Extreme Environments: Arts-Based Field Research

Scott Hessels (US)

Extreme Environments is an experimental arts education initiative based in Hong Kong that places art and design students in remote scientific field stations to collect data alongside scientific and environmental organizations dedicated to the protection of these important ecosystems. The students return to use the unique tools of the School of Creative Media to interpret and present their discoveries in new forms. Data is not just visualized but transformed creatively into games, interactive artworks, cinema, animations and more to help engage with wider audiences.

The first Extreme Environments expedition and exhibition, in 2012, was a partnership with UCLA’s Art | Sci Center with direct input from the California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI). The Extreme Environments program is now one of the most respected discovery-based education initiatives in the world, discussed in top international journals, news media and conferences.

Since 2012, art and design students have visited scientific field-research sites in some of the planet’s most remote corners, including the Mojave Desert, Antarctica, recently discovered caves in Vietnam, underwater in the rich reefs of Sipidan, Malaysia and in the Arnavon Islands, a remote western region of the Solomon Islands greatly endangered by rising ocean levels.

The Desert Metropolis: the Mojave Desert (2012); Freeze Frame: Antarctica (2014); Fade to Black: the Vietnam caves; Deep Focus (2015): the Coral Triangle (2017).


Scott Hessels explores relationships between moving image and the environment. His six kinetic public sculptures in the Sustainable Cinema series have exhibited in Ars Electronica, Museum of Modern Art, Taipei, Los Angeles Convention Center and Horizons Arts Nature en Sancy. He is currently an Associate Professor at The School of Creative Media in City University of Hong Kong and executive producer of the Extreme Environments Programme which organizes art/science expeditions to environmentally significant sites. MFA, UCLA Design Media Arts (2005).