozen lake in the middle of winter with an all-women crew of artists and a rotating cast of visitors. As artists and friends, we challenged one another to nurture creativity and community-building in the face of extreme scarcity and physical hardship. We spent six weeks living in a site-specific handbuilt structure in sub-zero temperatures, using story-telling, collaborative creative work, and positive attitudes as tools that were integral to our survival.

This was a project about needing one another, the power of openhearted sharing, and the transformative experience of creating dangerously. During our time on the ice, we built a warm community of neighbors that congregated at our makeshift home in the long evenings for food, friendship, and entertainment. We self-published three sketchbook/diaries that gave personal accounts of our experiences, hosted weekly workshops on a topics like mending, soup-making, celestial navigation, and song-writing, recorded and distributed an album of original music on the ice, produced a theatrical play, an outdoor ice-capades performance, and an on-ice narrative radio show. Through creative action and intentional community-building, we formed permanent and powerful relationships within an itinerant and typically ephemeral seasonal community.

The expedition was modeled after Ernest Shackleton’s failed attempt to cross the Antarctic continent. Sailors and scientists alike were marooned on the continent for xx months during years xx and xx.