Olafur Eliasson’s latest project is quite literally ground-breaking. The Danish-Icelandic artist has extracted 30 blocks of glacial ice from Greenland and placed them all around London where they will be left to melt.
The temporary installation is called Ice Watch and it’s meant to act as a visual reminder of the impact of climate change. There are currently 24 pieces of ice outside the Tate Modern Museum and six additional blocks outside the Bloomberg office headquarters.
Eliasson told Dezeen that he hopes the project will “give feelings to things that are otherwise unemotional” and to inspire action. “It is so abstract, it’s so far away Greenland, it’s literally out of our body and it’s in our brain and I wanted simply to change that narrative of the climate from our brain and emotionalise it into our bodies.” Eliasson said.
Eliasson worked with a geologist to transfer the 100 tonnes of ice from the waters of Greenland. The ice had already been detached from its sheets and was taken while already melting in the ocean. The installation began on the 11th of December and will remain up until the ice fully melts, depending on weather conditions. Anyone can interact with the ice and watch it thaw in real time.
“The ice is amazingly beautiful – you can smell it, you can kiss it, and essentially put your hands on it and touch Greenland,” said Eliasson.
“It is a lot more physical; it suddenly gives a stronger sense of what it is they’re talking about when they say the Greenland ice caps are melting,” he explained.
The timing of the installation coincides with the COP24 climate change conference taking place in Poland where most of the world’s leaders are in attendance. It also coincides with a major report recently published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which concluded that have approximately 12 years to prevent the most drastic effects of climate change.
Ice Watch takes place 15 years after Eliasson’s previous Tate installation, The Weather Project, which took over the Turbine Hall, created a huge artificial sun and became the most popular installation for both the artist and museum.
“I think it matters for people to actually put their ear to the ice and suddenly realise that is has a very subtle cracking, hopping, crisp noise because the melting releases pressure bubbles that have been stuck in the ice for 10,000 years,” he said.
“Ten thousand years ago there was 30 percent less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so the smell of the ice blocks should be the smell of the air from 10,000 years ago.”