Olafur Eliasson: Melting Ice Blocks Herald Impending Climate Change Catastrophe

Olafur Eliasson Ice Watch

The highly anticipated launch of Ice Watch Olafur Eliasson’s global installation project was unveiled at Tate Modern and at Bloomberg’s European headquarters today 11/12/18.

Ice Watch highlights the catastrophic consequences of global climate change. It was first installed in Copenhagen in 2014 and then again staged at the Place du Panthéon, in Paris, in 2015 during the COP21 where the Paris Accord was agreed. This treaty has recently been attacked by President Donald Trump who is an robust climate change denier.

Olafur Eliasson Ice Watch Installation
Olafur Eliasson Ice Watch Installation Photo © PC Robinson Artlyst 2018

Today’s event was set to take place in time for the opening of the Climate Summit on the 3rd December in Katowice, Poland but was delayed for a few days due to logistical transport problems. A recent landmark report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on 8 October 2018, warns that we have only 12 years to limit the worst effects of climate change.

Artlyst asked Olafur about the carbon footprint involved with the project, and he explained, “The ice was transported from Greenland to Denmark then on to the UK travelling in five chilled containers. The method in which each of the ice blocks were moved has used the equivalent of one person travelling from Greenland to London for each of the blocks on display. Michael Bloomberg added, “The awareness raising aspect of the project more than justifies the small carbon footprint of the project’s transportation.”

Olafur Eliasson Ice Watch Installation
Olafur Eliasson Ice Watch Installation Bloomberg HQ London  Photo © PC Robinson Artlyst 2018

Harvested from free-floating blocks of ice, the installation has been arranged in a clock formation. Ice Watch, a major public art installation has been coordinated with geologist Minik Rosing highlighting the impact of climate change. Minik explained the ice formations vary due to the density of the ice. Some blocks appear to be blue in colour they are all pure and drinkable H2O. This project hammers home the message that the equivalent of 10,000 blocks of ice this size are melting away every minute. Time is running out.

The Icelandic-Danish artist frequently alters the public’s perception of the environment through his art projects, addressing some of the world’s problems and proposing practical solutions. 30 ice blocks from a Greenland fjord  comprise the installation which is in two parts: 24 blocks are arranged in a circular formation on Bankside outside Tate Modern, where a significant exhibition of Eliasson’s work will open in July 2019, and six blocks are on display in the heart of the City of London outside Bloomberg’s European headquarters.

The blocks of ice were sourced from the waters of the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in Greenland, where they were melting into the ocean after having been lost from the ice sheet. As the ice gradually thaws, members of the public will have an opportunity to encounter the tangible effects of climate change by seeing and feeling the ice melt away. Depending on weather conditions, Ice-Watch is expected to be on view in London until 21 December 2018. Any remaining ice will then be taken to local community and cultural institutions as part of an extended educational programme.

Olafur Eliasson Ice Watch Installation Bloomberg HQ London  Photo © PC Robinson Artlyst 2018
Olafur Eliasson Ice Watch Installation Tate Modern London Photo © PC Robinson Artlyst 2018

Olafur Eliasson said: ‘It is clear that we have only a short period to limit the extreme effects of climate change. By enabling people to experience and actually touch the blocks of ice in this project, I hope we will connect people to their surroundings in a deeper way and inspire radical change. We must recognise that together we have the power to take individual actions and to push for systemic change. Let’s transform climate knowledge into climate action.’

Michael R. Bloomberg said: ‘Ice Watch vividly captures the urgency of tackling climate change. We hope Olafur Eliasson’s work of art will inspire bolder and more ambitious actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by governments, businesses, and communities.’

Depending on weather conditions, Ice Watch is expected to be on view until 21 December, the last day of the conference. Remaining ice will then be brought to local schools and cultural institutions as part of an extended community education programme.

Olafur Eliasson with Michael Bloomberg London  Photo © PC Robinson Artlyst 2018
Olafur Eliasson with Michael Bloomberg In London  Photo © PC Robinson Artlyst 2018

Ice Watch London will be Eliasson’s first major public art installation in the capital and builds on his history of promoting climate change awareness and sustainable energy. His Little Sun project, also supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, provides portable, solar-powered lamps to local entrepreneurs, families and refugees in off-grid communities. The lamps are especially useful in households where electricity is scarce or unavailable and priced affordably for families currently using costly and toxic kerosene for their lighting.

The launch was attended by Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries.

Olafur Eliasson’s art is driven by his interests in perception, movement, embodied experience, and feelings of self. Art, for him, is a crucial means for turning thinking into doing in the world. Well-known for his 2003 installation The weather project, at Tate Modern London, which was seen by over two million visitors, Eliasson works in a range of media that spans sculpture, painting, photography, film, and installation. Not limited to the confines of the museum and gallery, his practice engages the broader public sphere through architectural projects, interventions in civic space, arts education, policy-making, and issues of sustainability and climate change. In 2012, Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen founded the social business Little Sun, which encourages sustainable development through sales of Little Sun solar-powered lamps and chargers (littlesun.com). Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann founded Studio Other Spaces, an international office for art and architecture, in Berlin in 2014 (studiootherspaces.net).

Other critically acclaimed works include Eliasson’s 2003 Tate Modern installation The weather project, seen by more than 2 million people.

Words/Photos Paul Carter Robinson © Artlyst 2018 

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