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What is I-TASC

I-TASC is the Interpolar Transnational Art Science Constellation. I-TASC is an official project of the International Polar Year 2007-2008. The project was conceived by Thomas Mulcaire and Marko Peljhan. I-TASC is a decentralized network of individuals and organisations working collaboratively in the fields of art, engineering, science and technology on the interdisciplinary development and tactical deployment of renewable energy, waste recycling systems, sustainable architecture and open-format, open-source media. I-TASC is a lichen-like structure sharing and integrating local knowledge, resources and skills across six continents in order to symbiotically engage with the air, ocean, earth and space commons

What is I-TASC’s first project?

Acknowledging that Antarctica and the Arctic are critical departure points in developing a complex understanding of common ground, I-TASC has proposed to establish in the Arctic and Antarctica the framework conditions for collaborative projects between artists, scientists, tactical media workers and engineers within three broad topical fields: migration, weather and communications. This is envisaged through the installation and maintenance of two mobile research stations in the Arctic and Antarctica between 2007-2009 and the construction and launching of a nano-satellite in a high sun-synchronous elliptical polar orbit to enable research and contact between the two stations and the sharing of sensor data with other IPY projects. The I-TASC stations in the Arctic and Antarctica will be solar/wind powered, zero-environmental impact communications, research and living units capable of sustaining up to 8 crew members for long periods of work in isolation/insulation conditions (60-180 days). Onboard renewable-energy systems, bioreactor/biological sewage processing, water recycling systems, satellite and HF communication systems and radar infrastructure will provide I-TASC crews with the tools/resources needed to conduct joint or independent work in remote polar field-research environments.  The I-TASC base station for Antarctica has been given the working name LADOMIR. It is named for the utopian poem of the same name written in 1920 by the Russian Futurist Velimir Khlebnikov, which describes the universal landscape of the future through the destruction of the old world and its synthesis in the new. The word is a combination of LAD, meaning both “harmony” and “living creature,” and MIR, both “peace” and “world, universe.” Adopting the related constructivist notion of FAKTURA, which can be understood as the conferring of tactile and sensorial qualities onto abstract elements, LADOMIR will be dedicated to producing readable/tangible surfaces which the public will be able to use to reflect on vague or otherwise invisible systems and environmental data from Antarctica and the Arctic. Communication, weather and migration are seen as three multiple-dynamic global energy systems which can be explored to understand how our planet functions on natural, social and technological levels, and the knowledge inherent in each can in turn be applied as primary sources for new cognitive and evolutionary strategies, with implications for global ecology and future human exploration of space.

How it is happening

I-TASC as a project is built around the IPY and is therefore specifically geared to bring South African and international researchers into collaboration around issues affecting the polar regions and the planet as whole, and to communicate this to audiences around the world. We are fully committed to the data-sharing and open research culture that has underpinned the successes of International Polar Years past and present in advancing knowledge, awareness and peace in Antarctica. The current phase of our International Polar Year project is to install and test some of the life systems in Antarctica this season, ahead of the installation of our IPY mobile base station at a remote site 50km from SANAE at the end of 2008. Ntsikelelo Ntshingila and Siphiwe Ngwenya departed Cape Town on 4 December onboard the SA Agulhas to carry out the second I-TASC expedition, accompanied by I-TASC partners from the Department of Public Works, the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory, Stellenbosch University and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Umthombo Womlilo: Systems Installation and Testing Expedition (SITE) 2007/2008

Our research focus for the 2007/2008 expedition is on engineering a robust hybrid renewable energy power unit, capable of providing enough power to continually run the mobile base and to support a crew of 6-8 people for 30-60 days in the field. Designing a hybrid renewable energy power unit for a sustainable Antarctic architecture is a means of bringing scientists, engineers and artists into conversation around a common project which each field of knowledge is able to contribute to in complimentary ways, and which can be applied on common ground. In addition to raising awareness of Antarctica and the human interaction, legacy and impact in the polar regions, it is hoped that through this research we may also be able to build a modular renewable energy unit which can be adapted to have useful applications in each of our local contexts, running a community radio station in a South African township, a media lab in rural Jamaica, a housing project in Chile or a foreshore communication installation in New Zealand. The renewable energy module has been given the working title: Umthombo Womlilo (Well of Fire)

IPY Community Radio Project

Our public awareness and education project for the IPY is based on the establishment of a network of solar and wind powered community radio stations which will communicate the project and the IPY to South African and international audiences. During the 2006/2007 season, I-TASC established a community radio station at SANAE, for use by the take-over and over-wintering crews, who produce their own shows and content. Our first renewable energy radio station in South Africa is a partnership with an existing community radio station in Alexandra called Alex FM (The Station that Empowers You). We have established An ITASC seminar room and office has been established at the Thusong Youth Centre in Alexandra, which is within walking distance of the Alex FM studios. I-TASC crew member and music producer Ntsikelelo Ntshingila has set up a dj internship programme to prepare 15 young people from Alexandra with the skills and knowledge to run a programme of IPY public seminars and live radio shows on Alex FM. The training programme is already underway and the first seminars and live on-air interviews will commence in October and engage the engineers and scientists in our IPY Umthombo Womlilo Antarctic energy research group (and other IPY researchers) with members of the Alex intern/student group and the listening public on Alex FM. These seminars and programmes with IPY scientists, engineers and artists will be recorded and filmed for re-broadcast on regional, national and international radio and tv media during the IPY. It will also be possible to make the Umthombo Womlilo unit and this IPY archive available for events such as the ScienceFest in Grahamstown, installations in public spaces or at educational or public awareness events organized by the partners and sponsors of the project.

