Remote Sensing: Ice, Instruments, Imagination

Research Network CRASSH Cambridge, 2022-23

Remote Sensing is an exploration of practices and technologies that work from a distance in the arts, sciences, and humanities. Taking a cue from the history of remote sensing in hard-to-reach places, we work between disciplines to develop methods for thinking and feeling our way across distance. How do we all—researchers, artists, historians, scientists—get in touch with remote subjects?

Scientific knowledge of climate and environment is largely mediated by sensors, whether instruments housed in airplanes and satellites or networked apparati embedded in an environment and accessed by researchers at computer terminals. Remote sensing, therefore, requires inhabiting a space of uncertainty and ambiguity. In this context, ice is often portrayed as exotic and fragile, an endangered element within a disordered climate. It is also a highly sensory material, eliciting strong, sometimes surprising, responses from the sensing body. Coming to terms with ice, then, requires some exploration of the nature and limits of first-hand experience, and the role of the field in producing knowledge, as well as the augmentation of these experiences  through instrumentation, imagination, and other sensory practices. By challenging the expectation that icy places must be experienced first and foremost, we will explore the aesthetic, conceptual, and scientific dimensions of the cryosphere as seen from a distance.

Over the past two years, of course, many of us have had to think about how remote work affects our fields and practices. What we want to explore in this network, however, are the ways in which remoteness may be an inevitable (and perhaps under appreciated) aspect of work in the arts and humanities, and how these practices might find productive dialogue with scientific conceptions of remote sensing. When ‘going there’ is not an option, how can instruments, imagination, and embodied practices work to span the distance?

Link to CRASSH Research Network website and meetings

Link to Blog (outcome of the Workshop April 2023)


Lilian Kroth and Amelia Urry


Charlotte Connelly (Curator, Polar Museum, Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge) and Dehlia Hannah (Fellow, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen)