The Mojave Desert, Antarctica, the Vietnam Caves. Fire, ice, earth and water; hot, cold, dark and wet. The sensorium at its extremes, in contact with elemental truths, confronting habituated attitudes, waking new perceptions and inspiring lateral creativities. The Extreme Environments Programme, the brainchild of Associate Professor Scott Hessels, is a flagship of CityU’s Discovery Enriched Curriculum (DEC). However, it’s not just about these awesome existential situations that our students have the privilege to experience, but also about the science of our planetary heritage and the delicate balance of ecological and social forces that constitute the wondrous plenitude of life on earth.

This science is to the visual arts what mathematics is to music; it is an underlying structure that informs the potential for aesthetic expression, an expression that in turn enhances and enriches our understanding of the (now threatened) equilibrium of forces that constitutes the fecundity of this planet.

Visiting these extreme environments also leads us to the recognition that Hong Kong, this ‘entrepôt between China and the world’, can also be considered as such. With its exceptional geography, huge population density, high per capita income, severe income inequality and damaging pollution levels, this Alpha+ Global City is symptomatic of our contemporary condition, a ‘fragrant harbor’ that is awe inspiring but in jeopardy. Artists are in a special position to reflect on these challenges and illuminate our understanding of the paths to positive action. This is the unique opportunity this programme offers our students.

Professor Jeffrey Shaw
Dean, The School of Creative Media

Introduction by
Dean Jeffrey Shaw