Polaria at Wapping Hydraulic Power Station. Photography by Andy Paradise.


In August 2001 artists Bruce Gilchrist & Jo Joelson traveled to remote North East Greenland to record the transition from 24-hour daylight to the twilight onset of winter. They used a spectroradiometer to periodically measure and record light, and the body's corresponding physiological responses using a range of biomonitors. As part of a sustained artistic enquiry into sensorial aesthetics, the Polaria fieldwork contributed to the making of an interactive virtual daylight chamber—a self illuminating machine—inspired by post-industrial concerns over the quality of the working environment and medical research into the beneficial effects of polarised, full spectrum light.

Polaria was financially supported by London Arts, The Arts Council of England, Centre for Contemporary Arts (Glasgow), Northern Gallery for Contemporary Arts, (Sunderland), Oxford Brookes University, Clearvision International. Additional support from Artsadmin, Air Iceland, The Cambridge Arctic Shelf Programme (C.A.S.P.), The Danish Polar Centre, FujiProfessional, Hasselblad and the ProCentre, Iwasaki Eye, The Solar Energy Alliance, EPFS (Equipment Pool for Field Spectroscopy), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and The Awakened Mind Ltd.

Photography by Anthony Oliver and Jo Outram︎︎︎︎︎︎

Video courtesy  London Fieldworks.

Time Out

13-20 February 2002
Sarah Kent
Four lightboxes show a barren landscape in Greenland photographed by Anthony Oliver at 6am, midday, 6pm and midnight. In three of the images the light is cold and bright - like a crisp, clear, English winter day. Only the midnight shot has a warm glow; it was summertime, when daylight lasts 24 hours. Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson spent a month in Greenland measuring the light falling on to and reflected from objects such as flowers, rocks and their own skin. In the boiler house at Wapping, they offer the chance to experience a comparable range of warm and cold light. You sit on a translucent chair in a white cubicle and place your hands on two bronze electrodes so completing a circuit that activates light panels in the ceiling. Resting my hands lightly on the electrodes, I was bathed in a cold, brilliant light that occasionally flickered warm before returning to limpid coolness. During a second session, a powerful tingling travelled up my arms as I pressed my palms firmly on the plates. When I realised that changes in touch altered the light, the experience became less meditative and more like an interactive game. On the way to Wapping I had noticed how tired I felt. After my irradiation I was more alert and, that night took a long time to go to sleep yet, in the morning, I woke early and energised. Given that dragging myself out of bed had proved more difficult each day—as though I’d been over-taken by a desire to hibernate—this felt like a rebirth. SAD - seasonal affective disorder -is a recognised form of depression caused by winter gloom, which can be treated with light therapy. If the winter blues are sapping your vitality, absorb the dose of pure energy offered by Polaria.

Selected projects & collaborations by Bruce Gilchrist © 2024