City University’s Extreme Environments Programme:
Antarctica Expedition and Exhibition
Presented by the School of Creative Media

The Extreme Environments programme explores how student artists, researchers and scientists working together can collect and interpret environmental data using new forms of creativity and visualization. Field research becomes a creative strategy; media art becomes a tool for scientific interpretation.

From 13 December 2013 until 3 January 2014, interdisciplinary teams of City University students from such fields as art, business, engineering, natural science, and social science conducted meaningful research in remote locations across Tierra del Fuego and the Antarctica continent. Using the tools and artistic resources of the School of Creative Media, they have developed new media art and design projects that utilize new presentation technologies to offer innovative approaches to understanding climate change and sustainable solutions.

The Extreme Environments programme promotes interdisciplinary research and discovery as an integral part of learning. The planet’s most remote landscapes are among the most fragile and endangered. They offer unique insights into a sustainable future. This project brings together teams from across the academic spectrum to help better understand issues that threaten nature and our cities.


The Extreme Environments programme links to City University’s groundbreaking Discovery-enriched Curriculum and currently is offered every two years. The University promotes additional types of learning outside the standard lecture model and is developing courses that give students the tools and opportunities to learn by doing their own research and making their own discoveries.

The first expedition involved CityU art and design students working with UCLA scientists in the Mojave Desert in California. Our students collected environmental data and returned to Hong Kong to create an exhibition of artworks that presented their data in a creative way. The project was well received and resulted in many of the students obtaining excellent jobs, being admitted into top graduate schools and having their projects accepted into international exhibitions.

Based on this success, CityU has broadened this initiative to be University-wide and to collect data in one of the most remarkable science sites on the planet: Antarctica. The team flew to Buenos Aires and then to Ushuaia, Argentina on Tierra del Fuego. They explored and studied the dramatic ecosystem there, hiking deep into the Andes and canoeing on the rivers flowing through the forests.

The students boarded The Akademik Ioffe, a highly regarded scientific research vessel that has been in use for a quarter-century. Designed for hydro-acoustic oceanic research in 1989, the Ioffe and its Russian crew and science team are the pride of the Russian fleet. Our trusty guide through the various locations in Antarctica was One Ocean, a tour company dedicated to environmental awareness, scientific exploration and active conservation. One Ocean’s team of ornithologists, historians, botanists, geologists and other specialists supported our students as they studied such subjects as penguin colonies, glaciers, icebergs, wind patterns, plant life, and animal behaviors. Each day, the students visited two important ecological sites and collected a range of scientific data, capturing characteristics of this unique environment


Our approach to developing the projects in Antarctica is bottom-up: the students find classmates across disciplines to form teams that design the projects. Every project is a hybrid of two or more fields of study that was envisioned and organized at the student level.

The response to the University-wide call for proposals resulted in nearly 300 students submitting ideas that crossed traditional academic boundaries. An international panel of scientists, researchers, artists and engineers vetted the proposals, and 70 student finalists were interviewed. The 13 projects represent what we believe are the most innovative interdisciplinary ideas proposed by our undergraduates.

The environmental ‘footprint’ of this programme is designed to be zero: we have partnered with scientific organizations that are dedicated to the protection of this endangered resource and ensure that no project is invasive or damaging to the continent of Antarctica.


The exhibition presents 13 new media artworks in diverse technologies like mobile game applications, light installations, interactive cinema, 3D immersive environments and kinetic sculpture. In addition to the 23 students on the expedition, Hong Kong-based teams also created projects and several students from arts and engineering joined to assist in the creative and technical aspects. Through a range of software, hardware and presentation technologies, the resulting artworks present data not only visualized, but interpreted through the lens of art.


City University’s Extreme Environments: Antarctica documentary, produced by City University’s Communications and Public Relations Office