Nightfall on Gaia is a history of hope and fear from the future where a devastating planetary event has left Dr. Xuě Noon confined alone in an Antarctic research station looking backward at our present moment of crises.
In April 2043, Dr. Xue Noon finds herself stranded in the GAiA International Antarctic Station. As the polar night closes in she connects herself to the Ai-system to scavenge digital memories and archives. Nightfall on Gaia is a speculative ethnographic film that depicts the lives and visions of human communities living in the Antarctic Peninsula. Grounded in ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Antarctica, the film is an experimental meditation on the future of the Antarctic as a new extreme frontier for human inhabitation, the complexities of a fragile planet at the verge of ecological collapse, and the vicissitudes of an uncertain geopolitical future for the region.
Antarctica has become a keystone in an unstable world of shifting global geopolitics, environmental crises, and resource scarcities.
This film confronts one of the most pressing issues facing our engagement with the Antarctic region: the future of Antarctica. More specifically, the film uncovers some of the prevailing forces at play in the assembling, mobilising and realising of Antarctic futures. It thus sets in motion a series of new insights into ways of rethinking the history, the present and the future of Antarctica as a unique space, as the last wilderness and the last frontier to explore new worlds.
It’s April 29, 2043. GAIA International Antarctic Station, East Antarctica. Xuě Noon is a Maori astrobiologist searching for microbial life where the sun doesn’t shine. She has lived at GAIA station for 18 months. GAIA is the first International Antarctic Station to be constructed in Antarctica. It was completed in 2040 at a time when “feet-on-the-ground” expeditions were increasingly reduced due to the deployment of continent–wide observing networks and the use of space-borne sensors and year-round 24/7 streaming data nodes operated by ai-grids. Xuě and her team were preparing to spend their third and last winter in Antarctica, where she was deployed on an international mission to study primeval microbes discovered in Antarctic Lakes 30 years before and their connection to the search for outer space microorganisms. This mission was as a preparatory 2-year operation for an exploratory international mission to the Jovian System (Jupiter’s moon Europa)
But something happened 2 weeks earlier while she was asleep on a routine extended deep sleep period. She woke up to find she was alone at GAIA Station. The communication systems have been down since the event. Only the ai-database (artificial intelligence archive database) seems to be functioning. She has been receiving only incoherent and fragmented information from colleagues stranded several thousand kilometres away. She is anxiously delaying the looming last sunset for the next 3 months.
As a 13 year old Xuě spent one year in Antarctica with her father (2014) soon after the death of her mother. During that year Xuě meets her soul mate; Naomi, a slightly older Chilean girl living temporarily in the same Antarctic base. Xuě remembers this time and reads excerpts from her dairy. She wonders around the station looking for answers and a way out of her predicament. The station is silent and still. The striking surrounding Antarctic landscape becomes ever more menacing. The days are getting shorter; the permanent darkness is enveloping; the food supplies almost gone. On and on she tries to make contact with the world; but the holographic and quantum communication systems are down. She makes brief contact by short-wave radio with her colleagues who are trapped hundreds of kilometres south of Gaia on the Maglev train that connects all the major national Antarctic stations in East Antarctica.
Xuě spends long hours at the station’s Babel ai-room, seizing the archives, scavenging the data for a sign that can help her understand. The Babel room was built as homage to Antarctica and contains the world’s most complete audio-visual archive of the Antarctic. Linked in real time with museums and science centres around the world it is also where scientists present live feeds from the Antarctic. The live feed has been down since the event, only the database is accessible through the room’s ai-system. Browsing the database, Xuě is hopeful to find something. She views the early 20th century historical footage of the Antarctic; she heaves at the images of mass hunting of whales and seals and re-experiences early Antarctic exploration through archival images in the holographic visionarium; she cross-checks dozens of interviews with scientists, politicians, artists and environmentalists whose opinions, expert and lay, occupy a large portion of the database. She reconstructs the events of the last 30 years in Antarctica since the last time she was there in 2014. She lingers for an answer as the night relentlessly falls on Gaia.
Radio 2SER - Sydney
Valparaiso University - Chile
Nicanor Parra Library, Universidad Diego Portales - Chile, Diciembre 2015
Monash University Australia - Cinema at the End of the World Conference