Ólafur Elíasson, Ice Watch

Video still from #IceWatchParis © 2015 Ólafur Elíasson
Video still from #IceWatchParis © 2015 Ólafur Elíasson

At the Place du Panthéon in Paris, twelve enormous blocks of ice are melting as world leaders are gathered nearby at Le Bourget for the UN Climate Summit. The ice is an installation by the Danish-Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson, whose work frequently joins nature and public installations to affect perceptions of the environment.

 

Installation view of Ólafur Elíasson's Ice Watch; photo via University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Installation view of Ólafur Elíasson’s Ice Watch; photo via University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Ice Watch is composed of twelve blocks of ice, weighing 80 metric tons, arranged in a clock formation. The ice will melt away in the coming days, providing a glimpse of the effects of climate change. The neoclassical façade of the Panthéon provides a grand setting and perhaps some allegory. The installation opened on December 3 and is expected to melt by the conclusion of the Climate Summit on December 11.

 

Harvesting ice floating in Nuup Kangerlua, Greenland; photo by Jørgen Chemnitz © 2015 Ólafur Elíasson
Harvesting ice floating in Nuup Kangerlua, Greenland; photo by Jørgen Chemnitz © 2015 Ólafur Elíasson

The ice blocks were harvested from free-floating icebergs in the Nuup Kangerlua fjord near Nuuk, Greenland. They had already been lost from the Greenland ice sheet, which loses the equivalent of 1,000 such blocks of ice every second. That’s about 300 billion metric tons each year, so while Ice Watch is overt, it is also immensely understated.

 

Installation view of Ólafur Elíasson’s Ice Watch; photo via Studio Ólafur Elíasson
Installation view of Ólafur Elíasson’s Ice Watch; photo via Studio Ólafur Elíasson

Elíasson developed the project in collaboration with Minik Thorleif Rosing, Professor of Geology at the Natural History Museum of Denmark. Ice Watch is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, realized in partnership the creative sustainability charity Julie’s Bicycle, and is a core project of the Artists4ParisClimate2015 initiative which includes works by other major artists including Edward Burtynsky, Vera Lutter, Ernesto Neto, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Taryn Simon.

Follow the project with Studio Ólafur Elíasson at Ice Watch Paris.

 

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