At Large  December 13, 2018  Chandra Noyes

Watching Ice Melt: Olafur Eliasson Brings Climate Change to London

Photo: Justin Sutcliffe © 2018 Olafur Eliasson

Ice Watch by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing. Supported by Bloomberg. Installation: Bankside, outside Tate Modern, 2018.

Through a new installation, artist Olafur Eliasson is urging Londoners to engage with climate change in a new way. In collaboration with geologist Minik Rosing, Eliasson has installed a group of 24 blocks of ice beside the Thames in front of the Tate Modern, with another group of six blocks installed at Bloomberg Philanthropy’s European headquarters in London.

Photo: Charlie Forgham-Bailey © 2018 Olafur Eliasson

Ice Watch by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing. Supported by Bloomberg. Installation: City of London, outside Bloomberg’s European headquarters, 2018.

Harvested from free-floating icebergs found off of Greenland, the 1.5-6 metric ton chunks were shipped to London, where they are left in the open to eventually melt away. Eliasson hopes to give visitors a way to relate to climate change physically and emotionally: “Put your hand on the ice, listen to it, smell it, look at it–and witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing. Feelings of distance and disconnect hold us back, make us grow numb and passive. I hope that Ice Watch arouses feelings of proximity, presence, and relevance, of narratives that you can identify with and that make us all engage.”

Eliasson considers this project to be a call to action, and hopes that once we relate to climate change in this personal way, we will feel compelled to act.

Ice Watch by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing
Photo: Charlie Forgham-Bailey © 2018 Olafur Eliasson

Ice Watch by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing. Supported by Bloomberg. Installation: City of London, outside Bloomberg’s European headquarters, 2018.

Ice Watch by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing
Photo: Justin Sutcliffe © 2018 Olafur Eliasson

Ice Watch by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing. Supported by Bloomberg. Installation: Bankside, outside Tate Modern, 2018.

Ice Watch by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing
Photo: Charlie Forgham-Bailey © 2018 Olafur Eliasson

Ice Watch by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing. Supported by Bloomberg. Installation: City of London, outside Bloomberg’s European headquarters, 2018.

In what may seem like a rather extravagant project, Rosing, who is an expert in Greenland’s geology, and Eliasson have made sure to not have a negative impact on the environment through their statement piece. These chunks of ice were a fraction of the 10,000 such blocks of ice that the Greenland ice sheet loses per second throughout the year. This melting of the ice sheet causes sea levels to rise, impacting coastal communities around the world. The project has also partnered with the non-profit Julie’s Bicycle to understand and minimize their carbon footprint.

This is the second iteration of this project, the first one having been completed in 2015 in Paris. Eliasson frequently addresses weather and the environment in his multi-media work, which ranges from photography to architecture and sculpture. He is slated for a major survey at the Tate Modern opening in July, 2019.

Installed this week, the miniature icebergs will be on display for visitors to touch, smell and listen to until they disappear, likely in a few short weeks.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra Noyes is managing editor for Art & Object.

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