The Umthombo Womlilo IPY tour

The prototype Umthombo Womlilo IPY solar and wind power unit will be deployed and tested in Antarctica between Dec 2007-Feb 2008. It will return to South Africa with the SA Agulhas after the testing phase and will then be modified into a solar and wind powered outside broadcast unit, complete with dj box, fm transmitter, speakers, wireless hotspot and video projector. Umthombo Womlilo will be transformed into a towable rapid deployment public display unit and archive, which can be hosted by our collaborating institutions and other IPY stakeholders throughout 2008, as a means to engage their local communities in the IPY. Umthombo Womlilo will  house a digital archive of publicly accessible research material produced by South African and international researchers and scientists, and will also contain film, music and photographic documentation produced by crews in Antarctica, and a wireless broadband link to the IPY website.

GROUNDHOG expedition 2006/2007

The first I-TASC Reconnaissance and Communication Expedition (RECE) to Antarctica from Dec 2006-Feb 2007 was codenamed: GROUNDHOG. The objective of GROUNDHOG (translated from the Norwegian word Grunehogna) was to construct and deploy our first Automatic Weather Station, Remote Sensor and Packet Radio Unit in support of I-TASC’s future operations in Antarctica from 2007 onwards. The expedition crew installed the solar and wind powered unit at 71° 40.433' S 02° 48.700' W in order to autonomously transmit daily environmental data via HF packet radio to SANAE IV base and from there to the I-TASC partner websites and IPY public via the internet. The site has been identified as the location for the installation and testing of the prototype I-TASC UMTHOMBO WOMLILO power module in the 2007/2008 Antarctic summer season. The UMTHOMBO WOMLILO module will test systems and train crew ahead of the installation of the I-TASC LADOMIR mobile base station at Grunehogna between Dec 2008 - March 2009 which will host artists, scientists and engineers conducting research and collaborative work in the Dronning Maud Land sector of Antarctica during the International Polar Year. The GROUNDHOG crew:

1. Identified a suitable site for the installation and testing of the prototype I-TASC mobile base station module in the Dronning Maud Land sector of Antarctica during the International Polar Year in 2007/2008.
2. Installed an autonomously powered Automatic Weather Station, Remote Sensor and Packet Radio Unit at the site in order to gather and relay data on localised weather and environmental conditions at the chosen location and to test the suitability of materials and the feasibility of energy (solar/wind) and HF packet radio communication systems proposed for the prototype I-TASC mobile base station module.
3. Installed a packet radio antenna and transceiver at SANAE IV base to enable communication between the GROUNDHOG remote unit and SANAE base.
4. Installed a server to facilitate remote commands, data access and streaming between the GROUNDHOG remote unit and I-TASC partners through the SANAE server.
5. Automated the daily upload of weather and sensor data from the GROUNDHOG unit from 2 February 2007 onwards to be used as material for GROUNDHOG IPY launch events at Sound Kitchen Studio in Alexandra, Johannesburg and other I-TASC partner sites in February and March 2007.
6. Assessed the feasibility of the GROUNDHOG remote unit and equipment remaining intact and operational at the chosen location during the winter months and taken  the decision to leave the unit in place for the winter to autonomously record and transmit data from February 2007 when the crew leaves SANAE base until December 2007 when the second I-TASC expedition crew returns to the location.
7. Installed an FM community radio station at SANAE base and to train SANAE crew and expedition members in the production of content and operation of the station.
8. Researched the possibility of expanding the Packet Radio data relay network and FM community radio station to include the neighbouring TROLL (Norway) and NEUMAYER (Germany) bases in Dronning Maud Land. This phase of the expedition is conditional on the success of the above objectives and the support of the Norwegian Polar Institute and German Alfred Wegener Institute.
9. Produced video, sound, remote sensor data and photographic material to document the expedition and to communicate the I-TASC GROUNDHOG/IPY project

The first I-TASC expedition crew to Antarctica consisted of Amanda Rodrigues Alves (Brazil); Adam Hyde (New Zealand); Thomas Mulcaire (South Africa – expedition leader); Ntsikelelo Ntshingila (South Africa/Swaziland). The crew departed Cape Town harbour for Antarctica on 7 December on board the South African National Antarctic Program supply ship SA Agulhas and spent 42 days at SANAE base and on field reconnaissance expeditions in Dronnig Maud Land.

What official support and structures have been put in place for this project so far?

On 11 May 2006 the Joint Committee of the World Meterological Organisation and the International Council of Science endorsed I-TASC’s proposal as an official project of the International Polar Year 2007/2008. On 13 July 2006 I-TASC was invited to present its plans for the LADOMIR mobile research station to the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) Standing Committee of Antarctic Logistics and Operations at the SCALOP symposium in Hobart, Australia. On 14 September 2006 the South African National Antarctic Program (SANAP) confirmed support for an I-TASC expedition to SANAE base in the Dronning Maud Land sector of Antarctica between Dec 2006-Feb 2007, which will allow an I-TASC crew of four to gather environmental data, locate a suitable site, test energy systems and establish communication infrastructure ahead of the installation of the prototype LADOMIR base station module in Antarctica between Dec 2008-Feb 2009. To facilitate legal and practical issues relating to donor funding a not-for-profit foundation has been established in the South Africa which will have oversight over the distribution and management of grants and donations to I-TASC projects.

9 jan